On Monday April 5, the University of Connecticut neglected to cancel classes, even as the Storrs campus received over eight inches of snow in a rare spring storm. While other parts of the state, including the coastline, were only subjected to heavy rainfall, the snow in Storrs created dangerous road conditions for those driving to campus.
Kyle Constable of the Daily Campus reported on a commuter, Alexandra Favret who while commuting from Uncasville was involved in a single-car incident. In the future, UConn must react to changing weather reports so as to not jeopardize the safety of those who commute to campus.
The Daily Campus report referenced UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz’s comments on the decision to keep the campus open, which was “based on information about weather and road conditions available Monday morning.” Reitz said, “individuals may appropriately decide not to come to campus or to leave campus early,” even when officials decide to remain operating.
While officials can only make a decision based on the information they possess, there is no reason why such a decision must be final. By early Monday morning, it became clear that students, faculty and staff should not be required to travel in the increasingly unsafe conditions. Cancelling the rest of the day’s classes and activities would have been reasonable and pragmatic.
The university must reassess their policies and methods, so as to ensure the safety of the UConn community is not risked. Further, university officials must communicate the importance of allowing students who do not attend class due to the dangers of commuting in inclement weather are not penalized.
Though the administration allows students to decide whether or not they commute during winter storms, academic staff are not always prepared to adjust schedules or allow flexibility. Closing campus is not ideal; however, if the administration makes the decision to keep campuses open, they must enforce the needed flexibility. This flexibility allows students to remain home and not risk commuting when they are not entirely confident in the safety of the drive.
New England weather changes rapidly, with evening forecasts of snow often resulting in no inclement weather the following morning. However, the administration must be prepared to react accordingly. Students, faculty and staff often travel long distances due to the residential inadequacies of the Storrs campus. As such, the decision to close campuses within the UConn system must consider these commuters.
Though they make up a minority of the population, especially in Storrs, their safety is paramount.