Students show true colors online after being denied class cancellation

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

Last March, as many students were returning to campus from spring break, nearly one foot of snow blanketed the entire campus overnight. 

At 9:30 p.m. Provost Ilesanmi Adesida advised students to use caution while driving on the interstates but more importantly discounted the cancellation of classes. Students rallied around the possibility of a snow day, and around 1:30 a.m., they finally got what they wanted.

But there were lessons to be learned — by University administrators and students. 

Administrators were criticized for their delayed decision in not canceling classes earlier when hazardous conditions were made very apparent. Students held administrators accountable: former Illinois Student Senator Jim Maskeri sent a mass email to the Urbana-Champaign Senate, provost’s office and chancellor’s office to express his concerns, and letters to the editor and testimonies flooded in from concerned students across campus.

But between Sunday night and Monday morning, things were different. 

As students began noticing the absence of positive numbers from the weather forecasts, as well as wind chills plunging temperatures to around minus 20 degrees, they once again rallied around the idea of a snow day. But not in the same way we saw last year.

It started around 9:30 p.m. Sunday, when Chancellor Phyllis Wise told students via a mass email that classes and operations would proceed as scheduled. From there, the hashtag #fuckphyllis quickly garnered widespread use by students on Twitter — more than 1,800 tweets in the span of 12 hours included the hashtag, although some used the hashtag solely to express their disdain.

Memes sprung up throughout Reddit and Facebook, many using Wise’s Asian-American background as the theme of the jokes. A BuzzFeed staffer even wrote a post titled, “After Being Denied A Snow Day, University of Illinois Students Respond With Racism and Sexism.”

Well, University of Illinois students, what did you expect to happen?

See, there’s thinking you’re holding people accountable for their actions, and there’s actually holding people accountable for their actions. 

In fact, according to campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler, the choice isn’t Wise’s alone. The University’s Campus Emergency Operations Committee has the discretion to call a snow day. 

Each time hazardous weather conditions occur that could possibly put students in danger, the CEOC holds a conference to discuss factors including current and anticipated weather conditions, whether sidewalks and roadways are clear and passable and whether heating and electricity are functioning throughout campus’ classrooms. 

See, there’s being proactive, and there’s being lazy. Proactive would have been emailing campus administrators voicing our concerns as students; proactive would have been using your own individual discretion to decide whether the trek to classes yesterday was safe for you.

Instead, in response to the outright anger over Chancellor Wise’s email, we attacked her and embarrassed ourselves. We attacked her culture, her race, her gender and her history. We attacked everything but the problem itself.

It’s disheartening to realize that as one student joked about Chancellor Wise’s race, thousands of others joined in — and for them, it was completely OK. It’s disheartening to see what “jokes” can evolve into once enough people are in on it. 

As students, we are allowed to think that Monday was too cold and too dangerous to safely get to classes. But what we aren’t allowed to do is attack an individual’s character thinking that it would get us one step closer to our goal.

We’re a University that is no stranger to racial controversy. We’re a University that still, to this day, cannot agree on the functionality and representativeness of our former mascot, the Chief. We’re a University that wanted a snow day and spewed undue hatred at the first face we could find associated with it when things didn’t go our way. 

We haven’t learned a damn thing except to think that if we complain enough, if we garner enough support and if we’re naïve enough throughout the process, that we’ll ultimately get what we want.

Maybe we all have a little bit of growing up to do.