Swarthmore, whether for reasons of maintaining course schedules, instilling toughness in students or simply keeping tradition essentially never cancels classes in the face of storms. This is, at best, inconvenient for students. At worst, it is downright dangerous, especially when the school neglects to salt pathways, as was the case twice last week. However, as bad as it is for students, the situation is even worse for faculty and staff. Although the college often allows all “nonessential staff” to stay home, the policy of not canceling class pressures professors to teach and forces much of the campus to remain open.
Think about it. What if rather than a student, you were a faculty or staff member? Perhaps even one with children? Given that the public school system operates on a saner cancellation policy than the college, it is very likely that in the above scenario, school would be cancelled. And so you’re faced with a dilemma: miss a day of work — in the case of some staff members, perhaps a day critical to keeping your job — or leave your kids at home alone.
We at the Phoenix believe that the college must offer a solution to this problem. Many of our peer institutions offer some form of childcare, and a staff-wide poll conducted last year revealed strong support for either on-campus facilities or subsidies.
If the college refuses to make changes to support families within its community during the regular year, then it must at least consider an emergency option for situations like the hypothetical blizzard. During a storm like the one we evaded this week, no sitters are available to come in at the last minute, and conditions are especially dangerous for young children at home alone. In a winter storm, power is likely to go out, help is hard to reach and the risk of mischief is heightened. How can parents be expected to leave their children home alone in these conditions?
The college might devise a program by which, in situations like these, essential staff members with young children may be excused from their obligations in order to care for their families. Reduced dining hall hours could allow the college to function with a smaller staff, bereft of those members who must stay at home. And as for faculty with young children at home, we advocate our favorite solution of all: cancel class.
The college’s draconian cancellation policy does not serve its students well. When evaluating weather-related cancellations in the future, however, Swarthmore must consider not only students, but the obligations and pressures that holding classes places on faculty and staff.