EDITORIAL: K-State must take greater responsibility for student safety during hazardous weather

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A bobcat clears snow from Mid Campus Drive in front of Anderson Hall Feb. 21, 2013. (File photo by Parker Robb | The Collegian)

In an unsurprising announcement early Thursday morning, the Kansas State University administration said classes would be held all day as normal in spite of icy conditions expected to continue throughout the day, encouraging students, faculty and staff to exercise their “best judgment” on whether or not to make the trek to campus.

The same icy weather canceled activity across the state, including other universities such as the University of Kansas and Wichita State University, as well as numerous K-12 schools and state government offices. Even the Kansas Board of Regents closed for the day, citing the inclement weather.

Granted, the weather was slightly better than expected Thursday morning, and to its credit, the administration delayed classes at K-State’s Olathe campus and the Polytechnic campus in Salina.

However, it cannot be ignored that the K-State administration has historically been careless toward student safety during cases of hazardous weather in Manhattan.

K-State has spoken about the logistical problems of canceling classes before, but the administration’s repeated refusal to suspend classes after winter storms shows a lack of consideration toward students, faculty and staff who are physically disabled, have a long commute to campus or simply cannot be expected to dodge every patch of ice on the streets and sidewalks of campus.

At this point, telling students, faculty and staff to use their “best judgment” when navigating the ice and snow seems to be a way for the university to absolve itself of responsibility.

In cases of inclement weather, students must choose between personal safety and facing repercussions for failing to attend class (missing exams, attendance points or otherwise), which skews their judgment away from safety.

Additionally, recommending the use of “best judgment” implies that K-State is aware of a weather-related danger, but is choosing not to take responsibility for the safety of the K-State family.

Fortunately, this school year has already shown that a solution exists. On Aug. 21, 2017 — the first day of the fall semester — the university’s attendance policy was temporarily suspended so all classes would be optional due to the total solar eclipse.

If K-State is unwilling to take direct responsibility for its students, faculty and staff due to the logistical problems with “snow days,” the best compromise may be to temporarily suspend the university’s attendance policy for days with dangerous weather, or at least take greater steps to protect students from the repercussions of missing a class or an exam. This would allow students to take their safety into consideration without being worried about the negative consequences of avoiding icy roads.

The editorial board of the Collegian hopes the administration will use its best judgment and consider this proposal.

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