Unpredictable winter weather can lead to some last minute decisions when it comes to closing campus.
It wasn’t until Monday morning that WKU students received the email that stated WKU campuses were closed and classes were cancelled due to the snow.
On Sunday night, WKU decided the Bowling Green campus would remain open as usual until later advised. Elizabethtown and Fort Knox campuses were closed, and the decision for other regional campuses would be pending.
The decision-making process for events like snowstorms begins with a group of WKU staff who convene to discuss the possibilities or necessities of closing campuses.
Bob Skipper, director of Media Relations, sent the emails announcing the status of their decisions on Sunday evening and Monday morning. Skipper is included in the group of WKU staff who confer about cancellations.
“We have a group that includes campus police, Facilities Management, Environmental Health and Safety, myself and Dr. Lee,” Skipper said.
David Lee, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, takes the recommendation to President Gary Ransdell, who ultimately makes the choice.
“I provide him with the information that’s been generated by the group,” Lee said. “Usually, we have a recommendation, he and I talk about it, and he makes the final decision.”
At present, the group that formulates the recommendation does not consult a representative from WKU’s meteorology program.
“There are no meteorology faculty members who are involved in it,” Lee said. “We do have pretty good access to professional meteorology expertise through media.”
Skipper said the committee follows a variety of resources, including the National Weather Service, regarding the forecast.
Kelli McShane, WKU Storm Team secretary, weighed in on the snowy weather this weekend. She said a variety of meteorological factors can influence the impact a winter storm will have.
“Overnight, they were counting on the rain melting the snow, but that doesn’t exactly work like that,” McShane said. “You need a lot of rain in order to melt any amount of snow.”
McShane said she felt the WKU staff ultimately made the correct decision in closing all campuses because some students were traveling back from the weekend.
“Travel was a big issue,” McShane said. “Highways were closed, shut down because of accidents and the weather.”
Skipper said the most important factor is safety for students, faculty and staff.
“We look at how the campus looks, how the roads coming into campus are going, what the impact is going to be with the weather, and all that is taken into consideration with an eye towards safety,” Skipper said.
Ed note: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed Bob Skipper’s job title. That error has been fixed. The Herald regrets the error.