Opinion

UW, please pass the (sidewalk) salt

This year's influx in winter weather is more than just inconvenient, it makes getting around on campus downright dangerous. 

This year's influx in winter weather is more than just inconvenient, it makes getting around on campus downright dangerous. 

Image By: Betsy Osterberger

I think we all know the feeling. You’re walking to class and minding your own business when you find that you’ve lost your footing, your phone has slipped out of your pocket and is taking your earbuds and ears down with it. Suddenly, you’re facing the sky and praying you didn’t break a bone. 

We all slip on the ice once in a while, but I have never seen as many spills as I have this winter in Madison. I’ve heard stories of students slipping down ramps, stairs and more, leading to everything from sprained ankles to dislocated shoulders. The list of injuries is far too long. However, there is one easy and cheap remedy that the maintenance team has dropped the ball on: salt! I’ve seen almost no salt around the campus, and if it does end up being distributed, it tends to be a few days after snowfall, enough time for more than a few students to fall. 

I knew this issue couldn’t just be my imagination fooling me, so I asked the director of University Health Services, Dr. Bill Kinsey, if he’d noticed it as well. “We’ve definitely seen an above average number of muscular and skeletal injuries on campus due to falls on the ice,” he told me. 

Of course, the maintenance team certainly has their hands full during the winter months, but the amount of untreated snow and ice on the ground is putting students and faculty in harm's way and should be the top priority of facilities workers and management. Even if students aren’t seriously injured, many are needing to miss class to get assessed at UHS or even the University Hospital after falling. According to the National Floor Safety Institute (yes, it’s a thing), “Slips and falls ... represent the primary cause of lost days from work.”

While the hilly terrain UW-Madison is built on is lovely, it makes students rushing to class even more prone to slip. The places that salt is distributed tend to be flat surfaces, but oftentimes staircases and hilly sidewalks are neglected when they should be the first places salted after snowfall. 

The slippery ground doesn’t just endanger students and passersby, it endangers the school as well. Students and parents have legal rights to sue the school due to on campus injuries. Law firms receive hundreds of calls a year from people who believe their falls were caused by unsafe sidewalks and steps and are often faced with suing landowners who don’t salt or shovel their property.

UW, for your sake and ours, please take all precautions to ensure your students are safe and healthy. And in the meantime, students, strap on your skates because you never know what the next walk will bring. 

Dana is a junior majoring in theater. Have you experienced issues with icy sidewalks on campus? Please send all comments to opinion@dailycardinal.com. 

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