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Friday, September 29, 2023


STAFF EDITORIAL: Academic accountability needed in wake of storm

It’s been little more than a week since Hurricane Ike made landfall on the Texas Coast, and if we were to offer a state of affairs for Houston and surrounding areas it would sound eerily similar to that included in our staff editorial from Sept. 15. Thousands remain without power, stoplights are still not working and debris lines the roads.

Our editorial criticized the administration for holding classes Tuesday under such circumstances, and with a week to look back on that decision and a week of reading students’ responses to it, we stand by every word we wrote. Driving was dangerous, most classes were cancelled and gas was hard to come by.

UH President Renu Khator’s updates on the school’s Web site continue to say the University will be lenient with individuals facing difficult circumstances. Khator wrote that the provost asked for last week to be exam-free and for exceptions to be made for those not able to reach campus. She said she is "confident that your professors and supervisors will be sensitive to your individual situations."

While she may be convinced, we are not. We ask something more concrete be done to ensure students facing exceptional conditions are able to get the education they are paying for.

Instead of asking that professors be sympathetic, the University should require it. The Faculty Senate or the UH System Board of Regents should write a policy outlining procedures to be used when dealing with students, faculty and staff members who may be unable to return to work or school for an extended period of time.

While everyone suffered in some way as a result of Ike, no one suffered in the same way. We worry that those who have lost everything will slip through the cracks of the vague, blanketing reassurances Khator is giving. Her statements give no specific details about how these individuals will be treated, and we don’t think that’s good enough.

The University has worked hard to help those in need by organizing supply drives and mobilizing students, and it deserves commendation. We respect what administrators are doing for the surrounding community, but feel too little is being done for those within the University.

Classes were held last week with sparse attendance. Students may have missed important lectures or reviews for tests they will take this week – valuable information they have paid for. A policy must be set for how these losses will be made up for, and this policy must be strictly followed. To do anything less is to penalize students, faculty and staff for a situation beyond their control and to renege on assurances made to them.

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