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snow

The University needs to be more willing to cancel classes in the event of inclement weather. Waiting until the weather is so bad that it is dangerous to navigate campus poses a great risk to the safety of students and faculty alike. The University’s Emergency Management website tells students to stay indoors during a winter storm, but we cannot do that if it means missing mandatory classes, nor should we need to choose between attending non-mandatory lectures and our safety.

A nor’easter hit the University the morning of March 7, but early in the day it appeared as if the storm’s potential impact was overblown, as it was simply cold and rainy outside. Understandably, the University chose not to cancel classes for weather which posed no risk to students. However, by 12 p.m. it was snowing heavily, it was hard to walk because of the wind, and it was easy to slip and fall, but the University still did not cancel class. It was only at 5:42 p.m. that the University canceled evening classes due to the snow covering pathways and branches falling near students. At this point, canceling evening classes was not helpful because the weather already posed a serious risk to everyone on campus. By not preemptively canceling class earlier in the day, students were forced to navigate through snow, ice, wind, and debris to get back to their dorms.

The campus is not built to be safe in such winter storms. Trees overhang plenty of the pathways on campus. Children from the local area might want to come to campus to play in the fresh snow, and they would be in much greater danger than adults if a branch were to fall upon them. There are lots of steps and staircases which quickly become icy during storms, putting students at risk of falling. This would be especially dangerous for anyone on campus who is elderly. Snow building up on a roof or tree and then falling on someone walking underneath is also a scary commonality. There was so much debris falling that we are fortunate no one was seriously injured, though we may not be as fortunate next time.

Going forward, the University should cancel class whenever the weather is so hazardous that it could create dangerous conditions in the coming minutes or hours. On March 7, had class actually been canceled when it began snowing around noon, everyone could have gotten back to their dorms safely before tree branches started falling on pathways. To prevent this from happening again, the University should see how bad the conditions get within a given hour of the storm and then make a prediction as to how much longer the storm would need to last at that strength to pose a risk to our safety. If it seems as if it is only a matter of time before the conditions will be too dangerous, the University should immediately cancel class to allow students to get to safer areas on campus. It is better to be safe than to be sorry.

Of course, the University should not simply cancel class every time it is about to snow. The time professors spend in class is too valuable for classes to be frequently cancelled, but the importance of class should not take priority over the safety of our community.

Hunter Campbell is a sophomore from East Arlington, Vt. He can be reached at hunterc@princeton.edu.

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