Katrina McCallum headshot

Katrina McCallum, Gazette News editor.

We've heard it over and over again: Western is cracking down on FOCO partying over concerns for student safety.

A student could be injured by falling off a roof, trampled in the crowds or by doing one too many keg stands — the list is endless. Reasonably, Western University administration has made it their priority to mitigate all of these risks to students.

But when student safety doesn't directly impact the university's reputation, Western seems to fall silent.

Though the winter season in London is nothing new, the weather last week was truly frightening. Not only were there about 15 centimetres of snow, but the temperatures were so low that Western sent out an email warning students about frostbite.

Extreme cold warning- Western

An extreme cold warning from Western.

So, the question here is, how can you tell students that they can get frostbite within minutes of being outside while also forcing them to leave their house?

The reality is that unless you have the money to Uber to class, every way onto campus requires being outside for at least a few minutes. And though the buses were coming, there were serious delays. I myself waited for 30 minutes outside for a bus, and I can tell you — it was cold! By the time I got to class, I had caught a chill that I couldn't shake all day. To top it off, I touched a metal door handle and couldn't feel my fingers for 30 minutes. 

I saw students slipping on ice, heard of car accidents all across the city and saw London Police Services tweet that you should not be leaving the house if you don't absolutely have to.

So why, among all of these threats to student safety, does Western refuse to close the school?

The policy that Western has concerning extreme weather is as follows:

"The normal process is to assess the conditions on campus, the status of London Transit operations, the conditions of primary/main City roads and snow clearance confirmed via communication with the appropriate City of London official, and Environment Canada radar and reports for London."

To me, this was a little vague, so I wondered what the London Transit Commission's policy is for suspending service. In an email response, a representative told me, "London Transit will not shut down unless directed by the general manager of London Transit. In 34 years, the London Transit has only shut down twice."

So to summarize: closing the university for adverse weather conditions can be up to one person from London Transit. Do you see the problem?

The issue here is not that Western should stop worrying about student safety with cases like FOCO, but that this concern should extend itself to other aspects of student life. 

Western's policy on closing for weather is vague at best, and could use some more concrete information about snow, road and temperature conditions.

Now, I am not saying that school should close every time it snows. But as of right now, it feels as though closing is never even an option for Western. Instead, they opt to send warning emails to release liability in case someone does get frostbite. 

And if Western does remain open despite adverse weather conditions, the campus needs to be better prepared. Last week, students struggled on an icy, partially unsalted University College Hill. Students living in the Broughdale area had a hard time leaving their houses as their sidewalks were completely iced over. Even areas on campus were icy. If Western is going to stay open, it needs to be committed to, at the very least, ensuring that the campus and its surrounding areas are safe.

Western continues to make the argument for Broughdale safety that "one day, a student will die." So why doesn't the same measure of caution get applied here? Will Western only care about student safety when a student gets seriously injured in an accident or hurts themselves slipping?

Western needs to care equally about student safety across all avenues — not just when caring benefits their own image.

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