Opinion: KU winter storm policy

By Donovan Levine
Assistant Freeform Editor

It is very clear that school districts and universities have vastly different policies when it comes to winter storms and school closings. The biggest difference almost always has to deal with closing student-employed buildings on university campuses while a snow-delay or advisory is in place.

A lot of aspects have to be taken into account, such as the timing of the storm, the conditions of the roads (especially in Pennsylvania, 34th out of 50 states for road maintenance) and the traffic influx during the morning and later in the afternoon when staff have to go to and from the university. Ultimately, however, President Hawkinson is the one who makes the decisions on whether or not to close the university.

The professors are the ones who usually have a say when President Hawkinson does not give out word fast enough, and they will mostly opt for canceling classes due to not wanting to be responsible for student accidents.

Most event coordinators also call their own shots on whether or not to cancel events when there are impending storms, and this normally leaves the north side of campus vacant. For this reason, there’s not much need for certain buildings to be open like the Academic Forum, Rohrbach Library or McFarland Student Union.

As a student employee myself, I end up wondering if there is any point in the buildings remaining open, especially when most of the events on campus are canceled and it’s safer for students to stay home, whether they are employees or not.

During the most recent snow storm on Tuesday, there were several people arriving at events held at the MSU (some who drove two hours) just to find out they had been canceled. So, if the student employees know this information ahead of schedule, they should be the ones to make these decisions or at least have a vote in the decision as to whether or not a building should stay open. They could then communicate that to people who need to travel.

Granted, KU’s alert system does give employees and students alike a heads-up on whether or not the university will be closing, in addition to liberal leave for non-essential employees, which is a system that works fine as well.

But should that same system apply to the closing of certain academic buildings if it’s not worth it for them to be open? For example, if all events are canceled for the day and the university is outright losing money keeping it open, is it worth it to keep the building operational? A thought to consider.

Categories: Freeform

1 reply »

  1. When you write “It is very clear that school districts and universities have vastly different policies when it comes to winter storms and school closings,” well there is a reason for that. Universities are different from K-12 school districts, although sometimes KU administrators and faculty treat students as if college was just an extension of high school into grades 13-16. Such attitudes are one reason the Middle States Association has warned KU that it will lose its accreditation in 15 months. So one difference is that in K-12, all students are commuters with the exception of prep schools. In contrast, at most universities, commuter students are a minority. At elite schools there may be only a handful of commuters in a student body of 4000 students. So there is less need to be concerned about cancelling classes because of students having difficulty traveling.
    Off hand, I do not know how many commuter students KU has so its hard to say what is the right policy here. Note that this is because the KU administration is systematically reluctant to publicize any kind of information about the student body, e.g. how many students are there in each major, how many graduate, what do they do after graduatation (grad school or work), and if work what are their starting salaries.