Snow closes WIT, Washburn remains open

Snow blankets the ground outside of the SWRC

Lauren Eckert

Mounds of snow continue to line the streets and sidewalks of Washburn University after the bout of severe winter weather that the Topeka area experienced during the course of winter break.

While many area school systems closed down for several days during the worst of the storms, the doors at Washburn remained opened as originally planned. Though the campus was empty of students at this time, several faculty and staff members found themselves braving the harsh weather conditions to keep the university running.

The process involves deciding whether or not to keep both Washburn University and Washburn Institute of Technology open to the public during times of dangerous weather conditions and requires much deliberation.  Robin Bowen, vice president of Academic Affairs, and Wanda Hill, vice president of Administration and treasurer, collaborate making the final decision to either keep the university open or shut it down.

On Thursday, Jan. 7 the pair had to make such a decision as severe weather closed down a majority of the city of Topeka and the surrounding area. The vice presidents chose to keep the university open, as school was not currently in session and attendance on campus would be mild. However, Bowen and Hill did decide to close the doors of Washburn Tech.

An e-mail sent out to various staff members regarding the reasons behind the closing stated that the technical school was closed largely because approximately 50 percent of the school’s student population consists of high school students. Since the majority of high schools in the area were already closed because of the inclement weather, attendance was likely to be low.

A factor that contributed to the decision to keep the university open was the decision made by neighboring universities, such as the University of Kansas and Kansas State University, to keep their own doors open.

As addressed in the faculty e-mail sent out the day of the WU Tech closing, Hill said the criterion for the decision to close the institution, “is accessibility on campus and the surrounding area. Dr. Bowen and I checked several sources last night before the decision was made to close Washburn Tech and not close the University.”

Reactions from faculty and staff regarding the decision were varied, but it did raise discussion in the recent staff council meeting Wednesday, Jan. 13.

Rachel Marlett, an admissions counselor at Washburn and a recent member of staff council said the issue was definitely a topic for discussion at the meeting.

“There were different perceptions all over campus from different departments about the decision that was made. Many voices were heard and there is some confusion, but we are in the process of finding answers,” Marlett said.