by Tian Ren Chu
“Things always seem to go in threes,” according to a famous saying. Well, here we go again: UTSG cancelled classes for the third time this winter due to nasty weather conditions, and we’re only halfway through February!
This semester’s suite of campus closures/class cancellations has been a hot topic among UofT students lately; commuters have been particularly vocal in expressing their discontent towards the university’s lack of promptness in taker matters into hand, at all three occasions. However, I personally haven’t heard much discussion about the strange and somewhat worrying fact that dangerous weather conditions have driven class cancellation not already thrice within a two-week period. This situation is unprecedented in UTSG’s history, as far as current staff members can recall.
Many of us may be cheering temporarily over cancelled lectures and extra time to catch up on sleep during the midterm season, but in reality, the majority of students at UofT (including myself) truly value and care about their education. It sucks when a midterm for which we’ve been preparing for days turns out to be cancelled and rescheduled for after reading week (of course, only the weather is to blame). Moreover, some professors will need to undergo the trouble of adapting their course outline to the weather’s recent caprices the best they can. As for students and profs who have ongoing research projects at their labs, well, perhaps those plated E. coli cultures will have to sit in the incubator for an extra day, whatever this entails for experimental results…
So far, I’ve only mentioned several consequences for the post-secondary education sphere. But what about TTC streetcar drivers, and commuters who might spend three hours on the road for a trip which usually takes half an hour, because they couldn’t afford the luxury of a “snow day” at home? And what about large chunks of ice falling off from tall buildings in the aftermath of the storm, forcing the city to close off certain street areas for safety purposes? Clearly, Toronto’s infrastructures and public transport systems were not exactly designed to accommodate extreme weather conditions that significantly stray from historical statistics.
Of course, it is possible that the GTA (along with most Eastern provinces and States) is experiencing an exceptionally bad winter this year, but I fear that this exception may become the rule eventually. In fact, while much of North America is being struck by snowstorms and bitter cold, many other regions in the world are actually heating up – especially the Arctic. “So this is global warming, eh?”, some people may ask skeptically. Well, actually – yes. Or, at least, meteorologists have identified climate change as the most plausible cause of this winter’s weather havoc: year-long warmer temperatures up North has weakened the Polar vortex, which is a strong wind current circling the Arctic and trapping cold air within polar regions. The weakening of that wind current means that now, freezing Arctic air is more likely to escape its polar confinement and travel down to lower latitudes.
But my intention behind this post isn’t to convince climate skeptics. I simply hope that this year’s unusual winter will serve as a wake-up call for all those who were affected by the hectic weather, as well as everyone who has been following it on the news. One strike or even two could be blamed on bad luck, but three strikes in less than two weeks’ time hints that there might be more pervasive issues at the root of this winter’s extreme blows. Perhaps it is time for UTSG to review its Adverse Weather policies, and come up with more effective (and student-oriented) standard procedures for tackling campus closure. Also, encouraging professors to stream their lectures online on platforms such as Blackboard Collaborate might be a solution, when similar cases arise in the future.
For the moment, I listen to the sound of ice pellets and freezing rain slamming against window panes, and anxiously anticipate tomorrow morning’s commute.