When Hurricane Frances tore through Florida, USF closed for two days during Labor Day weekend. When Hurricane Charley hit the state, USF was not in session.
However, when the threat of Hurricane Ivan came upon Florida, USF decided to delay their decision and remained open despite other Tampa Bay universities and schools being closed. Provost Renu Khator said that was a decision made so students would have enough learning time in the semester.
With the hurricane season at its peak, Khator said the USF administration has a plan in place if for some reason students could not attend class due to damages or weather conditions.
Khator said that every semester professors and students have an understanding that a certain amount of learning must take place and if that number is not fulfilled other alternatives may have to be taken.
“If (there is a time) when we do miss that certain amount of learning and we cannot make it up within that time frame, the administration, faculty and Student Government will have to come together and see what action needs to occur,” Khator said.
Michelle Carlyon, spokeswoman for USF, said the university goes by the Florida State Statues in regards to the number of required classroom teaching hours. According to Chapter 1012.945 in the Florida Statues, a “classroom contact hour” means a regularly scheduled 1-hour period of classroom activity in a course of instruction which has been approved by the university. In addition, each full-time equivalent teaching faculty member at a university who is paid solely from state funds shall teach a minimum of 12 classroom contact hours per week.
Khator said if students and professors miss too many of those hours, the administration would have to take some action in order to make sure those hours are made up. This does not mean, however, that graduation would be postponed or the semester would be extended.
“We want students to graduate,” Khator said. “There would be no delay of graduation; so far that issue has not even been brought up. We just want to make sure there is enough learning time.”
Some ways that the administration may make up those learning hours could be by extending homework or project deadlines until finals week, allowing professors to turn in grades later than expected or have more alternative/creative ways of learning, such as more professor-student interaction through Blackboard or other online methods.
“We will make that decision and take it when it comes at that time,” Khator said. “There are several different ways and we would want to be flexible. But there are formats we have to follow in regards to the certain amount of learning.”
Khator added that she and the administration, a representative from the Faculty Senate and SG would look at every possibility to make sure the learning was covered.
“This has been a very unusual (hurricane) season,” she said. “We know that students want to graduate and that is a sensitive issue. We want them to graduate and we don’t want to (postpone graduation).”