For commuters, in class was ‘snow’ place to be on Monday
Last Sunday night had many Washington University students reverting back to their childhoods, looking out the window and hoping for a snow day. And while we would have loved to spend a day at home in our pajamas too, we believe Wash. U. needs to do a better job of considering the safety of professors and workers who live farther away from Wash. U. and must navigate slick, snowy roads.
While Wash. U. did not get the five-to-nine inches that were forecasted (or promised, depending on how strongly you were hoping for a snow day), the three inches of snow that the area did get still created risky road conditions.
It’s great that we have special salt to prevent icy conditions and plenty of snowplows to clear the sidewalk. We commend Wash. U. for its speed and efficiency in cleaning off the sidewalks and roads on campus. However, St. Louis city and county snow removal is usually not as effective.
Other local schools canceled classes—Fontbonne University right down the road, for instance, reasonably deemed the roads too dangerous for its student body, which is largely made up of commuters. Road safety clearly does not pose as large a problem to Wash. U. students, most of whom just need to walk to class; for the majority of students, the snowfall was more of an inconvenience than a hindrance (no matter how much students want to believe otherwise).
However, for the professors, staff and students who live far enough away to necessitate driving to campus, the snow made the commute downright dangerous. Some professors, as is the case whenever nearby roads become weighed down by snow and ice, canceled their own classes out of safety concerns, but it shouldn’t be solely the jurisdiction of each instructor individually to make such decisions. In these conditions, the University should prioritize the safety of its professors and staff over being able to brag on admissions tours that it doesn’t cancel classes.
Almost as soon as the snow began on Sunday night, drivers started getting into fender benders. There was even one that shut down Forsyth Boulevard in front of the Danforth University Center. By Monday morning, traffic on the snow-covered interstates surrounding St. Louis slowed to nearly half its normal speed as drivers tried to navigate the completely snow-covered lanes. While the smaller streets had the benefit of less traffic, they were also plowed poorly or not at all.
While the three inches of snow that Wash. U. and the surrounding area ended up receiving certainly doesn’t compare to the feet of snow that has plagued the northeast, the St. Louis region was still hindered by the snowfall.
There is no reason to put any Wash. U. staff member or student in a risky situation for a day of class. We urge administrators in the future to consider more carefully all members of the Wash. U. community before making the call not to cancel classes.