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Transylvania hibernates over winter break to save energy

Besides the squirrels and birds, pretty much not a creature is stirring on Transylvania University’s campus.

For nearly two weeks over winter break, most of Transy’s staff takes a holiday and the university goes into hibernation mode. This not only reduces its environmental footprint, but also saves money on utility bills—to the tune of more than $400,000 since the shutdowns started seven years ago.

The university had been closing for only a few days during winter break, basically around Christmas and New Year’s. On the days it was open, staff were scattered around campus in their offices—and they weren’t here every day. “We were continuing to operate the buildings utility-wise as if people were here 24-7,” said Marc Mathews, vice president for finance and business.

Now student residents, faculty and staff receive a checklist for their rooms, reminding them to dial back thermostats, unplug everything and turn off the lights. Also, this year for the first time if they do everything correctly they will be entered to win a $100 gift card to the university bookstore.

“People have been very cooperative about it,” Mathews said. “They understand that the university shouldn’t run utilities full blast when no one is here.”

Technically, not everything is shut down. For instance, Transy temporarily turns up the heat for basketball games in the Beck Center, and the student residents who stay on campus over break control the temperature of their individual rooms. “We take these situations one at a time and figure out what we need to do,” Mathews said.

Offices will reopen Jan. 3.