Our View: The calamity conundrum

DKS Editors

Kent State students don’t often think about weather affecting their wallet — beyond the occasional car wreck from snow and ice.

But a particularly vengeful winter has left students who should be in the classroom increasingly out in the cold. The real problem is that if we take Mother Nature out of the conversation, it’s no one person’s fault.

As students, it’s not just our occupation to go to class; no, we’re paying for it. That’s how higher education in America works. So instead of looking at the calamity days as days off from a job during which you can relax and catch up on sleep, we look at it as lost learning — lost opportunities to get a return on our investment.

Missing a class or two isn’t a big issue, but the fact that two Tuesdays have experienced a closure and a delay is most certainly destructive to some course syllabi. Classes that meet once a week on Tuesday morning have now missed two valuable meetings.  

If one of those students gets sick just one more Tuesday during the semester, he or she will have now missed a fifth of the course content they were promised.

How is something like this solved? Of course we don’t fault the school for closing, but it should have some plan for the future for how to handle making up for a significant number of empty classrooms.

Three years ago when a blizzard canceled the first part of finals week, the school generally left it up to the professors. Some ordered that students change plans and cancel flights to come back the next week and take the exam. Others let the students go with the grade. Still others negotiated some arguably sketchy deals and made some calculations that were either too generous or harsh.

This approach is inherently inconsistent and unfair. In fact, any solution that isn’t a university-wide policy will be fractured and apply unevenly to different courses and different students.  

However, with the diversity of the student body and the variety of academic study, a policy would do the same thing. If the university mandated that professors offer optional make-up sessions, instructors who teach labs might be more limited to have them than those who lecture. They also couldn’t test or in any way effectively evaluate the students learning because that would put other students who couldn’t make it at a disadvantage.

For starters, we think the university should harness some of the distance-learning fervor into creating an online venue for students to keep up with their workload on calamity days. The question would still remain of how to make up lab sessions and other courses that require tangible, hands-on learning, but it seems like a step toward a plausible policy. Online classes are already protected against any school closings — perhaps professors could instruct students to use lost class time to study new material on Blackboard.

Although rare, days off in college cost students much more than they do on first glance. We’d like the school to at least explore ideas for when this happens next winter.

Have your academic pursuits been affected by weather-related closures? Write us at [email protected].

Your View? KentWired wants your opinion

You might have noticed, at the top of the front page of the Daily Kent Stater, the question accompanied by a QR code. Starting today, KentWired will ask readers what they think about a certain topic.

Readers can access the poll, which will launch every weekday at 6 p.m. on the KentWired homepage. Mobile readers can simply use the QR code. The poll will stay open for 24 hours, closing the next day at 6 p.m. The results will be published in the print edition the following day.

The more people who click, the more accurate representation we’ll get. Though it’s not entirely scientific, the poll will hopefully allow us to give the campus community a better mirror of itself.