I am sure that we are all aware of the unthinkable, unimaginable, and unfathomable event that has occurred, twice now, may I add, all in a week’s time. Yes, the University of Waterloo, for the first time in the history of the University, shut itself down twice in a week. I realize that people are very divided about the whole thing. Some believe that it was totally unnecessary. Snow has existed in Canada forever and the university has never closed before, so why start now? There are others who think that safety should be a priority and snow days really should be in place when weather conditions get intolerable. I agree with the latter.
Reddit tells me that the university last shut down twice in a semester in 2007. Never, before has it been closed twice in a week. Maybe we should consider climate change here. It is no secret that the climate has drastically altered in the past few years. Blame pollution, greenhouse gases, or whatever you may, the point is that things aren’t the way that they used to be. With changing times, comes the need to change. With Mother Nature trying to prove her point about being misused, who are we to come in her way? The university definitely did what it needed to, and I couldn’t be happier that my safety was not at stake.
Let me paint you the picture of my commute to campus everyday. The walk from my apartment to the bus stop is about four minutes on a good day. Lately, it has been taking ten. Why, you may ask? Because of ice on the sidewalks, and the snow in my eyes. In this really cold weather, pedestrians really do get the short end of the stick. Let’s be real, the sidewalk cleaning guidelines are barely enforced in this city. In a stretch of about a hundred meters, only about twenty meters worth of sidewalk has been shoveled in front of my apartment. I have almost fallen several times and wiped out a couple times because of this. But I digress. My point is, it is bad enough with the un-shoveled sidewalks and the snow, imagine what could happen if you throw wind, rain, and hail into the mix.
So, does it not make sense to close the campus in case of severe weather? Would you really rather waddle on to campus like a penguin? I know we have all seen negative forty-degree weather and it seems like it is worse than when the university did shut down, but the severe weather warnings are issued when various elements of the weather come together to make it severe. So, it may seem like it is not as bad, but really, if you step outside you might realize that it is worse than you think, and not just for pedestrians. People who drive are also met with really bad driving conditions on these days, increasing the risk to their lives and everyone else on the road. Especially in a small city like ours, where the inner roads are sometimes left uncleaned for the longest time, it is very risky to drive when there is no visibility and there is ice on the road.
When the university shut down twice in a week, we all were very confused. What happens to our labs, interviews, tests, assignments, classes? The list could go on. While there were many questions, the snow day was in place for our own safety and I was a little bit relieved to be honest. While saluting those of you who would risk your lives to obtain the education and learning that the school promises, there are those of us who also appreciate the fact that our safety takes priority above the school’s rigid work culture.
Nick Manning, the associate vice-president of communication for UW told CBC News, “We’re kind of aware of our own reputation as the place that never closes… We’ve certainly heard from the community over recent years and have thought hard about the circumstances under which we need to make decisions about the operation of campus.” It’s that simple. The university takes these closures really seriously. If they are shutting down, it is because the safety of the staff and the students are at stake.
When the university is closed on snow days, it is posted to the university website around 7:00 am. It is best to have checked the weather at night to see if there are any warnings, and if there are, check the university website before heading on to school the next day. Even if you don’t, I am sure someone else did and your social media would be flooded with snow-day related memes in the morning. Either way, be sure to stay informed.
Finally, going to Waterloo almost ascertains a no-break culture. Especially if you are in engineering you have already kissed your summers goodbye and the two week breaks between classes are barely enough to resurface from the depth of the university. So, when the university shuts down like this, unexpectedly, for a snow day, we are all a little happy on the inside. Sure, we will have to make up that time on another day but right now, this means another day to prepare for the midterm, or another day to submit an assignment or a lab report. Why would you curse the gods for giving you this wonderful opportunity?
The fact is that winter has been a little extreme this time around. It may seem like the university is declaring a snow-day for no reason at all, but the reason is our safety. So, take this time to catch up on studies, or not. While the snow days come at a cost of having to be replaced over a weekend, I am glad that I don’t have to risk my life for the learning that the school provides. To all you folks, stay safe, stay inside, and stay warm on snow days, if there happen to be any more.