Editorial: Ride the bus, call your mom, go to class — even in the snow

Editorial Board

Friday may be the first day of March, that wonderful month in which we have Spring Break, but at least once the weather probably will present challenges to people driving or walking too fast. Snow and ice may very well caress the landscape of Ames and Iowa State again.

December through February (and sometimes as far as April) roughly corresponds to winter, and each winter in Iowa, snow falls. This is nothing new. In fact, it is a part of life. And yet, each time a winter storm of any size has been forecasted this year, the good people at The Weather Channel have decided to name it, as if the dangers posed by snow and wind resemble those posed by hurricanes blasting torrents of rain at a seacoast.

Here at Iowa State, it seems like there is more (or, at least, louder) griping (probably thanks to social media) about not closing the university and giving us all a snow day.

But here’s a news flash: It isn’t necessary for news media to spend large amounts of their time covering the weather when, first, we all know that it’s winter and might snow at any time, and when, second, a person can look outside his or her window and easily decide whether it’s safe to venture away from home. The ordinary facts of life are not news.

Iowa State does have guidelines in place for when to cancel classes or close the university. In advance of what we all assumed was going to be a significant winter storm, the university closed on the night of Feb. 21. Then, earlier this week, in a storm that was clearly much worse than its immediate predecessor, the university remained open. Some consistency, or a clear statement of the criteria for closing the university (so some of our peers can stop bellyaching), might be a good thing, especially for students who commute to campus.

However, the number of students potentially barred from coming to class because of hazardous weather is a small portion of the student body. In the Fall 2012 semester, 33.7 percent of students lived in university-owned housing. Such residences are either on campus or very close to it, and there is no reason that, allowing for a little extra travel time, students should not be able to trudge through the snow. Another 49 percent of the student body live in Ames, most of which is close to CyRide routes. Only 17.3 percent of students live outside Ames.

If a student who lives away from campus will have difficulty getting to class safely, most professors are forgiving. They are real people too, with kids who might be let out of school early, or who might have to drive home in the treacherous weather themselves. Believe it or not, usually it just takes an email to explain the situation.

Snow days are fun. But we’re adults now, and although college should be enjoyable, our purpose here is to pursue useful knowledge. Our credo should be a variation on the theme of the U.S. Postal Service’s unofficial motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these [men and women] from the swift completion of their appointed [studies].”