Snow Days

I’ve been busy with work and then busier with school so this little project has been kind of left by the wayside.

I am in journalism school, however, so I have been writing quite a lot. I figure for now this blog could serve as a good medium for sharing that which I deem worthy and isn’t published elsewhere.

This is a rant written for my Opinion Writing class’ personal column assignment. I literally just finished it 15 minutes ago so it hasn’t been properly edited as of yet.

 

Snow Days

Twice so far this year my classmates and I have had the displeasure of navigating a slow and overcrowded transit system when classes at Humber College were cancelled partway through the day.

The reasons for these cancellations were the same – heavy snowfall.

On Feb. 5, an average of 10 cm of snow fell on the city of Toronto. Humber shut down at 3 p.m. that day. Forecasts for this Wednesday, March 12 were predicting half again as much of the white stuff. College officials shuttered the doors at 1:30 p.m.

Ostensibly, these cancellations are for the safety of students, faculty and staff. By shutting everything down it allows everyone on campus to get out before the roads become any worse.

In concept, this sounds fine. In reality, as anyone who was around on those two fateful days can attest, by the time classes were cancelled the roads were already terrible.

I live in Brampton about a five-minute walk from the central bus terminal. My daily trip to or from campus will usually take about 35 minutes. Rush hour traffic will add about 10 minutes to that.

On Wednesday, that trip took well over an hour.

Why did I have to waste all that extra time in transit? Experts were predicting both of these storms for days in advance. In the face of such long-forecasted blizzards, why does Humber not just cancel the night before?

There is an argument to be made that a college’s clients, its students, have invested a lot of money to get their education. Cancelling classes is equivalent to a denial of service and if forecasts don’t pan out as predicted administrators could be left with egg on their faces.

In my opinion, that’s a worthwhile risk to take.

A 2005 study in the American Journal of Public Health reported that snowfall increased non-fatal crashes causing injury by 25 per cent and property damage-only crashes by 45 per cent. For those between 30 and 50 years of age, a group that includes many students and most staff, fatal crashes were also increased by 10 per cent.

Those are just statistics for the drivers. What about pedestrians?

On that February day I saw two girls crossing Humber College Boulevard at the bus stop nearly struck by vehicles travelling in both directions.

Wednesday afternoon there were several police cruisers and a fire truck, all with lights flashing, stopped in the same are. Between them was a small SUV, its wipers still gliding across its windshield, sitting askance in the right-hand lane.

It was stopped a few feet beyond the pedestrian crossing. No other civilian vehicles were nearby and it showed no signs of body damage.

I have neither seen nor heard any confirmation of my suspicions – which should be plainly clear – but I still fear the worst.

If climate-change specialists are correct, heavy weather like we saw those days will only become more frequent. Humber administration needs to step up and change their snow day policies.

After all, who would they rather have yelling at them – a few students angry at missing classes or the family of a dead pupil who shouldn’t have been there at all?

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