SFU needs to do better about snow closures this year

By: Sam Gorick

As a Communications major at SFU, my faith in the university’s own communication strategy was questioned during last year’s snowstorms, which forced the cancellation of several exams and caused both school and road closures. The SFU social media team left students stranded during arguably the most stressful part of the semester — final exams — with little to no warning.

As a student whose majority of time is spent studying methods of communication, I could not understand why a decision that should have been made regarding road closures was left to the last minute to distribute to the students of SFU. When the final call was made to cancel classes on December 9, the registrar confirmed over 1,800 people were on campus to write exams at that time.

SFU didn’t start to inform students that the campus would be closed until 2:44 p.m., barely forty-five minutes before the scheduled 3:30 p.m. exams for that day. TransLink cancelled both the 145 and then-135 buses almost an entire hour before SFU made the final call to cancel classes.    

Moving forward this winter, I recommend that SFU collaborates with TransLink on the weather’s impact to bus routes early. As soon as the snow is impacting the buses’ ability to climb Gaglardi or the hill to campus, the decision should be made and communicated in a timely fashion.

According to TransLink, “88 per cent of SFU undergraduates report regular use of public transit for their commute to the university — 31 per cent higher than the national average.” Because of this, any threat to the possibility of cancelling or delays in service must be seen as essential information for students, in order for them to be able to make informed decisions about their safety and/or overnight accommodations. TransLink’s ability to continue to provide service should be an essential part of the university’s decision making on whether to remain open or shut down.

Cancelling an exam twenty minutes before the start time is inexcusable. The calls should have been made at least an hour before the next round of finals began to save students from making the journey up the mountain. I had friends that had to sleep on campus overnight due to the situation and uncertainty of the school being open the next day.

If the weather reports are calling for heavy snow, SFU should offer a one hour minimum window of warning for students. SFU needs to use emergency text and email services providing increased active reports via their social media platforms. Students should know instantly through Twitter feeds or banners on their phones instead of having to switch between their study notes and refreshing the “SFU road conditions” page.

The students understand that the rescheduling of exams is an imposition for the SFU administration. However, for the amount of money each student pays to attend the school, the lack of communication left students feeling undervalued and that their personal safety was not of importance. In the spirit of advanced education and learning, I can only hope that SFU administration has learned from the mistakes made last year and will expedite the communication about school closures moving forward.