Student safety should be the number one priority for administrators, and they should keep this in mind when deciding whether to cancel classes due to harsh weather conditions in the future.
University officials inadvertently put some students in danger last Tuesday when they decided to keep the campus open amidst icy weather conditions that temporarily closed or delayed the openings of several schools in nearby districts. In the future, administrators should err on the side of caution when students’ lives potentially hang in the balance.
Texas State has historically been known as a “commuter campus.” While it may not seem like many students still commute to campus from outside San Marcos each day, one look at the often filled-to-the-brim commuter lots proves otherwise. When icy conditions are thrown in the mix, the roadways can become a dangerous, slippery trap for drivers.
Before the cancelation of the Bobcat Tram Interurban services last August, about half of the interurban tram riders polled in a survey said they would drive to campus with the cancelation of the Austin and San Antonio routes, according to a Jan. 31, 2013 University Star article.
Potentially hundreds of both new and long-term Texas State commuters were left to navigate icy roads last week to attend classes that should have been delayed or canceled by administrators outright.
While many students love “snow days,” the editorial board is not just looking for a free day off for Bobcats. The icy conditions last Tuesday had an extreme effect on the Austin area and shut down many major roads, including several parts of Interstate Highway 35 that feed into San Marcos. The University of Texas delayed classes and many Austin area school districts closed. There are legitimate safety concerns involved in driving on ice, especially in Texas where it is not the norm and many people do not know how to handle such conditions.
Administrators also need to do a better job of alerting students whether classes will be canceled or not. University officials alert students and faculty about their decision regarding class cancelations through emergency alert texts and emails, but this is largely unhelpful when they are not sent until a few hours before the campus typically opens.
Such was the case when the campus was closed Friday, Jan. 24. Students were not notified until around 5 a.m. that morning that classes had been cancelled. It is unacceptable to wait until 5 a.m. to let the campus community know of such a decision. Commuters especially need to know several hours in advance whether they need to come to campus from outside San Marcos.
Students need to have time to decide whether to risk the commute to campus during dangerous weather conditions. A more timely email or text message could have helped students avoid rushing to get to class and possibly finding themselves in further danger. Additionally, a simple email alerting students that classes would be conducted as usual last Tuesday would have been appreciated.
In the future, administrators should seriously consider those who drive anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour just to attend class when they decide whether to cancel classes or not. Student safety is not something that can be compromised.