As most people reading this editorial will already be aware, Whitworth has recently been subjected to the colder side of mother nature’s whims in the form of several inches of snow. Most Whitworth students, faculty and staff will al so be aware that our university remained open in spite of the weather. What they might not know is that it was one of the few, if not the only school in the area to remain open on Thursday, Feb. 24, the day after the worst of the snowstorm.
School districts stretching from Mead to the Spokane Valley and beyond closed operations. So did Gonzaga and Washington State University. Heavy snowfall, poor visibility and bad roads convinced most of Spokane’s school administrators that it wasn’t a good idea to remain open.
An e-mail from executive vice president Michael Le Roy typically informs campus as to whether it will remain open on a day of poor weather. This last week, Le Roy sent out two–the first to say that campus would be open for day classes, albeit on a delayed schedule, and the second to say that night classes would run on schedule.
The situation mirrors that of the snowstorms from late last semester – most Spokane area grade schools were closed on Dec. 2 in the wake of heavy snowfall and icy roads. Whitworth remained open.
Why did Whitworth remain open? Certainly the decision to close the school for the day is complicated. It throws teaching schedules out of whack, costs the university money and conflicts with the basic purpose of an institute of higher education: to provide the service of teaching on a reliable schedule.
But while cost and maintaining a schedule are important issues, they do not outweigh safety. While Le Roy’s e-mails usually ask readers to use their judgement when deciding to come in or not, for many students this is irrelevant – if the professor decides to have class on schedule, they will fall behind if they decide not to come, safe roads or not. And many classes do not have concessions built in for circumstances – late work might not be accepted, regardless of the excuse, or points might be subtracted just for missing class.
In some cases, it seems that the decision to keep the school open does not even reflect the feasibility of professors and other staff themselves being able to make it to campus. On Thursday, many faculty canceled class voluntarily, telling their students to stay home. When even faculty, whose schedules are the most affected by the canceling of classes, are telling their students not to come, it should be obvious that safety concerns are trumping other issues.
This board is certainly not accusing Le Roy or any others involved with these decisions of completely disregarding safety; however, it does appear that the issue is not being given enough weight. Inconvenient or not, a blizzard should close school.