Western hosts final exams despite ice storm warnings

As residents across Southern Ontario were warned by authorities to stay indoors this weekend, Western University refused to budge on their exam schedule.

Many students responded to the university's decision with concerns of safety

Freezing rain blanketed much of Southern Ontario on April 15th, 2018. (Travis Dolynny/CBC)

As residents across Southern Ontario were warned by authorities to stay indoors this weekend, Western University refused to budge on their exam schedule.

Two days of freezing rain and gusting winds led to treacherous driving conditions, multiple collisions, wide-spread power outages, and dozens of flight cancellations. Provincial police warned residents to stay home and limit non-essential travel.

Despite those warnings and 14 hours of freezing rain in the London area, officials at Western kept to their weekend exam schedule.

Many universities across Ontario cancelled exams and classes due to the severe weather, including the University of Waterloo, McMaster University, and Queen's University.

Western University Student's Council President responded to the school's decision with concerns of safety.

"We are disappointed that the university did not promote student safety in this case," said Tobi Solebo.

Students respond

Many students took to social media to express concerns of safety.

Christie Groot, a nursing student at Western, had two exams at Brescia University College, one on Saturday night, the second on Sunday night.

"It was really challenging getting to the exams, especially for people that were from out-of-town," she told CBC News.

Groot says she didn't feel comfortable driving, so she had her husband drive her. She also expressed concern about the conditions on campus.

It was really challenging getting to the exams, especially for people that were from out-of-town,- Christie Groot, Western student

"Nothing was salted or sanded, so it was really slippery. I was just trying not to fall and become injured and risk the rest of my exams," she said.

Benjamin Anthony, a mechanical engineering student, lives within walking distance to campus. He told CBC News he was happy to get his finals over with.

"To be honest, I didn't want them to push back our exams because I was prepared for it, so I was happy to have an uncomfortable walk to write my exams," he said.

"Although it was cold and rainy, it was nothing worse than what we've seen in December."

Western defends its decision

"It was an interesting sort-of conundrum for the university to sort out," said John Doerksen, Vice-Provost of academic programs at Western.

"Western certainly was closely monitoring road conditions and weather conditions."

Doerksen told CBC News the major factors were whether transit was operating, and the sidewalk conditions on campus. He said over 12,000 exams were scheduled for the weekend and there wasn't a spike in requests for accommodations.

Western has an accommodation process in place for students. Doerksen said the process is generally well understood to students and they grant accommodations to thousands of students a year. Students who couldn't make their exams would have been allowed accommodation.

"Had we cancelled exams for one or both days and we tried to reschedule 12,000 exams, that causes a different kind of disruption for students, whether that would have to come at the end of the exam period or early in May," said Doerksen.

Going forward, Doerksen says the university will ensure that students are aware they can seek accommodation when there is a unique situation or safety concern.