For most students, the first week of school consisted of attending classes, buying books and trying to find a parking spot. But for others, the first week of school was spent recovering from Hurricane Charley.
As the damages piled up and the first week of classes drew near, some university students affected by Charley became concerned about the first day of class mandatory attendance policy. Bob Sullins, USF dean of undergraduate studies, forwarded a note to Angela DeBose, university registrar, asking what the university could do to help these students.
“We always try to accommodate students in emergency situations,” DeBose said. “This is the first situation with weather-related significance on student lives. We created a mechanism to prevent being dropped and to preserve enrollment.”
DeBose thought the most efficient solution was to put these students on a special hold in order to prevent them from being dropped for attendance reasons. The hold does not block registration/drop/add activity. Instructors were notified immediately and asked not to drop students whose name appeared on the list. The process was set up to flag the records of victims and, even if they are accidentally dropped, they will be reinstated.
Sara Spas, a senior majoring in mass communications, was on this list. The eye of Hurricane Charley passed over her family’s home in Arcadia, Florida. Her family’s electricity and water were restored Thursday, nearly two weeks after the storm.
“We’re one of the lucky ones; half of our town is homeless,” Spas said.
Spas missed her Monday and Wednesday classes, but managed to commute to her Tuesday and Thursday classes from her brother’s house in North Port. She was not dropped from the classes she did not attend.
Members of the Baptist Collegiate Ministries at USF helped hurricane relief areas, including DeSoto County, where Spas’ family lives. Fellow USF students ended up helping Spas’ family clean up their five acres of uprooted land.
“The amount of support I have been given is incredible,” Spas said. “Not having to go to class was a relief. The timing for everything got all messed up. I was supposed to be moving to Tampa and starting my senior year at USF. I was concerned about not graduating and having to postpone it. It makes me feel so good the way the professors showed care and came through for me. Everyone has worked with me. This next week will be a week of catch up, but things are starting to get back to normal. I think it might be a good year after all.”
Approximately 20 students contacted the university and were placed on the list originally, but a total of 11 students, averaging three to four classes each, did not attend some or any of their classes the first week, according to DeBose.
“The real thing is people are faced with a situation and the institution is sensitive to specific issues. In their life it is important to them. It may only be 11 students, but it’s still important,” DeBose said.