Snow days are a rarity at Boston University. In a city with armies of snowplows, multiple forms of public transportation and thousands of ways to somehow make it work when the snow begins to fall, there is rarely a need for the administration to cancel even one measly day of classes. So when the “Snowpocalypse” of 2015 wiped out an unprecedented five days of classes in a three-week period, the BU administration was forced to cobble together an unpopular solution.
To make up for the several missed school days, the BU Office of the Provost announced via email on Feb. 10 that BU has elected to designate two Saturdays — Feb. 28 and March 21 — as Monday and Tuesday class day schedules, respectively. Faculty are also permitted to hold evening classes over the course of the semester.
“We understand that many faculty have already made adjustments for missed class time, and we appreciate the creativity and flexibility that has gone into those efforts,” the email stated. “However, given the total number of class days that we have missed at this point, we want to offer a way for faculty and students in all Charles River Campus schools and colleges to make up two full class days as necessary.”
Although these Saturday classes may have crushed some students’ wild Friday night parties or Saturday afternoon “dagers,” things could be far worse. Other rumored alternatives could have been canceling Spring Break or adding additional days to the year’s schedule. Or even worse, BU could have taken a tip from our neighbors at Northeastern University, who announced Tuesday they would be holding makeup classes on Patriot’s Day, also known as Marathon Monday, also known as the biggest and best all-day party in Boston. Considering all of that, sacrificing a couple of measly Saturdays really doesn’t seem so bad.
A bad solution it isn’t, but will it be an effective one? Professors technically can’t mandate that their students attend, despite the fact that the professors must make the offer available. While many students at BU will value the chance to attend the classes they missed, let’s be real, a large portion of students will probably just skip the classes altogether, wasting both their tuition money and their professors’ time.
Additionally, many professors have already adjusted their syllabi to reflect the days missed or found other creative solutions, such as posting online lectures or creating Blackboard discussion forums, to keep their students in virtual classrooms while the snow fell. These faculty members may see the Saturday classes as a waste of theirs and their students’ time, since they have already made up for the missed days.
Not to mention the fact that Saturdays are primetime for student events. Several student organizations had rented campus classrooms and facilities through the Student Activities Office months in advance, only to find that their plans had been waylaid by Saturday class days. Most student groups are wary of the process of renting — and sometimes paying for — campus accommodations, so to find that they had lost the spaces for their carefully planned events was likely the icing on the cake of things ruined by Snowpocalypse. Classroom time should be a priority, but everyone knows that extracurricular activities are just as enriching to the student experience.
Maybe Saturday classes are making the best of a bad situation, but there could be better alternatives. We may have missed two Mondays, two Tuesdays and one Wednesday, but we haven’t missed any Thursday or Friday classes. Switching a couple of Thursday and Friday schedules to Monday and Tuesday schedules could have been an effective way to even the playing field of missed classes without adding any extra days to the calendar.
Or perhaps students could have been given the option to make up the classes on either Saturday or Sunday. In some religions, Saturday is a day designated for worship — not work — and attending class would violate that. Yet those students are probably just as eager to catch up with their classes as everyone else. Giving them an option to do so on Sunday as well seems more accommodating to the diverse student body of which BU is so boastful.
It’s not BU’s fault that Mother Nature decided to pick on Boston this winter, but it is the university’s responsibility to recover the lost learning time that students pay such high tuition costs for. Saturday classes may be unpopular, but at least they show that BU’s administration and faculty value their students enough to lose a Saturday. Perhaps students could reciprocate the sentiment and straggle to Saturday classes as well. After all, we’re paying for it.