Editorial: UMN should take initiative for student safety more often

UMN canceled classes on Wednesday, to the surprise of most students, after temperatures hit record lows.

by Daily Editorial Board

Minnesota has faced dangerously cold temperatures this week, with Minneapolis experiencing a windchill of 50 degrees below zero midday on Tuesday and just over 40 degrees below zero Wednesday at noon. Even with the polar vortex, many students feared classes would remain in session due to the University of Minnesota’s seemingly strict policy on class cancellations and campus closures.

However, the University shocked us all with its nearly two-day closure, a decision that was made late Monday evening. While Minnesota is expected to warm up in the next few weeks, we encourage the University to consider implementing campus shutdowns more frequently on necessary occasions. 

The University is quite shy when it comes to closures — as shown in the past year. Students are expected to trudge through snow and blistering cold multiple times each year. Just over one year ago, students had to trudge through nearly 15 inches of snow and walk against 30 mph winds; weather conditions that led Gov. Mark Dayton to declare a snow emergency as well as cause the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport and the Minneapolis Public Schools to shut down. Though the University remained open, professors were free to cancel class at their discretion.

Mike Berthelesen, Vice President for University Services, told the Minnesota Daily that many factors must be looked at in shutting down the University. Furthermore, the last time the entire University was shut down was the early 1990s, according to Berthlesen. 

Even when the Twin Cities and surrounding areas were hit with 15 to 20 inches of snow in mid-April, the University only granted students a partial day off. While Minnesota’s snowy climate is not something that can be avoided, the safety of students, especially those who commute, should prevail over a few missed classes. Students shouldn’t be left wondering whether they have to risk the roads to go to class or be reprimanded for being absent.

When it comes to these uncomfortable incidents, the University should continue considering how students and faculty may be impacted. For example, the University tweeted on Monday that it is “closely monitoring the weather & expect to make a decision about any weather-related announcements by midday Tuesday.” However, a large majority of students commute daily to campus and need to be notified before midday that classes are canceled. This statement, released on Twitter, led more than 70 people to send backlash to the University in regards to commuters and the security of faculty and students.

Ultimately, the University needs to continue recognizing the safety of all students, staff and faculty as it relates to Minnesota weather. While it may take time and lengthy discussions to cancel classes or close down the University, it should be done for the well-being of students and faculty.