Let me paint you a picture of my view out of the window on the first floor in Martha Miller. 2pm. I just walked to class with my fur hood all the way up, winter hat underneath, knee length coat zipped to the top, $20 black fashion boots that double as winter boots laced up with warm fuzzy socks underneath. A new white blanket of snow is quickly increasing in size as the hours tick on throughout the day. It’s getting wetter and more unbearable to be outside with the wind whipping the flakes of snow right into your face. Visibility on the road is a mile ahead at best and the snow smacking your windshield as your multitasking abilities are put to the test. Students, staff, faculty, and community members make their way bundled up outside or in their cars towards different places around town. A typical winter day in Holland, Michigan.
I grew up smack dab in the middle of Indiana in a suburb of Indianapolis, so I’m not a stranger to the cold temperatures, Midwestern weather patterns, and snow. I enjoy them even. Some of my favorite memories are of the days when my siblings and I would sit by the home phone around 7pm at night waiting for the incoming call button to light up and the recording of the superintendent to play, “Hello…this is [insert name here] of the Carmel Clay Schools Department calling to let you know that all Carmel Clay Schools will be closed tomorrow, [insert date here].” I would turn to my sister, our faces lit up with excitement at the knowledge that we didn’t have to wake up at 6:30am the next morning. Instead, we could wake up when the sun is in the sky, not under the horizon. After leisurely taking in the morning, we would go play in the snow and push each other down. As we returned to the warm inside, we would have red cheeks and itchy fingers from the change in temperature. Snow days were always our favorite.
Now, as a student living on campus I’m not bothered by the walk to class in the snow. As I walked this afternoon in what felt like a scene from a snow globe, I wasn’t thinking about my feelings of the cold snow, but instead, I was thinking about everyone else. In the days of our COVID-19 ridden semesters, we acquired new skills in the education system to better accommodate for student and faculty situations that arose. Classes moved to Zoom, Google Meet, or met asynchronously. These methods of holding class became like breathing for most of us. So why have we not moved to a safer option of online learning for the days that become dangerous not necessarily for students, but more specifically faculty and staff, to come into the office?
I have always understood not having enough reason to cancel classes for students who live on or near campus because getting to campus is only a hop, skip, and a jump away. But, for those who commute upwards of 30 minutes on roads that may or may not be paved well, getting to campus safely has more risks. It’s important to consider this when talking about canceling classes due to weather. Now that we have the capabilities and knowledge of how to conduct online instruction, we should be using it to our advantage. While people came out of COVID-19 with Zoom fatigue, we must not forget that it is still a useful tool that shouldn’t be forgotten, especially when it comes to safety.
Of course, I must acknowledge that I am not behind closed doors in the discussions of the cancellation of classes. These decisions I’m sure are multifaceted and I would never want to diminish the complexity of such matters. I simply offer a more humanizing opinion — one of humanity over practicality. Nevertheless, there is a culture of prioritizing work over human needs not just at Hope, but in the world. Therefore, in the spirit of giving more grace as a Christian college, I think it is important to consider the online options that we have learned how to use so thoroughly in the past, to ensure a safer future.
Hope College during January 2019 (Campus New; “Hope and Snow: A History”)