Petzold: One day or one life?


Students walk between Curtiss and Beardshear halls during a snowstorm on Jan. 11, 2018. Despite a 12-hour winter weather advisory, the university remained open.

Megan Petzold

The change between high school and college is tremendous. First, we get a whole lot of freedom very quickly. There aren’t any adults telling you what to eat, what do to or when to go to bed. Secondly, there is minimal punishment if you skip class. We get the choice of what classes we should take and the freedom of what time we would like to take those classes. Because I am not a morning person, I decided to begin my classes at noon almost every day. The consequence of this is that my classes typically end at 5 p.m. I am happy with my schedule, but some people may think this type of lifestyle isn’t ideal.

Any schedule turns into a huge challenge when the winter cold rolls into town. The typical January low temperature for Iowa State is 11 degrees. However, after living here through most of January, I can definitely say Iowa State gets so much colder than 11. Saying that, there was a weekend where the temperatures were around 55 degrees. When coming to Iowa State, I understood it would be cold and have the typical midwestern mood swings we all know and love. I did not think about how the 15 mile per hour wind would feel when it was below freezing, or how the snow would find ways to make imaginary cuts on one’s face.

These conditions make it hard for students to find the willpower to leave the safety of their dorms or apartments and face the cold. This is especially true for students who live out of state, specifically students who are from the warmer areas of the country.

The Severe Weather and Emergency Closings document from Iowa State was updated and revised on Aug. 1, 2017. The introduction states “in the event of inclement weather or other emergency, the president or other designated representatives, in consultation with appropriate university administrators, may declare one of the following emergency situations to be in effect.” The two “emergency situations” that could be held are either classes can be canceled or the university and its buildings close. I think this is a great policy to have in place but I believe it can be more specific. What exactly is “inclement weather” and who decides what weather is dangerous?

I can only assume there is a panel of people who discuss if classes should be cancelled during a massive snowstorm or not. But with it being Iowa, there are quite a few snow storms. College is stressful and demanding, so I can understand why the board or whoever decides to keep classes or cancel them would choose to not cancel classes at non-life threatening costs. But walking, riding a bus or driving can be very dangerous in snowstorms. During the snowstorm on Feb. 6, there was a 50-car pileup on I-35 highway near Ames. Story County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Barry Thomas said he could not see from one end of the pile up to the other.

Between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Monday, police responded to 185 car crashes, including the one mentioned above. Between all of these crashes, eight people died and at least 10 people were injured.

After hearing about this, I am left wondering how the board decided what inclement weather is. The snow storm on Monday could have left Iowa State students injured or killed. It could only take one mistake of someone driving a car on campus to ruin someone’s life.

I don’t think classes should be cancelled with a light dusting of snow, but the recent snowstorms have held dense snow and lots of it. I think one day of classes being cancelled during a snowstorm like these isn’t too much to ask.