The University of Nebraska at Omaha’s cancellation policy states, “The safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff is our first priority.” Many students felt that statement didn’t stand true during the snow storm that took place Jan. 21 and 22.
The university states that the decision to close the university because of adverse weather conditions comes through a recommendation to the chancellor by UNO’s weather emergency committee.
As most local high schools and universities like Creighton and St. Mary took the precaution of cancelling classes Sunday night or Monday morning, UNO was late to the game, waiting until 2 p.m. to close campus. It may have only been several hours, but to freshman Ismael Mendoza the weather emergency committee and the chancellor’s decision not to cancel morning classes proved dangerous.
“My mom didn’t want me to go to school, but I didn’t want to lose my grant,” Mendoza said. “I know that it takes more than one day, but my grandmother has stage four cancer. I worried if something was to happen I would need time off, so I decided to drive to school.”
Mendoza said his stepfather suggested he leave early and drive slow. Mendoza headed from Fremont toward Omaha at 6:40 a.m. He was a few miles from his house when he slid on some ice and hit a semi.
Mendoza said that he made it through the incident with bruising to his shoulder and wrist from the seatbelt, but was otherwise OK. His SUV, however, was in much worse shape.
“I was going 40 mph, and I hit the semi on the driver’s side gas tank,” Mendoza said. “I completely totaled my car which I use not only for college, but I’ve also been working at Walmart since I was 16.”
Now without a vehicle, Mendoza said he is unsure how he is going to attend class.
When making future decisions concerning the weather, the university should consider students like Mendoza who, like many UNO students, commute to campus.
“Just remember that there are inexperienced drivers that have to commute from another city,” Mendoza said. “It’s better to be safe than to have something traumatic happen.”
There is always the option to skip class and miss out on attendance points. However, just as Mendoza said, for students who have scholarships or grants with strict guidelines, missing class is a hard call to make. Walking and driving through a blizzard to maintain that GPA requirement is a risk many are willing to take.
Nebraska weather is unpredictable, and the university undoubtedly had its reasons for keeping campus open for as long as it was. In making future decisions concerning weather and the safety of UNO’s students, the university should remember many students commute to their higher education. When in doubt, cancel.