Classes should be held virtually when flash floods hit campus

By Grace Morris
Elm Staff Writer

On Sept. 23, Chestertown was hit with a massive rainstorm that caused flooding across campus. Classes were conducted as usual despite the dangerous conditions.

The decision to conduct classes was incredibly irresponsible on the part of the Washington College administration. Students, faculty, and staff were put at risk as a result.

According to the National Weather Service, flooding is tied for the second most dangerous weather event. The 10 year average number of deaths due to flooding is 94, tied only with tornadoes and trailing the average of 143 heat-related deaths.

This isn’t to say that the flooding on campus was deadly — but it was dangerous for those who had to walk around campus, where various sidewalks and pathways were flooded.

“The walkway from Morris [Hall] was flooding so bad that it was up to my knees at one point,” sophomore Abby Collins said.                  

According to junior Julia Totis, her entire route from Morris Hall to Martha Washington Square was five to six inches underwater.

“There was an actual mini-waterfall that I had to awkwardly jump around…it was really stressful,” Totis said.

According to the NWS, 6 inches of water is enough to knock an adult off their feet. Knee-deep water is powerful enough to carry away cars and just two feet of water is deep enough to sweep up trucks and SUVs.

“I have to walk to Cromwell [Hall] from the Western Shore [dorms], and the main walkways were flooded so walking to class was impossible…I didn’t even go to class that day,” senior Mya Spangenberg said.

Collins echoed a similar sentiment, noting that many students in her classes were absent because of the torrential rain.

It’s understandable why canceling classes may be an undesirable solution. But, in a world where Zoom is as accessible as an on-campus building, it’s hard to understand why the College would choose not to switch to online classes for the day.

“It almost seems like they don’t care about our safety,” sophomore Paige Dauplaise said.

According to Dauplaise, one of her professors had to drive across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to get to class that day — a drive that can be intimidating to most in even the best of weather conditions.

Online classes are a simple solution to the problem. When students can control their environment, they feel safer and more secure. When students and professors are warm, dry, and safe, they can focus better on notetaking and lecturing. It doesn’t make sense to put our campus community in harm’s way just to maintain our day-to-day status quo.

“By the time I got to Toll [Science Center], I was soaking wet — even though I had an umbrella — and [I] was freezing the entire time I was there,” Totis said.

No one wants to return to Zoom classes. We’ve all dealt with Zoom fatigue and headaches from staring at our computer screens for hours on end.

Some professors may not have a calm environment to teach from. For students with roommates, it could be frustrating to have two separate calls happening in the same dorm room.

In addition, the College stated in the Fall 2021 COVID-19 Guidelines that students shouldn’t expect virtual classes to resume. With that in mind, professors planned their semesters for an in-person format. Some classes, such as labs, likely wouldn’t be able to make a single-day switch without time to plan.

However, safety should always be our number one priority.

“Classes should definitely be canceled or at least switched to Zoom during storms,” Spangenberg said.

Totis agreed that classes should be switched to virtual in such scenarios.

The College should put together a plan to have a standard method of transitioning to online classes. We have all learned to be adaptable over the last year and a half, and this would be no different.

If the College truly cares about its students, they will cancel in-person classes when campus has flooded.

Photo by Samantha Jarrett

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