Snow days are rare events at OU

By Rory McCarty

By Rory McCarty

Contributing Reporter

Oakland University has something of a reputation when it comes to closing school due to bad weather conditions. Or rather, not closing.

In a recent spate of sub-zero windchills, icy roads and snow-filled parking lots and pathways, Oakland has yet to close school this year due to severe weather conditions. 

This is not unheard of for a university, but it’s particularly relevant to the Oakland student body, which is made up of 87 percent commuters, according the Peterson College Overview. On such days, it’s the responsibility of the students to get to class regardless of how difficult the weather may make it.

Students have complained about difficulties in getting to and around campus, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the Facebook group, “OU Students Against The Apparent Prohibition of Snow Days.” The group currently has over 800 members.

“There are times when OU doesn’t even plow or salt the parking lots, which would be the least they could do if we still endure the stretched out commute due to the weather,” said Krissie Reardon, the group’s creator. “Aside from getting into accidents, people can slip and fall on the unsalted ground.”

Oakland University’s official policy regarding closing school is to “remain open except under the most extreme conditions … including, but not limited to, severe weather conditions, natural disasters, major utility failure, and public safety issues.”

But when it comes to determining exactly what constitutes a “severe weather condition,” the task falls to the Vice President of Finance and Administration, John Beaghan.

“I confer with OUPD and Facilities Management Department leadership to discuss the weather conditions,” Beaghan said. “We then confer as a team to discuss the conditions and determine if the conditions warrant closure, taking into consideration that we live in Michigan and it’s winter.”

Some students like Alyssa Schneider, creator of another Facebook group protesting OU’s snow day policy, have argued that if all the schools in the surrounding area are closing then Oakland should be closed as well.

To this, Beaghan said that universities do not face the same problems that K-12 schools do, like school busses and children walking to their stops.

“OU is a schedule-driven university where some classes only meet 15 times in a semester,” Beaghan said. “To cancel classes can be very disruptive to the students’ and faculty’s academic goals.”

“Both the Chief of Police and I commute over 50 miles to campus and have a pretty clear understanding of the driving challenges, even on a clear, dry day,” he added.

However, students still grapple with the problem of getting to class on inclement weather days or face the possibility of losing credit.

“I am a full-time college student, and simply cannot afford to waste money on tuition, books and gas, if I will ultimately fail a class because of weather-related absences,” said Reardon.

The bad weather conditions can even prove a problem for non-commuters, with dangerous windchills and unsalted walkways making it hard to get around campus.

However, Laura White, co-founder of Students Toward Understanding Disabilities, believes that the facilities management has improved efforts to keep paths clear.

“After we at STUD voiced our concerns the paths appear to be clear and easier to navigate,” White said.

Other students, like junior Matthew Towers, believe that OU has done a fine job clearing snow and that it is better for the university to stay open as often as possible, to avoid losing lecture time at the end of the semester.

“Those districts that close with only one or two inches of snow are bullcrap,” Towers said.

As for students still hoping for change to the policy, Reardon said the only thing they can do is contact Beaghan and voice their concerns.

“Sending these letters is really the most we can do, as students,” Reardon said. “As more people send them, OU will hopefully find it harder to ignore the issue of student safety, and that is the most we can hope for at this point.”