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Editorial: The priority of commuter safety

A quick scan of policies, procedures and the campus itself illustrates that UMaine cares about its students. The many student safety policies — ranging from disability services to sexual harassment prevention measures — clearly indicate that the university has a mind for student safety. We have ample police presence and emergency beacons on many roads, just in case. However, there is a distinct gap in this proposed safety when regarding potentially dangerous weather. Because of the school’s location in snowy, unpredictable Maine, not every storm can cause a cancellation without seriously impacting student education. But the parameters for gauging when classes should be cancelled are off-kilter.  

There is no sense in having commuter students face potential disaster in trying to attend their classes when road conditions are bad. Slowed driving and delays are expected; sliding all over the road or, worse, crashing is unacceptable. School should never cause significant risk to your well-being; the stress from having to venture onto icy or unplowed roads is bad enough on its own. The rain and snow from last Monday’s storm significantly impacted road safety, and yet the school day went on as usual. This was a poor decision which could have been handled better, even with a two-hour delay during the morning.

Some teachers cancelled individual classes on Monday, going against the university’s final decision to keep everything in session. It is up to the teacher to consider student safety when the university fails to make the best decision. This is not easy for a professor to do, especially considering once-a-week classes, heavy course-load classes or classes that have already missed a couple class periods. Putting this sort of pressure on professors is a necessary evil when the first line of defense has been compromised.

Beyond the obvious ramification of student and teacher safety, there is also concern over the reputation that the university gives out. We don’t want our claims of valuing student safety to seem thin and only for show if we are not properly protecting them from harm. Last Monday was also an accepted students day, where potential Black Bears come to explore the campus. Touring a snowy, unsafe campus does not uphold the image the university wants. Future students may be disappointed or frustrated with the school if forced to drive around on a slippery campus. It would leave a bad impression for all parties involved.

In order to keep everyone on campus safe and sound, the university should reconsider how they base their cancellation decisions. If it’s highly likely that the roads will be unsafe, campus should be closed down — even if there has been more than the average snow days, there is an event happening or it might be technically drivable.

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