Campus opens to resume ‘educational mission,’ Khator says
UH President Renu Khator said although her decision to reopen the University three days after Hurricane Ike’s landfall wasn’t an easy one to make, it was a prudent step toward restoring normalcy in the campus community.
"We know today is not a normal day. We know this week is not going to be a normal week, but the sooner we start the quicker we can get back on our feet," Khator said.
Khator opted to resume classes Tuesday after convening with the UH Emergency Management Team and considering its assessment of how the campus weathered the storm. The team, which consists of members from the Division of Administration and Finance, Academic Affairs the Department of Public Safety, Student Affairs, University Advancement and Research and Information Technology, looked at the facilities to ensure they would be suitable for students, faculty and staff.
EMT Chairman and Associate Vice President of Plant Operations Dave Irvin said starting Saturday Houston’s department of Environmental Health and Risk Management inspected each campus building on a floor-by-floor basis to determine whether the facility met safety and sanitation standards.
The Architecture Building lost more than a quarter of its roof while the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center lost the roof over its indoor swimming pool. The Roy G. Cullen Building, the Fine Arts Building, Law Hall and the Athletics/Alumni Center suffered water damage and leakage. The UH Child Care Center and Cullen Oaks apartments remain without electricity late Tuesday.
"We’re still accessing the dollar amount of the damage. As of this point the University has incurred $10 to $12 million in damages, "Irvin said.
Though Houston Mayor Bill White has advised people to remain home unless they must leave, Khator said as long as the campus can provide functional facilities to students, such as library study areas, campus dining services and computer labs, it will remain open for those who wish to come.
Khator deemed the reopening of the University both paramount to rebuilding the UH community in the wake of the storm and in tune with the University’s academic agenda.
"We have an educational mission, and we have to get back to that mission as soon as we can," Khator said.
While most classes began Tuesday, night classes held after 7:30 p.m. will remain cancelled in accordance with the City of Houston’s 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. Professors will decide on an individual basis how students will make up for the time lost in those courses, Khator said.
In addition to wanting to continue the University’s educational endeavors, another factor that led to the opening of the University was the need for students and faculty to come together for Houston, Khator said.
"It is essential for us to come together as a community," she said. "Our city and our community expect us to show leadership and to start helping the city and the community to stabilize the environment."
However, with severe gas shortages and power outages affecting many in Houston and surrounding areas, Khator said she understands the reality that many will not be able to return to classes as quickly as others.
"We do realize individuals may not be able to return, so we are telling them to be cautious and look at their safety and their personal situations and start returning to campus whenever they can. "Khator said.
Because Houston Independent School District schools will remain closed for seven to 10 days, faculty and staff members may bring their children with them to work. Khator also urged University employers and professors to be sensitive to students, faculty and staff who cannot make the commute to campus.
"We will try to do everything possible to accommodate individual situations and individual difficulties," Khator said. "Our faculty will try to reach out to the students and make sure they won’t end up missing the content of the courses."
Khator said professors would work with students to ensure they would not be penalized for time they missed in class because of hurricane-related problems.