What could have turned into panic during Hurricane Sandy stayed calm, thanks to the AU administration.
AU’s hurricane preparation and response went above and beyond expectations. They laid out a series of steps for emergencies and provided services to accommodate students during the two-day shutdown.
First, the AU Alert system worked extremely well. It alerted students fairly early, and the emails fully explained which campus services were operating. Also, an email sent out by administration calmed students’ nerves on the northside construction and described the previous measures taken to avoid problems in high winds.
Although the AU Alert did not come until 7 p.m. on Sunday night, it was sent early enough for students and faculty to prepare (discounting the grumblings of students looking for an excuse not to work on papers). Food was not an issue for on campus residents because Terrace Dining Room and Tenley Café were able to stay open with adjusted hours.
Also, AU encountered a fire alarm Oct. 29. What could cause more panic than fire during a hurricane? But the AU administration facilitated the alarm well. The evacuation of all Southside dorms to the Mary Graydon Center lasted only 15 minutes. AU cleared up the situation quickly and with ease.
All damage from Hurricane Sandy has either been taken care of or is being managed now, and for a midsize university, that’s fast. Both the leaks in the campus store and Wi-Fi outages in Leonard Hall were fixed, and the leaks in student dorms on Southside are under repair.
AU provided a vast amount of information in its emails and emergency website. Students were given ways to contact management if something went wrong, tips on surviving a hurricane and timely reminders about which services stayed open. RAs were also a great help through posting necessary information on Facebook groups or going directly to students’ dorms.
Surprisingly, the response that needed improvement was not from administration, but from professors.
Some professors decided to hold classes online or send emails with assignments due during the hurricane. Instead of calling family or friends in more heavily affected areas, students had to focus on writing an additional paper.
Professors have a right to assign makeup work for a missed class, but they should not require work to be done during the storm. Asking students to get work done when power outages are frequent and the wind is blowing at 60 mph is unreasonable.
Not all professors are at fault. Some extended deadlines and sent out makeup work, understanding that it may not be able to be turned in immediately.
When it comes to developing a best practice for dealing with cancelled classes in storms, professors should consider that students may not be able to reach the Internet or have the ability to hand in work on time.
Based on conversations with various students, AU did a terrific job dealing with the hurricane. Although there are exceptions to every story, for the most part, AU deserves praise.
After two major storms, tornado warnings and an earthquake in just over a year, we can confidently say that AU knows how to handle a disaster. ≠ E