USF response to Wilma was not timely

If hurricanes bring lessons, USF has not learned any.

With Hurricane Wilma inching towards Florida’s west coast over the weekend, USF again waited too long to announce the cancellation of classes.

USF waited until about 1:30 p.m. Sunday, a day after Hillsborough County announced its public schools would be closed. Hillsborough Community College, the University of Tampa as well as surrounding county governments all announced closures at least a day before USF. This begs the simple question: Why is USF always last to announce its plans?

What makes this even more troubling is that USF said it would use Hillsborough County as a guide in making its decisions. Clearly, it did not. If it had, students would have known on Saturday that Monday’s classes were canceled.

It was evident to everybody else that Wilma posed a threat dangerous enough to cancel classes.

But per practice, the administration chose to wait until the last minute. What will it take for USF to learn from its mistakes?

While everybody else was prepared to announce plans to close, USF was confused and reluctant. As a result, it appears that USF’s No. 1 priority is not the safety of its students.

The University needs to stop its practice of announcing plans to cancel classes on such short notice. As a commuter school, students need at least one full day of notice. The school should establish a one-day rule as its policy to avoid future confusion and annoyances.

Considering the poor way in which the University handled hurricane information in the past, this is even more aggravating for students and faculty. USF promised it would handle these situations better, but it dropped the ball again. The next time a hurricane heads our way, will students be able to rely on USF for a swift, timely decision? The administrators need to ask themselves that question, because if what we saw on Sunday is any indication, they cannot.

While USF’s response to Wilma was not as poor as last year’s Hurricane Jeanne fiasco, in which the decision to remain open was not announced until 6 p.m. the night before, it remains imperative that USF examine and severely tweak its response coordination.

Although the decision to cancel Monday’s classes was correct, in the future it needs to be made sooner