Snow and class problems

Is it classist and ableist to not cancel class?

Emily Brown, Columnist

Because of the feet of snow and the below-zero temperatures, this has been a very stressful and unusual winter. It has been so unusual that the university cancelled all classes the very first day of this semester. But, after that day and a half, the university has been open and holding classes every day despite how cold or snowy it is outside. This has been a problem for a number of students, especially commuter students. The roads are slippery and dangerous and some days, it has been too dangerous to simply drive to campus — or drive anywhere, for that matter.

Despite this, Hamline has held classes every day and left the decision to cancel classes up to professors. This has caused tension on campus. There have been a couple days where Hamline professors had to make the hard decision to cancel class or not to keep their students safe. It should not be the professors’ job to make the decision of losing an entire class period or having their students risk driving to campus when the roads are dangerous and slippery.

Campus not shutting down has been a problem for me a couple of times. My mom’s car broke down in the middle of a snow storm and she did not feel safe enough driving me to campus that day before trading it into the dealership. Because class was not cancelled that day, I had to miss two of my classes, both of which have attendance policies.

It’s also unintentionally ableist and classist to keep the university open during snow storms. It’s $5,000 a semester to live on campus and not everyone can afford that luxury. If people are living off-campus to save money, it can be harder to get to campus than if someone just has to bundle up and walk across campus (which can also be dangerous with high winds, slippery sidewalks and dangerously low temperatures). But it’s a completely different story when you have to get in a car and get on a busy, slippery road. Also, not every commuter student can afford a car and gas to get to campus so they have to carpool, take a driver service (which costs money), or take public transportation which isn’t always reliable (which also costs money).

These transportations can be hard on any day. But it’s even harder in sub-zero temperatures  with snow flying 30 miles per hour. If these students have classes during the bad weather, it can be dangerous.

I said that I had to skip two classes with attendance policies and I assume that I wasn’t the only one that was forced to make that hard decision. I totally understand the reason behind attendance policies, but I have my reservations as to whether or not they should be held up during bad weather. The people who aren’t there are still missing class on a day where class is being held regardless of the weather and they are missing content. But there isn’t a way for them to get to campus safely, and a large portion of the class is probably missing too.

It’s also ableist because Hamline assumes every student can physically get themselves to campus in bad weather and cold temperatures. When I was little, I had a friend in a wheelchair who would get sick if she went out in cold temperatures. Being forced to go out in -20 weather can be damaging to some people’s health — if not everyone’s.

It’s also complicated to get my wheelchair and my disabled body across campus when snow is everywhere. I can’t walk to class. I have to wheel. And when there’s a foot of snow on the pathway, it’s a pain in the butt to wheel.