As the winter weather possibilities continue to suspend themselves overhead, many of Washburn’s executive staff and essential personnel/departments are getting together and assessing the current and future conditions of campus.
Many students have been left confused in regards to winter weather procedures. How the university decides to close, and what key factors make a strong impact when the bad winter conditions begin to move into the area are just a few of the concerns that students and faculty have expressed during the unpredictable winter season.
The long chain of decision-making doesn’t have a definite internal source. However, the decision is contemplated and then communicated between various campus departments — each having their own part in the final decision as well as notifying the Washburn community.
The in-depth process begins with the Washburn police department and facilities services reviewing the current conditions, and future conditions via weather updates provided by Shawnee county.
“We get updates from the Shawnee county emergency management,” said Chris Enos, chief of the Washburn university police department. “We receive those sitrepts every two to three hours regarding incoming weather conditions for the area.”
This initial information is then processed and analyzed by the Washburn police department and facilities then brought forth to the vice president’s office.
“Following the evaluations made by the police department and facilities services, the two departments consult Jim Martin, vice president of administration,” said Patrick Early, director of university relations. “And then Jim consults with Julie Mazachek, vice president of academic affairs, who then makes a determination with the executive staff based on the best available information at that time.”
The various issues come in conflict with the process when university scheduling is so tight, leaving no margin for error.
“We’re running up against a firm deadline for graduation,” said Early. “We don’t have snow days built in. There are no additional days built in to the university schedule. Frankly, we are a service and we want to be able to provide it for the students who are paying for it.”
The majority of closures, due to winter weather coming in overnight, are made by 6:30 a.m. the next morning.
“Most college and universities have their classes in the morning,” said Early. “This becomes problematic when winter weather comes in overnight.”
“I converse with my staff and then we address the group when it comes to making a final decision,” said Martin. “In every weather event I have been part of, there have been additional calls in the immediate hours before the final decision is made; oftentimes in the 4:30-6:30 a.m. timeframe.”
Once the decision is made, notifications from the iAlert system and social media messages are posted. These posts are made between the Washburn police department and the public relations department depending upon the platform being used.
The establishment of the iAlert system was highly influenced by the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shooting; as well as the implementation of the Clery Act that requires university services to make students and faculty aware, in a timely manner, of any possible incidents that could cause danger to the learning environment.
Students and faculty are encouraged to sign up for winter weather updates through the iAlert system.
“Your email address is added by default,” said Early. “We strongly urge people to opt-in with their cellphone numbers since it’s the absolute fastest way to receive the information.”
Further information regarding the iAlert system can be found at https://washburn.edu/student-life/services/ialert/index.html
If students, faculty or staff have questions regarding winter weather protocol they are asked to review the Washburn Policies Regulations and Procedures Manual that can be found on the university’s official website at https://washburn.edu/faculty-staff/human-resources/wuprpm/