The pressure to keep school open during inclement weather must be overwhelming because there was no good reason to do so Tuesday. Clearly, keeping classes going is more important than the safety of students.
As we all know, Emporia found itself at the mercy of Mother Nature over the last week. Inch after inch of the white shroud blanketed the town and made travel difficult, if not impossible, for many students and other Emporians.
It’s not as if we were completely helpless. The city managed to make some roads drivable a few hours after the snow let up. We were reassured that, “President Michael D. Shonrock said he finished walking around and driving around campus and downtown. The campus and city road crews have done a super job,” according to Emporia State’s Facebook page.
But as students looked out their windows, the impossibility of travel became apparent. Report after report of frustration with ESU, the only school in Emporia operating on Tuesday, came streaming through status updates on Facebook and other social media platforms.
What compounded our puzzlement was the sheer amount of classes that were cancelled, independent of the university’s decision. And even if a class wasn’t cancelled, what kind of professor would punish students for not being in attendance?
We understand that any request to cancel school only sounds like a whiney attempt to take a free day, but there are legitimate claims that need to be addressed. What about parents with kids whose schools were closed? Babysitters are hard to come by in blizzard conditions. Should we force them to abandon work or risk an absence? What about students that live in rural areas or more than two miles away from campus?
The reality is that there is a whole other world outside of our campus that was ignored Tuesday morning. Not just a physical world, but one of schedule conflicts that are created when the normal rhythms of Emporia are disrupted. The safety of the students, staff and faculty should be a paramount consideration in all aspects of administrative duty.
The university must broaden its considerations to more than just the walkability of Union Square, else we find ourselves in the cold.