How much snow would it take for Columbia to cancel class?


Who says we have to say goodbye?

By Zoë Eitel

Chicago lived up to its reputation as one of the coldest and snowiest places outside of the Antarctic during the week of Feb. 5 when temperatures fell into the negatives. As the snow started falling due to Winter Storm Mateo, Cook County was expected to see 10 to 20 inches before the weather warning was to end Sunday evening.

I’m writing this on Friday—Feb. 9—so I cannot predict what will happen over the weekend, but with the amount of snow accumulating outside The Chronicle office, it doesn’t look like we’re going to see clear skies or roads for a while.

Chicago deployed 211 snow trucks to plow and salt streets on Friday, but some Loop streets were still mostly or partially covered with inches of snow into the late afternoon, such as Wabash Avenue, which became one lane rather than two.

No, my Editor’s Note has not turned into a weather forecast, but everyone who has spent even a day in school in the Midwest knows how important winter weather becomes to students. Any time even a couple inches of snow are forecast, seemingly every conversation ends up centered around what is going to get shut down by the piles of snow, freezing temperatures and dangerous roads.

This week was no different. As soon as the forecast was out, school closings abounded. Chicago Public Schools cancelled all school on Friday, the majority of—if not all—suburb schools and daycares shut down, and City Colleges of Chicago followed suit.

Out of the four-year universities in the area, only Roosevelt University publicly stated its closure for Feb. 9 via Twitter. Robert Morris University cancelled classes that took place before 6 p.m. on Feb. 7, and it is unclear whether RMU took any action on Friday as well. University of Illinois at Chicago cancelled any classes scheduled before 10 a.m. on Friday while Loyola University continued all scheduled classes for the day.

As the weather worsened on Thursday, Columbia students debated what would happen to their classes. Around 8 p.m. on Feb. 8, Columbia sent out automated phone calls and emails to all students and posted tweets letting everyone know that, like UIC, all classes before 10 a.m. would be cancelled and buildings closed, but classes for the rest of the day would continue as usual.

For those of us who were around during the Spring 2015 Semester, this isn’t surprising. Almost exactly three years ago on Feb. 2, Chicago saw its fifth worst winter storm in history with more than 19 inches of snow recorded at O’Hare International Airport, but Columbia made the same move it did this year and only cancelled classes before 10 a.m., as discussed Feb. 9, 2015, by The Chronicle’s Editorial Board.

What The Chronicle’s former Editorial Board failed to note in its scathing view of Columbia students, staff and faculty who “whine and complain about having to make a little more effort than usual to go into the Loop” during snowstorms is how dangerous travelling can be.

A person was killed in Iowa in a 50–70 car pileup on Feb. 5, and a crash involving six vehicles killed one person Friday in Michigan, and this is just as of press time. So as snow and slush accumulated on streets, CTA buses skidded down the streets and students trudged to their 10:30 a.m. courses from homes throughout the city and surrounding suburbs—not just on campus—trying not to get hit by cars sliding around, but at least those with 9 a.m. classes didn’t have to worry.

And while students were expected to still attend classes after 10 a.m., the first scheduled meeting of the semester for Faculty Senate was supposed to happen Friday at 12:30 p.m. but was cancelled that morning.

Colleges in the area need to think more about the safety of their students who live off campus when bad weather like this happens and not be stingy with cancelling classes.