Why doesn’t UVic close when it snows?

Op-eds Opinions
Photo by Anna Dodd / Editor-in-Chief.

Victoria is not made for snow. In 2016, the city’s budget for snow removal was just $36 000. In comparison, the city of Kamloops, which shares a similar population size to that of Victoria, has a whopping $1.62 million allocated to snow removal.

And that’s fine by me. In a city that averages approximately six cm of snow per year, Victoria doesn’t have to budget for  snow. It would be ridiculous to allocate a large portion of our budget to high-quality snow clearing equipment when the chances of getting snow are low. That would be almost as ridiculous as spending $3 200 on a wood splitter for our province’s government institution in the unlikely event of a tree-falling crisis… Oh… wait.

With global warming and climate change now throwing curve balls, we really can’t know what weather patterns to expect in the coming years. But for now, we can generally expect that Victoria isn’t going to get much snow.

Cue the Snowpocalypse of February 2019. We break records for the amount of snow on the ground, and the city finds itself predictably in mayhem. On Sunday evening, I found myself stranded in Gordon Head because the 27 and 28 buses both allegedly crashed trying to maneuver the winding streets near UVic — one bus had slid into someone’s front yard, while another got stuck on a hill.

On Monday, the chances of getting home from UVic were kind of a crap shoot. If you lived in the area, then it was likely faster to walk then wait for an unknown amount of time for a bus that may or may not arrive, let alone actually successfully make the journey from Point A to Point B.

When transit options are limited and dangerous and both Saanich and Victoria school districts close down (Feb. 11-13) — but students are still expected to get to UVic — it’s not accessible or inclusive.

Along with our cars that don’t have snow tires and our roads that can’t be effectively cleared due to lack of quality equipment, our buses were also not made for the snow.

To reiterate: that’s fine by me. 

Although constantly pointing out UVic’s hypocrisy is starting to feel a bit old, someone has to do it.

So here’s what I’m not fine with: that the University of Victoria, an institution who prides itself on being “accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities,” and who claims to “recognize that taking on graduate studies while negotiating parenting, family and other life commitments is no easy feat,” chooses to stay open on snow days.

When transit options are limited and dangerous and both Saanich and Victoria school districts close down (Feb. 11-13) — but students are still expected to get to UVic — it’s not accessible or inclusive.

As the Native Students’ Union aptly pointed out, “Keeping the university open on days when B.C. Transit’s HandyDart services aren’t functional, and when local schools shut down district wide isn’t fair… If UVic wants students who have mobility or health issues, or students who are parents to have equitable education, they would provide these services or cancel classes so that students aren’t pressured into deciding between risking injury or losing attendance grades and falling behind.”

On Monday, the university finally decided to cancel classes as of 3:30 p.m., in spite of Environment Canada’s snowfall warning that predicted the snow in advance. Many criticized UVic for not having looked ahead (or at least at the Weather Channel) and for not closing before everyone arrived at UVic only to be stranded due to road conditions. Saanich and Victoria school districts were closed.

On Tuesday, the university smartly closed down, along with Camosun College, and Saanich and Victoria school districts.

On Wednesday, the university decided to stay open — in spite of the fact that Saanich and Victoria school districts remained closed, and Camosun College.

“Due to weather and road conditions all bus routes may be late in Greater Victoria,” reads a Tweet from Wednesday published by B.C. Transit.

So, UVic, why do you insist upon staying open? Is it a money thing? Do you make more money by staying open? 

Or is it a record-breaking thing? In 2017, when a similar situation happened, UVic proudly Tweeted: “We are open! We have only closed twice due to weather since our founding in 1963.”

Whatever their reasons, when transit and childcare aren’t available or are unsafe, then students should not be expected to make it to their classes. As an educational institution filled with supposedly intelligent people running the show, we expect better.