Tropical depression Arlene visited Florida over the weekend, serving as a reminder of the four hurricanes that pelted Florida last year. USF students may also remember the absurd way in which the University handled information concerning hurricanes. Whether Arlene was a sign of things to come remains to be seen, but judging by last year’s efforts, USF still has much to learn about communicating with its students and staff.
Early last September, Hurricane Frances caused power outages and flooding. But USF also left students in the dark about whether classes would be canceled.
Classes were canceled, but the decision was not made until late the night before. Local newscasts did not include it in their coverage.
To make matters worse, the USF-operated hotline kept telling students “to call back later” and buried the information deep within its Web site once the decision was made.
Such confusion is clearly irresponsible. It needlessly complicates an already stressful situation.
Later, Hurricane Ivan also caused problems for USF, but that time it seemed the University had learned from past mistakes. Information was offered on the front page of USF’s main Web site and the official announcement was sent out much sooner.
Then came hurricane Jeanne, and again USF botched its information management.
Virtually all improvements were gone. The decision to remain open on Monday was not made until 6 p.m. Sunday night. Students and faculty were furious, as many of their homes had sustained damage and required repair. And while the campus itself was largely undamaged, roads surrounding it remained badly flooded days after the storm had passed. For weeks The Oracle received letters lambasting USF’s administration for what was deemed an irresponsible decision that put student safety at risk.
This weekend, the hotline listed on USF’s Web site played a recording informing callers, “There are no storms in the region.”
Arlene had not been classified a hurricane and was considered only a tropical depression. Yet the weather it brought along nevertheless caused heavy rainfall and flooding in the Tampa Bay area. This was a storm that affected the area, yet the hotline failed to mention it.
This may only be semantics, but much like last year’s mistakes, such confusion is easily avoidable. Since USF has had to deal with plenty of storms, students are right to expect better information management in the coming months.