Lariat Letter: Baylor owes students an apology for mishandling emergency

By Drake Toll | Sophomore Class President

Baylor dropped the ball.

It’s no secret that Winter Storm Uri has ravaged Texas and turned the Lone Star State into a white, desolate land of power outages and burst pipes. It’s also no secret that Waco has felt the brunt of this catastrophic weather phenomenon as hard as any town.

In any case such as this, one could assume that local universities would consider the mental and physical stress of this widespread emergency and respond with something like this:

“Campus will remain closed through Sunday due to inclement weather. Stay updated at our university website or through your school email. Stay warm, safe and limit driving on major roadways.”

If you attend McLennan Community College or Texas State Technical College in Waco, this was a reality. If you attend Baylor University, well, you’re out of luck.

Both of the city’s smaller colleges, understanding the widespread issues due to the weather, canceled the week effective Tuesday. The city’s staple university decided to take things day by day, and it hurt.

Hundreds of Baylor students — both on and off campus — were and still are without power and water and consequently heat and internet. Instead of alleviating the stress of this by canceling class for the week early on, Baylor has waited until late in the afternoon each day to cancel the next day’s instruction.

Displaced students should’ve been worried about regaining power or fixing substantial water damage, yet they’ve had studies dominating their mind, concerned instruction would begin the following day.

The mental struggle and added stress caused were unnecessary. It was seemingly obvious that class wouldn’t resume this week, but the university never gave students that security — security that would have allowed them to worry about what matters most.

Obviously canceling a week of instruction puts things behind and may extend the semester, but the reward far outweighs the cost. For many, this week was not a fun time in the snow. It was a cold, sleepless nightmare spent wondering when power would return and how to adequately fend off flooding.

Refraining from canceling class for the week was inconsiderate and unnecessary. To best serve the community, Baylor should have more intentionally considered student’s mental health and grim circumstances.

Studying intently with the knowledge class could begin the following morning as you take refuge in a friend’s house since your power is out and your bedroom is flooded has been a reality for some students.

Moreover, this reality is worsened by Baylor scheduling remote classes on Friday. Students are still left without safe places to live, stable electricity or internet connection. That’s without considering the mental and physical toll the past week has taken.

I personally know eight people who can no longer live in their home due to extreme water damage, one student who hasn’t showered in four days and another who has COVID-19 and has been without power for over 72 hours. How can a university carry on with classes when its students are suffering like this?

This is an example of valuing education over physical and mental well-being, and that’s inexcusable. So many — myself included — feel like they are drowning, and this could have been so easily avoided.

Without question, the university should have followed other local colleges and canceled instruction for the week starting Tuesday. Baylor dropped the ball, and it owes students an apology, at the very least.