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The life of a student commuter

BY TYLER HAKES | FEBRUARY 03, 2010 7:30 AM

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My name is Tyler Hakes, and I’m a commuter.

There, I said it.

I’m one of those weird folks who only turns up in Iowa City when it’s class time, takes up all of the downtown parking, and then scurries away each night without even so much as making an appearance at Jakes or Brothers or 3rd Base. The kind of guy who forgoes Thirsty Thursdays and FACs each week for a boring post-college kind of life that includes working way too many hours and running out of decent Redbox movies to rent.

I know I’m not in the majority as a student commuter, but why is it that the UI seems to disregard this entire population when making decisions to hold classes during fits of bad weather?

UI spokesman Tom Moore said it’s really a personal decision based on perceived safety.

“There’s no expectation that anyone put herself or himself at risk to attend class or work,” he said. “Students should consult the instructor if the person feels it is unsafe.”

The UI doesn’t keep track of the number of student commuters versus non-commuters.

But unsafe isn’t quite the same as unable, and there is certainly a level of expectation to attend class when it isn’t officially canceled — especially on the first day. The safety of people and property comes first — per the UI operations manual — and normal operations come last.

Whatever happened to better safe than sorry, anyway?

According to the Iowa City police website, there were 15 collision reports on Jan. 20, the day of the most recent ice storm. In comparison, there were only three reports the following day. While this can’t single-handedly be blamed on the UI for holding classes amid a sleet downpour, it is quite obvious that university activity is the cause for much of the traffic in downtown. And it certainly raises the question: Could some of these accidents been avoided had classes been canceled?

There’s no way to tell for sure, but I can tell you that I forwent the nasty weather and skipped the first day of my night class. Not because I couldn’t physically make it to the classroom from Cedar Rapids, but because I felt that the road conditions were such that it wasn’t worth the risk of traveling 20 miles both directions, after dark.

When I met with my professor the next day to find out what I had missed in class, he quipped immediately, “You’re from Cedar Rapids. I’m from Cedar Rapids, too, but I left early and made it down.” Before I could plead my case however, he concluded, “I didn’t make it home though — I ended up staying down here.”

I’m grateful that he was understanding, but I’m perplexed at the UI’s insensitivity to commuter students. I recognize that the university has canceled one day this year for weather-related issues, but during my four years, classes have routinely carried on unflinchingly during record-breaking ice storms.

Maybe I’m just a kid inside, pining for the chance to recollect my childhood through a snow day. Or maybe I’ve finally grown out of that “invincible” feeling they — adults, that is — always say we youngsters have. Or maybe I’m a little bit paranoid after I did a 360 on I-380 trying to make it to work during a snow storm two years ago.

Either way, I think I’ll “consult” my teachers a little bit more often and just stay home from now on.


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