In the wake of a severe winter storm that hit KW with heavy snow overnight, UW’s administration decision to keep campus open has proven to be controversial to say the least.
Anger and frustration boiled over further once it was revealed that Laurier and Conestoga College, decided to close their campuses due to severe weather.
Students have taken to social media to express their frustration with what some say is a “blatant disregard” for students, staff, and faculty safety. Many tweets asked if Ian Orchard, vice-president academic & provost — who made the decision to leave campus open — was on campus himself amidst the weather conditions. Imprint confirmed with his office that he indeed was on campus.
There is already a Change.org petition circulating online with 1,607 signatures urging the university to “re-evaluate inclement weather policies.”
Melanie Garret, author of the petition, writes: “The University of Waterloo students frequently risk their safety getting to classes when most other academic institutions are closed due to dangerous weather conditions. We, as students, need to make it very clear that we will not stand for leaders who constantly show a blatant disregard for our safety.”
In an email statement, Orchard said they looked at both the local travel conditions and at the safety conditions of pathways on campus.
“We want to make sure that students, faculty and staff are able to reach the university safely. If we receive advice that public transport is affected by weather conditions or if local roadways are hazardous, we would take these factors into consideration,” Orchard said. “This morning, local public transportation was operating normally and regional roadways were ploughed.”
Just over a year ago Waterloo experienced one of its coldest days on record and the university remained open. The Wind chill plummeted to a frigid -41 degrees Celsius, breaking a previous record. The decision then sparked debate about whether or not UW’s weather policy needed updating and/or extensive changes. After significant backlash on social media, the university said they would revisit the policy.
A year later and the policy has not been updated.
Orchard added in his statement, “In our judgement it was safe for students, staff and faculty to move around the University of Waterloo today. However, we recognize that individual areas may be affected in different ways, so students, faculty, and staff are reminded that they are responsible for determining when weather conditions make travel unsafe.”
He reminds those who “choose” not to travel to campus that it is their responsibility to make alternative arrangements with their supervisors.
This year’s snow controversy may force UW’s administration to take a more serious look at their policies regarding severe weather.