Campus spared, but students feel storm’s impact

While other state and local schools closed Monday after Hurricane Jeanne tore through Florida, USF held off until late Sunday evening to announce it would remain open.

The decision, announced around 6 p.m. Sunday, was made after the university took time to assess damage caused by the fourth hurricane to hit the state in two months.

“We don’t want to have to turn around and go back on a decision,” Michelle Carlyon, USF spokeswoman, said.

The University of Florida and the University of Central Florida were both closed Monday, as were Hillsborough County public schools.

“We decided to stay open because the university has responsibility to the students to provide the education that they paid for,” Carlyon said. “We also have a responsibility to the numerous people who work on campus and can’t afford a day off.”

Some students were aggravated that the university waited so long to announce classes were not canceled.

“They could have made the announcement earlier,” sophomore Maritza Klaiver said. “A lot of people were still out of town when they decided.”

Other universities got the word out to their students much earlier than USF. UF made the decision early Sunday morning, UCF even earlier.

“We announced Friday afternoon that (UCF) classes would be canceled on Monday,” said Tom Evelyn, Assistant Director of News and Information for UCF.

According to Carlyon, USF waited to make the most informed decision possible.

“We have to know how the school has been affected before we can decide,” Carlyon said.

But many students still feel that was too long.

“I went to the Web site and there was no announcement when I checked,” Klaiver said.

Once an announcement was made, many students had trouble finding out that classes were open, but Carlyon said that shouldn’t have been a problem.

Once the decision had been made, she said, the university Web site had a link to hurricane announcements. USF has a hotline number and a radio station that students can listen to, she said.

After a hurricane, it may be hard for people to get information electronically, as many students were without power when the decision was made.

Some students said they had trouble with the emergency hotline.

“(The hotline) was always busy; I could never get through,” Klaiver said.

Still, the most common suggestion was to make a decision and an announcement much sooner.

Students at UF, which reached a decision much earlier than USF, were kept well informed. UF has a mailing list that is used to send e-mails out to students.

“We have a listserv here. I got an e-mail that was sent to me, every other undergraduate student and, I am pretty sure, all graduate students, too,” UF junior Osvaldo Gonzalez said.

Even though classes were not canceled, many students did not make it to class. The professors were told, as in the case of Ivan, to be understanding.

“We’re not heartless, we just didn’t feel that the situation at USF warranted canceling classes,” Carlyon said.

Jeanne did not hit the USF campus directly, but there were slight damages to the campus.

Buildings around campus, such as the engineering building and the library, had problems with water intrusion.

Physical Plant employees tried to take care of those problems Sunday night, said Siva Prakash, associate director of the Physical Plant.

Branches and debris were also scattered around campus.

The UCF campus received similar damages but officials decided the campus should remain closed. Evelyn said many people were out of town with their families and it would have been extremely hard for them to get to classes on Monday.

UF officials were also happy with their decision.

“We (at UF) didn’t really have too much extensive damage from the storm,” said Chris Brazda, the interim vice president for public relations at UF. “We are satisfied with our decision made early Sunday to cancel classes. We know that we have thousands of students and over 10,000 employees all around Gainesville who were affected by the storm.”

That kind of situation doesn’t really warrant the major decision of closing the university, according to Student Body President Bijal Chhadva.

“With Frances, classes were canceled because students would not have been able to get to classes because of flooding,” Chhadva said. “Major roads were closed and a lot of the sidewalks on campus were like little rivers. Monday was spent clearing the water off of sidewalks and making the campus usable. We didn’t have a situation like that with Jeanne.”