What can Suffolk do about so many snow days?

By Patricia Negrón

If there is one thing uniting all the people in Boston, it is our hatred for the record-breaking snowfalls we’ve had this winter.

Boston has broken its record for most snowfall in exactly one week on Feb. 2, going up from 31.2 inches on Jan. 8, 1996 to 34.2 inches, according to the National Weather Service. Boston also broke its 30-day snowfall record this winter twice during the storm on Feb. 9, first with 61.6 inches at 7 a.m. and then with 68.2 by the end of that storm, which reminded us just how old the MBTA is when it had to be shut down the next day.

Suffolk, along with the rest of the universities and colleges in Boston, is trying to reschedule missed classes as best it can, considering how many snow days we’ve already had. These cancellations have been completely necessary considering both the constantly harsh weather conditions and the problems with the T.

On various occasions, Mayor Martin J. Walsh has closed down Boston Public Schools and asked universities and colleges in the area to close so the city’s snow-cleaning efforts can better prepare the roads and sidewalks for normal Boston traffic. This winter, Suffolk students have missed two whole Mondays and a Monday afternoon (after 4 p.m.), two whole Tuesdays and a Tuesday morning (until 11 a.m.), and an entire Wednesday.

For accreditation purposes, classes are measured by credits, which in turn measure the amount of class time and the hours spent studying class material, according to the policy on credits in Suffolk’s undergraduate catalogue. Because we’ve missed so many classes, Suffolk needs to find an effective way to make up those credit hours. The university held classes on President’s Day, despite the weekend’s new snowfall and extreme temperatures on Monday.

Jeremy Hayes/Journal Staff

But was it fair to working students who might have had to ask for a schedule change? Was it really fair to force students who work at jobs on their day off to come in on long weekends? On a day others may have used to study and catch up on all the homework? Is it fair for students who months ago might have made plans and bought tickets to leave the city for a couple of days?

Would it be fair to consider eliminating spring break? Or to consider adding an extra week of classes in May, even though that extra week is the only break between the spring semester and summer modules?

All of these options seem to be unfair for at least some students, but it seems that blaming Suffolk for trying to do their job by making up all the missed classes would definitely be unfair as well. The university is hosting a “Rainy/Snowy Day Lesson Plan” workshop for faculty on Thursday, to help professors figure out how to best deal with so many snow days, considering that the winter seems to be far from over and might have a couple more cards up its sleeve.

Looking at it from the administration’s point of view, it might just be impossible to make up so many missed school days in a way that leaves a majority of students happy. None of the cancellations were unnecessary, but we’ve missed a lot of classes and it seems that we also need to factor in the extra snow days that we’ll may have. It seems what’s left is to try to find alternate ways in which snow days can still be considered productive class days.

A resource we might be taking for granted is BlackBoard — though it might seem impossible to truly make up a class discussion over the Internet, it’s actually more viable than it seems. On snow days, class hours could be made up by requiring students to read handouts, take quizzes, participate in online discussions, and post essays.

The same could be done for the class hours that we have already lost, possibly by adding weekend activities to the course which would permit students the flexibility to do it on their own time within the weekend, without requiring them to change their schedule.

BlackBoard might also be a way for professors to make sure that all the relevant material for their course is actually discussed, while enabling students to interact with each other without creating overwhelming and unrealistic workloads. While there’s nothing Suffolk can do to control the weather, preëmptively looking for ways to convert useless snow days into useful class days might not seem like such a bad idea.