Editorial: Could our snow days be more useful? 

While a snow day can be a welcome break from instruction, on college campuses missed instruction forces students to make up the material they didn’t learn on their own time. This brings up an important question about whether UConn’s snow day policy is fair to students since online school has become more viable. Illustration by Kaitlyn Tran/The Daily Campus

Last Friday, Feb. 4, the University of Connecticut closed all campuses except for UConn Health. A 4:46 a.m. UConn Alert, “All classes–online or in-person–[are] canceled.” 

Now, for a student in grade school, the proclamation of a snow day brings great joy, and for the most part, the same applies to college students, but there is one major difference. While grade school either has built in snow days or adds an additional day to the end of the year, colleges simply lose a day of instruction. Because the schedule is set in stone prior to the start of classes, a missed day means that professors either have to omit the plans for a day of class entirely, or speed up the entire flow of the course. Both of these obviously have their negative effects on both students and professors, so we ask this question: Is it possible to fairly institute a snow day protocol that both works for everyone and keeps the day from being completely lost? 

The most important thing to factor in when coming up with a plan for snow days is that whatever solution is used must work for the majority of people. The argument that can be made for the current solution, canceling class across the board, is that it puts everyone on an even playing field. No one has class, so either no one misses anything or everyone misses everything depending on how you frame it. While this holistic tactic works very well at keeping things equal, there is a better way to accommodate inclement weather. 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, UConn has had plenty of exposure to the world of online learning modalities. With these methods of remote teaching in the toolbox, it definitely seems within the scope of reason to assume that online classes could be used during the event of campus closure. However, how the classes are conducted is important. Many closures come with outages and other hindrances that may keep people from accessing the internet, so synchronous learning is definitely not the solution. Asynchronous work is the way to go, as it allows for work to be done on the students’ terms, but there are still caveats to this.  

Snow days obviously limit the availability of campus to students who commute, and of course safety is a top priority. Additionally, professors could have their own issues related to availability and their situation at home on a snow day, making the issue differ from class to class. Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash.

For starters, if a student has zero access to the internet due to the effects of a storm or otherwise, it is possible that they would not be able to receive any work on the day of the closure. Because of this, no short-term deadlines should be placed on assignments, and they should be as supplemental as possible. This way, material can still be given out, but there’d be no penalty to those without the means to quickly return assignments. 

Another factor revolves around classes that lose the majority of their value when not in-person. For example, hands-on learning environments like labs, clinical placements, some arts classes and many others rely on being physically present. While this cannot be fully remedied, if professors could share a plan for the class day with students, the day would not be fully lost. 

Overall, this is a very sensitive issue. UConn students have a myriad of situations they might find themselves in in the case of a school closure. Some live on campus, some live at home and commute and some are purely remote. On top of students, the comfort and availability of professors must also be considered, as this is asking more of them than is normally expected during a snow day. Ultimately, this is simply an idea and an attempt to generate conversation on a topic that has multiple answers. Perhaps a good approach would be to try different ideas out each time an outage occurs, and if the community responds favorably to one tactic, that could be the adopted method. No matter what, we should all do our best to help the UConn experience be as beneficial as possible to as many people as possible. 

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