Editorial: Pitt needs to handle the cold better


Via emergency.pitt.edu

On Wednesday morning, students were alerted about classes’ cancellation just after 7:30 a.m. The University plans to continue normal operations today.

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

Pitt students went to bed Tuesday night knowing more than a hundred other schools and businesses in the area were closed due to the Arctic-level cold sweeping through the Midwest and the Northeast. When they woke up on Wednesday, they found out classes were cancelled.

Students received a message notifying them of cancelled classes through the University’s Emergency Notification Service a little after 7:30 a.m., when classes start at 8 a.m. This left some students already out in the cold on their way to class when they got the alert that the weather was too bad to go out.

Currently, Pitt’s policy for extreme weather lacks any sort of rigidity. According to the policy, the University can only be closed “by authorization of the Chancellor.” Based on the way events unfolded this week, however, the discretion of the chancellor isn’t always enough. Pitt needs a more formalized plan for cancellations due to inclement weather for the safety of its students and staff.

Concerned about the University remaining open in the cold weather, the Student Government Board emailed University officials Tuesday night.

“There is … a significant portion of Pitt students who commute from other neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, or even from the suburbs — all of whom will be experiencing extreme difficulty in making it to class,” the email read.

Yet the chancellor didn’t cancel classes until many students were already walking around Oakland in freezing temperatures.

The decision to close a university is a difficult one. Employees in charge of running the dining and residence halls are very important to daily life, cold or no cold, and the University provides important services to students and staff. But at the very least, cancelling classes so students don’t have to walk through subzero temperatures is a smart move, and one that should have been made sooner.

As of 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Pitt “plans to resume classes and operations” on Thursday, in spite of possible continuing subzero temperatures and a wind chill advisory for Allegheny County in effect until 5 p.m. Thursday. Because there is currently no specific criteria for cancelling classes or closing the University, and because it seems unlikely the Chancellor will cancel classes Thursday, here are some tips for staying safe in cold weather:

  1. With high winds and subzero temperatures, it doesn’t take long for frostbite to set in. If you have a longer commute to campus and usually walk or bike, consider taking the bus.
  2. Wear layers and cover all exposed skin. Keep the ears, nose, fingers and toes covered, since they lose heat the fastest.
  3. Minimize the time you spend outside, when possible.
  4. To prevent pipes from freezing, turn your faucets on to allow a steady drip. Keep your thermostat set to at least 68 degrees.
  5. Take an extra copy of The Pitt News today in case you need to start a bonfire when you get trapped on Lawn Street this weekend.


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