You didn’t need to be Idaho’s top meteorologist to know weather on Thursday was seriously out of character for the area and it was totally hellacious to the point where I-84—Idaho’s main connecting freeway for much of the Treasure Valley—was closed.
Although the freeway was closed due to safety concerns, Boise State decided to continue classes for the day, a decision that was both wrong and put students in danger.
Many students Thursday morning checked their inboxes expecting to see a message from the university announcing closure for the day. Surprisingly, no such message waited, and to the contrary a message announcing regular schedules would be in effect from Bronco Alert along with a small eye-rolling reminder at the end to “please be careful.”
Later in the day as conditions failed to significantly improve—The Idaho Statesman accurately described Idaho as an ice rink—Sharon McGuire, Ph.D., sent an email reminding students to keep an open communication to address complications in regard to making it to first-week classes.
No matter the reason, or reasons for keeping the university open, the safety of students in unusually brutal weather should never be superseded by the usual business of school, ever.
The weather seen Thursday was not common for this area and was dangerous.
Lauren DeThorne, a freshman majoring in environmental studies, noted the uncharacteristic weather, “I’ve lived in Boise my whole life and I’ve never seen anything like this.”
This situation was more than adverse weather slowing people down, it was also a situation where critical transportation lines were officially closed and regardless of bad weather, students and staff were cut off from campus.
According to Patrick Orr, of the Idaho Statesman, in Ada County alone there were eight crashes reported with injury, 110 crashes without injury, 76 slide-offs and 15 hit-and-runs on Thursday. Freeways were not fully open again until 4 p.m.
With around 22,000 students—many of which need to drive to school—the failure of the administration to close the school was a beefheaded call which put people at risk.
“When I first walked outside it looked fine, and then I got to my car and it was covered in ice, so I was concerned that school was going to be cancelled or not, but I didn’t get any text or emails or anything,” DeThorne said.
She also noted the efforts taken by the university to clean up campus.
“When I got here, thankfully I don’t live very far, everyone was working trying to get it cleaned up and sanded over and everything, but it was definitely very scary,” she said. “I was amazed, I saw what looked like probably professors, people in dress clothes with little things on their shoes hucking ice away.”
The efforts of Facilities, Operations and Maintenance and the Landscaping Department—which were commendable—were also noted by Abel Hancock, sophmore marketing major, “I was impressed to see how much work they were putting into cleaning up the sidewalks, I was glad they were doing that.”
Hancock was only a little surprised the university stayed open noting that it was the first week of class. And while usually
he rides his bicycle to class, he was able to use his car Thursday, which simplified things in the rough conditions.
“They (conditions on campus) were exciting and treacherous and worse than they looked mostly, I didn’t think they were going to be as slippery and dangerous as they were,” Hancock said.
One thing is for sure: the people on campus really came together to make the most out of a stupid and avoidable situation.
It is great if the university has the manpower and equipment to handle the streets and sidewalks on-campus but they do not have any control of the streets and sidewalks off-campus where the ice was still abundant.
You don’t need an expert opinion to know ice was everywhere and it was thick.
Kevin Satterlee, vice president of Campus Operations and General Counsel, said to The Arbiter Thursday, “The concern for our students is paramount. The concern for the mission of the university, our employees and students that have to make it into school; all those things play into account.”
Well Mr. Satterlee, while the sentiment is a good one, next time we will bring our ice skates, because the conditions required to close Boise State are evidently quite perilous. In the future those responsible for campus safety need to get real.