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Opinion

Class should be cancelled due to dangerous temps

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February 9, 2007

As I ran to class Monday morning to escape the unbearably frigid temperatures of 15 below zero and a windchill of minus 25, I could only think of one thing — why was class not cancelled? After removing two pairs of gloves and waiting for my hands to thaw, I checked the UW-River Falls Web site to see they had anything posted about the dangerous weather.

Not only did the Web site have no information posted, I was greeted with a cheerful statement, “We act with an optimum quality of life,” which at this point of being a human ice cube, I had to scoff at my computer screen.

I was so miffed by the University’s lack of consideration for students’ health that I decided to check into UWRF’s policy on bad weather. While I found one, the Inclement Weather Practice, the policy itself was nothing other than a dismal failure.

According to the administrative policy, the University can cancel classes but there is this clause.

“In spite of inclement weather, it is unrealistic to close a campus. There are numerous vital services that must be maintained such as security services, food services for residential students, power plant operations, snow removal, etc. However, if inclement weather is severe enough, class can be cancelled, the campus can be closed to the public, and all non emergency personnel can be directed to leave university property.”

While I understand the part about food for students in dorms, the second sentence is where this policy is screwed up. What is severe?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word severe as defined in the sense of “severe winters” means “inflicting physical discomfort or hardship.”

Perhaps the over 70 schools in the region that closed Monday read this definition and had this thought: Since a windchill warning, which, by the way, means the air feels colder than -25, was issued by the National Weather Service throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin that it was in the best interest of their students to cancel school and not expose them to the three degrees of frostbite.

I am sure that anyone who has suffered from either frostnip, superficial frostbite and deep frostbite would tell you that these conditions are very severe to the point of physical discomfort or hardship as your skin tissue actually freezes and in the most extreme cases turns black and needs to be removed.

While my Monday adventures on campus did not cause me to lose any fingers or toes, I am quite positive that the first stage of frostbite, frostnip, did pay me a visit. According to the weather portion of the Kare 11 Web site, the beginning symptoms of frostbite can occur in only minutes in temperatures such as those we had on Monday.
Myself being one of hundreds of commuters to UWRF, the jaunt from my car to class was one that I don’t want to relive anytime soon, even though I was bundled up to the point that only my eyes were exposed to the elements.

While this cold snap has been the only real taste of a Midwest winter this season, the University should not have ignored it.

If the goal of UWRF is truly to “act with optimum quality of life,” the welfare of the student body should have been a greater concern in dealing with these potentially devastating temperatures.