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Polar Bear Up

Much of the Midwest is currently under wind chill advisories for Wednesday and Thursday. (Northern Review photo/Connor Gillmor)

The saying “Polar Bear Up” seems to resurface every winter as our campus debates just how cold is too cold for class.  

The National Weather Service’s Special Weather Statement says,

“An arctic blast will bring much colder air into the area starting on Tuesday and lasting through Thursday, with the coldest temperatures and wind chills expected to occur on Wednesday.”

Not once in my three years at Northern, has a professor for my physics, biology, chemistry, mathematics and statistics coursework canceled a class.  

Even during a personal emergency, my professors in my main departments have found alternatives to canceling class. I appreciate these decisions because getting behind on material would have a negative effect on student learning.

We would either cram more and learn less, or cut out material and not learn it at all.

I’m a teaching assistant for freshman chemistry labs and I worry about my students’ future learning experiences if they miss out on this week’s material. Each lab experiment in an introductory course is important in building a foundation of basic knowledge which is built on in future courses.

My peers outside of the science complex seem to have classes canceled more often. Some have had a class canceled because their professor was admitted to the hospital. Others still because of poor weather conditions, despite the university remaining in session. Many students say professors should cancel class on Wednesday Jan. 30, even if the school does not.

Maddi Guthrie, a Junior pre-med molecular biology major, says that,

“The potential dangers that arise from the cold weather outweigh the advantages of having class for one day in this scenario.”

13ABC WTVG News predicts lows between -10 and -20 degrees and a wind chill as low as -45 degrees for Wednesday.

The National Weather Service has also announced a Wind Chill Watch for the area, in effect from 4 a.m. on Wednesday to 1 p.m. on Thursday.

Since this is a weather watch and not a warning, I don’t think we need to cancel class.  I don’t think the university will do so either.

However, if local and national weather services issue warnings, the likelihood of unsafe conditions is too high for the university to stay in session. The possible conditions are already alarming. The National Weather Service’s Hazardous Weather Outlook says,

“The dangerously cold wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes.”

My personal commute is a walk from Stadiumview West to the Mathile building on the tundra, which takes about 15 minutes. With the hundreds of students enrolled in classes on the North side of campus and the hundreds living on the South edge of campus, it is undeniable that many other students also have a 15 minute walk to class.

At this point, it’s hard to say whether it will be safe to walk to class on Wednesday. But for now, WHIOTV7 warns, “Do not venture outdoors for any length of time late Tuesday through Thursday without proper cold-weather attire.”

Dressing ourselves for the current weather is our responsibility. It is particularly important this week that we wear proper attire. You should wear several warm layers and have as little skin exposed to the critical wind chills as possible.

If predicted conditions continue to worsen, it may be too dangerous to go out. Until then, the best we can do for our own safety is to be as informed as possible.

Northern hasn’t canceled class in five years, yet it seems that every year, some professors decide that it is in the students’ best interests to cancel one of their own lectures.

“If the university doesn’t cancel class, I think that the professors have to abide by the terms of their contract, which is to teach, so I don’t think that the professors individually should cancel class unless they are unable to get here due to car trouble or some other circumstance,” said Guthrie.

It seems that every year, students want a day off for cold weather. I agree that it would be nice to stay home, warm and cozy, curled up in bed. But we shouldn’t just call off every chance we get because we want a day off, that’s bad for our learning experience and we’ll suffer later.

So, if the forecasts don’t change, grab a coat and polar bear up.

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