"Bitter cold, and a bitter truth: UB handles school cancelations poorly"

UB's decision to remain open Tuesday and Wednesday lacked consideration

As snow blanketed Buffalo in one of the most dramatic demonstrations of the power of the lake effect, the city and its surrounding suburbs came to grinding halt.

The government shut down, fire trucks and snowplows became stranded and grocery stores ran out of food. The death toll climbed, and Gov. Cuomo sent the National Guard to help.

And yet, inexplicably, UB remained open.

First on Tuesday, as the storm rolled in. Then on Wednesday, amidst students’ howls of protest and in the face of travel bans and death.

Classes continued. UB refused to waver.

Though they were unwilling to listen to students’ pleas and complaints, UB officials had no issue pandering to the press.

In the face of a public relations nightmare, the administration finally flinched.

As furious complaints from parents and students poured in, UB gave in, canceling classes Thursday and Friday.

UB Chief of Police Gerald Schoenle said, “The safety of everyone in our UB community is always our main concern and will always guide our decisions.” Schoenle said the decision to close UB Thursday and Friday came from worsening weather and driving conditions in communities affected by the heavy snow band.

But many felt the university’s concession had less to do with true concern for UB students and more to do with countering negative press surrounding its decision to hold classes.

When UB defended its decision in The Buffalo News, UB Spokesman John Della Contrada, pointed out that only 2,100 students lived in areas affected by travel bans, compared to the remaining 30,000 students living on or near campus.

Those 2,100 students, buried under piles of snow and trapped in their homes, still matter. For many students, missing two days of class as finals approach can be devastating. Students who were unable to get to campus for classes Wednesday were told that their absences would be excused, and UB encouraged faculty to work directly with students who missed assignments due to the storm.

UB prides itself as a commuter campus. But a commuter campus only merits such a title if the needs of said commuters are met – or at least considered.

And while the argument that keeping campus open because just over 2,000 students lived in hard hit areas may have sounded convincing in The Buffalo News, it doesn’t fly under closer examination.

Numbers don’t lie, but they don’t tell the whole story either.

In addition to commuters from the Southtowns, thousands of UB students commute every day from their homes in the University Heights to North Campus. To do so, the majority of students rely on the Stampede.

On Wednesday morning, as professors began their classes per usual, students sat stranded on immobilized buses.

When the university’s own buses can’t transport students between campuses, when students can’t get to their classrooms because conditions are too unsafe, it’s time to cancel classes.

When students have to trek through icy, unplowed sidewalks (even on South Campus) in the morning just to get to the bus station, it’s time to cancel classes.

When the university cannot provide the services students pay for and rely upon – it’s time to cancel classes.

It really doesn’t get more obvious than that.

Instead, classes continued on, as students sat stuck on buses or stranded at home.

And even as UB insisted that conditions didn’t merit a campus shutdown, they went ahead and canceled other events – most notably the appearance by John Oliver, scheduled for Tuesday evening – due to weather.

If it’s not safe for community members to travel to campus for an event, it’s not safe for students to drive or take buses either.

UB’s lack of consideration of student safety, first and foremost, as well as their academic needs demonstrates that their priorities are severely out of line.

Every student at UB deserves equal consideration from the administration. Every student deserves the opportunity to succeed academically.

It’s hard to do that under a pile of snow – or under the regime of an administration that seemingly doesn’t care.

email: editorial@ubspectrum.com