By Samantha Gillis
Staff reporter

The excitement builds as the snowflakes fall beyond the window. A nervous bundle of hope turns in your stomach. The snow begins to pick up. Oh, the joy! You try not to make any assumptions, but you must know—to the Weather Channel. You hold your breath while the page loads. It reads: “Moderate snow fall”—good enough, now you must go to sleep as if it is Christmas Eve, and make sure your laptop is nearby for in the morning when you wake. If the stars are aligned there might be a joyous e-mail waiting for you from Sara Weinert with a subject line of “Classes cancelled.”

Faculty, staff and students alike cross their fingers for that perfect amount of snow or ice which causes a snow day. But for this day to occur, it takes a plethora of early morning phone calls, well thought out decisions and executive power. Andy Sheppard, vice president of academic affairs and dean of faculty, is the first to receive the call. “It happens in the wee hours of the morning,” said Sheppard.

Marvin Estes, Winfield School District Superintendent, will call after a bad storm and let Sheppard know what the decision is for the Winfield schools. For the Winfield School District’s
decision, they typically look at the conditions of the county roads and if buses are able to travel them. After Sheppard and Estes have their conversation, Sheppard will go out and judge the roads himself, declaring how icy they are or snow packed. Then he dials President Dick Merriman’s digits.

“We have a couple options, we can either close, do a delayed start or tell professors that if they can’t make it, to post a note for their students and then it is business as usual,” Sheppard said.

Unlike the Winfield School District and other public schools, Southwestern does not have to make up for days lost if it has “too many” snow days. “That is one of the reasons why we take this decision so seriously. If you are taking a three credit course and you miss one day, it can really throw you off,” Sheppard said.

Sheppard and Merriman have to consider the safety of many people, not just students. “A student may be able to walk from Cole Hall to Mossman and maybe if they leave bread crumbs they can make it back, too. But there is a community outside of campus as well,” Sheppard said.

Once the decision is made Sheppard calls Sara Weinert, vice president of communications, so she can alert the community both outside and inside of SC. Weinert said, “It goes up on the webpage, I send mass e-mails, alert the local radio stations, among other places.”

Sheppard declares his favorite snow day is when everyone believes the school will close but they do not. Sheppard said, “When that happens, I will see Sara [Weinert] at work and
she’ll say, ‘You didn’t call.’”

But when that glorious day does come, Sheppard has a few suggestions: Do homework, do not go out because it is not safe. Stay in and stay warm. Read a book and enjoy. “Doesn’t that sound nice? A cup of soup, a big cozy blanket and a book?” said Sheppard.

Samantha Gillis is a senior majoring in convergent journalism. You may e-mail her at