Bob Skipper clears the air on snow days

WKU Director of Media Relations Bob Skipper looks upon the Colonnades on Feb. 11. Skipper is the current chief of the Woodburn Volunteer Fire Department. He has been with the group for over 25 years. Photo by William Kolb/HERALD

Olivia Marshall

Despite the fact that it was a warm and sunny afternoon, WKU Director of Media Relations Bob Skipper was talking about snow days.

Known for his announcements regarding snow days, Skipper is a WKU alum and has worked for the university for 31 years. He started out as the university’s photojournalist and worked his way to his current position, overseeing the university’s media. 

Skipper is a household name for students attending the university, particularly when winter weather starts to roll in. Students, who usually don’t talk to one another in class, will turn around and wonder whether or not they will get the exciting tweet or email notification declaring school is canceled for the next day.

If the tweet or email isn’t what they hoped? Well, that’s when they will hop onto twitter to air out their feelings, either at Skipper or indirectly. 

These tweets will get shared across group chats and bring together people who have never crossed paths, but they all share the same dissent towards Skipper. 

Among his busy schedule, Skipper sat down to clear the air surrounding snow days.

First and foremost, do you have any control over whether or not we have snow days?

“I am part of the committee that makes the recommendation to the provost. The provost has the final say whether we are closed or not, or delayed. It is not in my power to make the decision but I do have a part in the decision and influencing the decision. In the conference call, we will take a look at conditions as they are, what’s predicted, what the report is from the police and facilities on how the grounds are looking, if sidewalks are clear, if parking lots are accessible and then we’ll look at the roads in the outlying areas. And from that, we will make a recommendation to the provost and she has the final say in that decision.”

Does ice not play much of a factor in decisions? For example, how it could be dangerous for the buses to drive up the hill because it’s icy or how people can’t start their car because its iced over and the roads are slippery.

“It does. We look at those conditions. It’s not just the snow that falls but we look at the overall travel conditions. There may be times where some areas may get more ice than others and it may be more isolated, but, if you notice in our messaging, whenever we make our decision we tell everyone to do what’s safest for them. Someone traveling from Butler county to come to school here may have more to overcome than someone who travels from downtown Bowling Green to campus. And if it’s not safe we don’t want them to attempt to make it. If we can work it out with their instructors later we will try.”

Do you have a favorite meme or tweet you’ve seen of yourself? 

“Really my favorite has to be Washington Crossing the Delaware.”

What was the idea behind the mean tweets video?

“That was a brainchild of my coworkers and they talked me into doing it and quite honestly they were handing me the tweets and I didn’t have a chance to read them beforehand so those were off the cuff responses. Which I think probably made it more genuine because I have a somewhat skewed sense of humor.”

How do you feel about tweets that are mean or unnecessarily harsh?

“I’ve got thick skin. When we first really got into this, our first foray into dealing students directly onto this was email. I just wanted to be a real person for them. And sometimes I catch a little heat. Usually, if I explain something back they are understanding and sometimes taken aback that someone listened to them. Now on Twitter, it gets to be who can be the funniest over stuff and that’s just fun. I have a ball with that. If a student sees more than two snowflakes at a time, my twitter just blows up.”

How do you feel that your post notifications are on for some people?

“It’s great. If people are paying attention then I’m doing my job as a communicator and if its because I do some funny things or say some funny things so be it, but when I have a serious message then I know people are getting it. And all of this with snow is a good exercise for something more serious that may come down the road, and it’s always been my biggest concern working with the university and communications is when something really bad happens, I pray it doesn’t happen, but you gotta be ready for if it comes tomorrow.”

What is your ideal WKU snow day?

“One that happens soon enough that I can sleep in and not get on a conference call at 4:45 a.m. and we can make the call the night before. Then everyone can plan for a day off.”

What is your favorite snow day memory?

“In my senior year of high school, we missed almost the entire month of January because of snow.”

Why are your posts so iconic?

“I think it’s just because I mix it up with the students and it’s my sense of humor and the fact that they seem to enjoy that back and forth and I enjoy the back and forth and it makes it fun for all of us. It takes what could be a stressful situation and makes it bearable.”

Features reporter Olivia Marshall can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]. Follow Olivia Marshall on social media at @marshallolivia_.