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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Columns

Water crisis warrants faster reaction from UH


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Water was handed out around campus to help students stay hydrated while they tested the brown water for any possible contamination. | Ajani Stewart/The Cougar

UH’s inability to give students prior notice about the brown water crisis and possible contamination of water is unacceptable.

Water is something that many people hold to a high standard, especially in a developed place like ours. The more I think about it, the more ridiculous it is to me that the University took so long to notify students of the discoloration. Yes, it turned out to not be harmful, but what if it had? Imagine how many people would have been affected by it due to the University waiting so long.

I am a resident adviser, which makes me a resource that students are supposed to be able to rely on. That said, the night the discolored water began spewing, I had extremely little information to give to my worried residents. All I could do was offer my own bottled water and tell them that I would update them whenever I caught wind of something.

Before that, as eateries all over campus were shut down, there was still nothing solid to go on regarding the state of the water, besides firsthand accounts and hearsay.

Yet, even with those observations, not a single email was sent to students until five hours after restaurants started to close.

The University needs to communicate with students better the next time something like this happens — especially the ones who live on campus and stand to be the most affected by something like this.

This would have been a good time to use the text blast that students signed up for. A simple text would have done well to tamper the rumors and prevent possible sickness.

Although tests came back reporting the water safe for consumption, the school still should have immediately informed students as soon as they knew about the water discoloration. Many students on campus had showered or brushed their teeth that day and were freaking out when they received emails not to mess with the water.

One aspect that the University handled in a creative way was calling in the food trucks when every restaurant was closed. This was a brilliant move.

Although the lines were long and made the wait for food much longer, it worked well in a pinch and was better than not having any food options at all. UH was making the best of a food logistics nightmare, and I applaud them for that.

Plus, the food trucks agreed to take meal swipes alongside regular Cougar Cash and debit. By doing this, students with a limited amount of Cougar Cash but an abundance of meal swipes could still eat without any hassle.

UH also did acceptable damage control by acquiring large amounts of water and making them available to students across campus. The placement of the water was well thought out and organized. Large amounts of water where placed in student-dense areas such as residence halls and the Student Center.

One thing we can take away from this ordeal is how nice it is to have clean water — especially when you consider how many people live in the world without that necessity. Although it was a minor inconvenience that made us drink bottled water and eat out of food trucks for three days, we should have been told about the situation much sooner.

This can be a learning situation for everyone. Students should always be prepared for things like this. Whether it is water discoloration or a hurricane, it never hurts to have a few necessities stored away specifically for situations like this one. The UH administration can try a little harder to sit on its hands a little less before notifying students of the issue like this instead of letting rumors and disinformation guide students.

Assistant opinion editor Thom Dwyer is a broadcast journalism sophomore and can be reached at [email protected]

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