Make accommodations for bad weather

Justice DuBois, Columnist

The recent unexpected variation of cold and hot weather has led to many unforeseen problems for both students and faculty, including issues of transportation. 

On Feb. 24, UT campus remained open even with icy roads from rain and freezing temperatures the previous night. The weather was so bad that Austin ISD delayed school by two hours in response to the temperatures of the previous night.

There were numerous crashes that morning on IH35, which students commuting from Riverside use to get to campus.This caused many students to be late to class due to transportation issues, such as traffic and bus schedule delays. 

Many students were stuck in dangerous circumstances and should not have even been expected to go to class in such conditions. Professors should acknowledge and be considerate of students’ situations during unexpected weather conditions by excusing students for being late or absent. 

Mariah Sanchez, a junior government major and organizer for the Riverside Justice Coalition, talked about her experience with weather related transportation issues, as she has encountered this issue multiple times since the beginning of in-person classes this semester.

“The time we came back to campus, the bus schedule (had) a lot of cancellations. And then those cancellations were even worse because there was 20 degree, 30 degree weather. I was also really angry because the University did force us to go … during the weather. During such extreme weather changes, (the bus schedule) was still not fixed,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez also said that when she emailed her concerns to UT, they told her to use solutions such as parking passes or ride shares, which are significantly more expensive than riding the bus. 

Students should not have to juggle inclement weather, faulty bus scheduling and classes all while putting their safety at risk.

Veronica Trevino, media manager for Financial and Administrative Services Communications, sent an email referring to a statement from the Office of Campus Safety regarding this issue. The statement told students to prioritize their safety, regardless of campus closure. It also advised the administration to be flexible with students, although there are no specifics on how that should be done. 

However, professors do not always share this sentiment. The statement does not account for the classes in which student attendance is mandatory. UT must have specific guidelines for professors during extreme weather to ensure there is no confusion. 

Jordan Conwell, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology, shared his thoughts on the issue. 

There is likely not a one-size-fits-all answer here because classes are different. Being late to or missing a single lecture, which is what I have in mind for my current classes this semester, is different from being late to or missing a lab session in which an experiment is being conducted, or on a day where there is a quiz or an exam. What is hopefully universal is consideration of students’ circumstances and, if possible, any adjustments to course policies that can be made,” said Conwell in an email. 

Professors could offer online classes or asynchronous work for students during days with unpredictable weather. Professors could also excuse absences or make classes optional during inclement weather, like Conwell proposed.

With extreme weather conditions putting students at risk, UT must work to ensure students’ safety by working with professors to implement a campus wide mandate for these circumstances. 

DuBois is a public relations and sociology freshman from Killeen, Texas.