Slippery Rock University was on a two-hour delay compressed schedule Thursday and Friday of last week following wind chill factors resulting in subzero temperatures that lasted almost entirely throughout the two day timeframe. Whether the alternative was that classes were cancelled completely or followed a normal schedule, we think SRU made the wrong choice in calling a two-hour delay on these occasions.
It’s nonsensical. A two hour delay should be implemented if it is for the temperature to increases or to allow time to clear roads.
Neither of those things was the reality on either of the days. There had not been significant increases in precipitation and because temperatures never increased to allow snow to melt and refreeze to ice.
So, if student safety is the main concern and the cancellations were due to cold temperatures, classes should be cancelled. If the students were safe in the freezing temperatures, then no delay was called for.
To give a two-hour delay isn’t meeting anyone halfway. Frostbite or hypothermia following the delay were just as serious of a concern following the delay. With no increase in temperatures, students would not have had any safer of a venture to classes.
It’s making a poor choice in an effort to make students feel like “at least it’s something” and keep them quiet and feeling good.
Rita Abent, SRU director of public relations and member of the campus Emergency Team (E-Team) responsible for making recommendations to the president on class cancellations, said that the university takes the matter of cancelling classes very seriously. She also said that the number one concern is always the safety of students, staff, faculty and visitors on campus. These two priorities are at ends to one another, creating a delicate balancing act of academics and student life.
Fortunately, the E-Team is chaired by the provost, and has representatives from business and administration, public relations, student life, facilities and campus police, according to the SRU website. Supposedly, the condition of campus parking lots, roads and sidewalks, availability of uninterrupted utility services, condition of local and state roads as indicated by road and storm advisories, weather forecasts and ice, wind and severely cold temperatures are considered in recommending a decision on delays and cancellations. The past week had recorded temperatures as low as -18 degrees Fahrenheit. But, Abent said that in these freezing temperatures students just need to bundle up.
Still, it’s a shame that the students don’t have some elected official that could be guaranteed to put the students’ best interests as their top concern, free of direct ties to the university or its presidents. Someone who knows what it is like to be a student and travel across campus to classes, rather than keeping cozy in the warmth of Old Main. Maybe even someone with a delegation of students that can reach out to all its members to know their concerns and get a different array of perspectives to make informed choices.
Come to think of it, there is someone like that: the student government association (SGA) president. Currently, the SGA president can email the provost or president with what they feel is best for the students and get a dismissive “thank you for sharing” reply, if any, but who knows how much that is actually taken into consideration. We’re willing to bet not much. At their last meeting, SGA discussed the importance of having a more clear-cut emergency operations plan that has objective standards and outcomes. This is a great idea that we hope to see followed through on and discussed with administration.
We think the SGA president is a worthwhile and much needed addition to the E-team. With students’ interests at heart, ideas for improvement and a unique perspective, the SGA president seems a natural choice. We encourage Slippery Rock University to be inclusive of students in the discussion of a matter that involves their safety and education, and hope that the university invites the SGA president or another student representative to the campus E-team.
We also think that class should have been canceled or remained on normal schedule. A two-hour delay was illogical. Hopefully Slippery Rock University’s administration will keep all of these factors in mind when determining if there will be any change in class schedules. It’s a tough call, but it’s an important one.