For disabled students, UT should have canceled classes after power outage

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Engineering students do their homework by natural light in Ernest Cockrell Jr. Hall after their professor decided to cancel class mid-lecture Tuesday morning.

Photo Credit: Valerie Sorge | Daily Texan Staff

On Tuesday morning, shortly after the start of 8 a.m. classes, the power went down campus-wide. For many, this was a minor setback and an almost forgettable inconvenience. However, for others, the lack of power made getting to class downright impossible. Out of concern for those students and many others in the University’s community with similar predicaments, the administration made an egregious mistake in not canceling classes until power was restored throughout the 40 Acres later that morning.

The verbal anecdotes and online photos were ubiquitous throughout the day. And while some were cute and harmless — the tweet of engineering undergraduates working near a window to complete their assignments comes to mind — others were more serious. Classrooms without windows were blackened, and the frosty outside conditions slowly permeated into the buildings. Some students were even stuck in elevators throughout the haunting ordeal.

However, perhaps most pressingly, the administration’s ill-advised move to continue classes as scheduled ignored the very real concerns of students with disabilities. Without functional elevators or automatic doors, many students confined to wheelchairs or with other disabilities were totally unable to attend their classes as scheduled. These classes consisted of very important instruction time and — in at least one instance — a midterm examination.

“[The administration] didn’t think through what differently abled students were going to do,” Alejandrina Guzman, a psychology sophomore who uses an electric wheelchair, told the Texan. “It wasn’t fair.”

The decision to cancel class should not be made lightly. But a university such as this one needs a plethora of modern conveniences in order to function, and one of them is electricity. If the University cannot fulfill its obligation to keep the lights on, don’t expect students to keep their obligation to keep the seats full.