DECATUR — Most Decatur residents would not have enjoyed the bitter winds, ice and snow of Tuesday’s blizzard conditions, but at least it’s nothing they haven’t faced before, living in Illinois.
For Millikin University student and Kingston, Jamaica, native Jannic Nielssen, however, the storm is unprecedented. Huddling on the Millikin campus with fellow students at the Richards Treat University Center, Nielssen did his best to stay warm and pass the time with a school-sponsored snow day celebration.
“The changing climate was actually one of the reasons I wanted to go to school here,” Nielssen said. “Originally, the first winter was awesome, but it’s getting tiring now. In Jamaica, wearing a light sweater is about the coldest it gets in the wintertime. It’s nothing like this.”
The Tuesday storm was far and away the most snow-related excitement Nielssen has seen in his three years as a Millikin student. Dressed head-to-toe in a jacket, scarf and stocking cap despite being indoors, he looked thankful to be in one of several Millikin campus buildings with a dedicated generator. At the party, arranged by the university’s “on-call professionals,” students played card games, watched movies and operated the center’s novelty popcorn machine.
“The six of us serve as 24/7 crisis management to the student community,” explained on-call professional Ellen Engh. “Because classes are canceled, we want to make sure the students have something to do. The resident advisers in the residence halls are doing programs on their floors, or the students can come over here to hang out with the kids from the other halls.
“We have games to check out, movies playing and they can rent movies from our rental program, VideoBusters. It’s just to give them something to do so they aren’t bored, sitting around their residence hall all day.”
The Richards Treat Center is well-equipped to handle students in bad weather situations thanks to its generators. The building will remain open in anticipation of possible power outages at the residence halls and contains an upstairs cafeteria to feed the students.
The on-call professionals also see the storm as an opportunity to build campus togetherness among the students, hence the organization of games and activities.
“It’s a way for us to build more community in the student population,” said Allison Webster, another on-call professional. “That’s something we strive for, especially on a day like this. Because nobody wants to go far outside, it’s great having different opportunities for entertainment without leaving campus.”