Manchester University
Oak Leaves

May 12, 2017

Campus Power Shuts Down; Generates Frustrations 

Shelby Harrell

April showers brought lost power for the days of April 25 and 26 as Manchester University suffered a campus-wide power outage.
According to Manchester University president Dave McFadden, the campus lost power at approximately 6:55 a.m. on the morning of Tuesday, April 25. “The power went out at about 5 to 7 a.m. that morning,” President McFadden said, “and our plant staff worked right away to figure out what the problem was.”
The loss of power, as it turns out, was the direct result of a problem with the faulty line located in between East Hall and East Street Apartments. “There is a series of buildings that are on the same loop,” McFadden said, “and when that line went down, it affected all of the buildings on that loop.” The cancellation of classes for those two days was to ensure the safety of all students and faculty members on campus during that time.
After unsuccessfully attempting to resolve the situation, the administration made the decision to cancel classes for the day. “We made the decision very early to cancel classes for the full day instead of cancelling classes for two hours at a time,” McFadden said, “because we thought it would be easiest for everyone if they knew early on that both work and classes were cancelled.” In addition, all staff members who were determined nonessential for the day were quickly dismissed.
Dean of Student Experience and Title IX Coordinator Allen Machielson, however, was among the many staff members that arrived to work anyway. Machielson had received a text message from Raylene Rospond, vice president of Academic Affairs, informing him of the power outage and their efforts to determine its cause. “By the time I had gotten into work they had already put a two-hour delay on for the university,” Machielson said in a reflective tone. “I soon realized after that that we were probably going to have to shut down the power for the day.” 

The problem with the faulty power line between East Hall and East Street Apartments, it turns out, was a burnout of the wire. According to Machielson, this caused a short. “As an emergency system,” Machielson said, “it automatically shuts down the power so we don’t blow anything.” 

Physical power runs the campus. “Manchester is unique in that we generate our own power,” Machielson said, “so we’re not on Duke Energy.” Duke Energy is the company that runs the power of the remainder of the town. The Jo Young Switzer Center, however, is reliant upon a separate generator. “Because the JYSC had power, the Success Center stayed open to helps student as they had needs or to plug in,” Machielson said. 

Considering that a similar outage occurred on the last day of final exams during December 2016, what if an incident of this nature takes place again? “We have an emergency plan that provides on the highest level for how we respond to a problem like this,” President McFadden said. “We knew who was in power to make those decisions about cancelling classes and those kinds of things.” Manchester also had a communication team prepared to send out messages and alerts via Twitter and the Rave system. “We wanted to make those as clear as possible,” McFadden said. “We want to give people updates on a regular basis.”

The University’s physical plant also has a plan set in place. “When we realized the power was out and what the likely cause was,” McFadden said, “we called in contractors to help us with anything that we could not do ourselves.” 

The specific buildings affected by the outage included Garver Hall, East Hall, East Street Apartments, the Intercultural Center and the PERC. The Administration Building was affected as well; however, in a different context. “There was a very critical time task that had to be done on the day that the power went out,” McFadden said, “and that was getting payroll out so the people including faculty, staff and students got paid.”
To make sure that direct deposits arrived on time, and checks were cut, Mike Leckrone, a director of Financial Services and Mary Ann McWithey, university accountant, drove to the School of Pharmacy in Fort Wayne where they set up a workstation and payroll proceeded without a hitch. "We were very grateful to have the use of the Fort Wayne campus," McWithey said.