Inclement weather policy: Changes needed for student safety

As a child, you likely looked eagerly outside at the first flake of snow. Though you were excited about playing outside the next day, you also wondered about something more exciting: is tomorrow a snow day?

Perhaps you hoped and prayed for a day off school when you were young, eager to enjoy snowball fights and sledding. That is, until you graduated from high school and came to John Brown University.

Other schools in the area may close down, but JBU is almost always open thanks to its inclement weather policy. However, we The Threefold Advocate believe that a change of policy is necessary.

According to the faculty handbook, section V.D.7, “Classes rarely close due to inclement weather.” The only reason a class is canceled is if a professor can’t make it to campus. Students are expected to go, though accommodations can be made for students who live off-campus.

Simply put, if the teacher can make it, so can you. However, because of the policy, faculty and students are put in needless danger because they are expected to get to class even when the conditions are dangerous.

Weather.com describes several dangers of driving in snowy weather: the risk of being stranded, the inability to stop easily on icy surfaces, skidding or hydroplaning and hitting other cars. Even driving an SUV or a four-wheel drive isn’t enough to keep drivers safe. In fact, the site recommends that, if at all possible, drivers should postpone their trip or stay at home.

The question is: what should the University do about its policy? It certainly shouldn’t stay the same. Putting the JBU community in danger simply to have classes isn’t smart. It’s a risk no one should have to take.

Thus, there are two potential options the school board should consider. First, the University could close if the Siloam Springs school district were to close. After all, JBU faces the same weather as schools in the area.

Alternatively, if the school board thinks the local school district cancels classes too easily, JBU could cancel classes when the University of Arkansas, NWACC or both are canceled. If Fayetteville and Bentonville are facing harsh weather, then Siloam Springs is likely facing it as well.

There’s no need for students and faculty to risk sliding off the road or running into another car just for the sake of class. The university needs to change its policy. The question is: how long will that take?