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February 22, 2024

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Spring Housing Guide

It’s -30 degrees out, are you in class?

As students at the University, less than desirable weather conditions probably aren’t surprising.

One of the strings attached to living in a Midwest climate is the tendency for temperatures to drop to nearly unimaginable lows, temperatures that make it dangerous to be outside for any given period of time. The frigid temperatures of the days around Martin Luther King Jr. weekend were a prime example of this phenomenon.

Matched in recent memory only by Martin Luther King Jr. weekend of 2008 and the notorious Valentine’s Day 2007 (when the University closed because of the temperatures), the thermometer dipped to around 15 below zero, with wind chills reaching over 30 below zero overnight.

Even during the day, it was difficult to step outside for any period of time, because the wind was constantly pounding at your face, whether standing outside smoking a cigarette or walking all the way across campus.

There was constant grumbling around campus about how the University shouldn’t be open on days when it is exceptionally cold, specifically on Thursday and Friday two weeks ago.

The argument against closing school makes sense. We pay for our education, and it isn’t right we lose out on classes. The University is run as a business, and it’s unlikely that a business would close under those conditions. Professors and students would have to deal with the hassle of reworked syllabi and activities.

However, I can’t help but feel as though the University should be a little more understanding of the issues and dangers resulting from frigid temperatures and be more open to closing.

Most days in the winter, the cold weather is tough, but tolerable. Our campus is small enough that one can usually get from point A to point B without experiencing too much inconvenience as a result of the frigid temperatures. Even during a cold walk it usually doesn’t take long, once you get inside, to warm up and forget about the cold outside. On days like the worst of two weeks ago, it wasn’t that easy.

Although I was bundled up from head to toe, my exposed forehead and eye area took a beating (it’s too bad that I couldn’t walk with my eyes covered), and it was nearly impossible to look straight ahead of me because I couldn’t deal with the wind pelting my face. I could barely keep my eyes open throughout class, because they became so dry as a result of my walk. My bones were cold and achy the rest of the weekend.

I could have waited for a shuttle, but when the temperatures are that low, the number of people riding the shuttles increases dramatically. This means that it takes longer for the shuttles to get from point A to point B since they are stopped longer at each stop. You may end up waiting just as long and possibly longer than it would take for you to walk to your destination.

So, instead of freezing while walking to class, you may end up freezing waiting for the means to take you to class. It is dangerous to be outside in these conditions, walking or waiting, and the fact you cannot guarantee that you won’t wait or walk an extended period of time can put you in danger, even if you are dressed accordingly.

It’s true that we all must get used to the cold temperatures, and I believe that most everyone on this campus has done so, and students put up with them. However, when temperatures are that low, the cold no longer becomes simply an annoyance, it is truly a danger to our health. I’m sure the University realized this, since they sent out an e-mail reminding people of the dangers of the cold temperatures, including frostbite.

Again, I absolutely agree with and sympathize with the notion that the University should be run like a business. We are paying for our classes, and it should be expected that both students and faculty attend them. However, as the University’s e-mail said, “Even a brief exposure to very cold temperatures, like we are experiencing, can cause frostbite.”

If classes are held in these frigid temperatures, we are all subjected to at least a brief exposure to frigid temperatures. I guess the question is whether or not those day’s classes are worth that possible frostbite exposure, whether you are an on-campus student, a commuter student, faculty or staff member. The University has closed before, and while it should ordinarily be avoided, sometimes it’s appropriate to close.

When the temperatures are as extreme as they were at the beginning of the semester, if it’s not absolutely necessary to conduct classes on those cold days, it may be wise to take out a Swiss Miss packet of hot chocolate and relax for the day.

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