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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Opinion

Staff editorial: A campus’ reconstruction after Harvey


The University of Houston must develop ways to adequately help students. | Thomas Dwyer/The Cougar

Nestled in the heart of the city, UH could have been directly in the path of Harvey’s destruction.

The major flooding in and around campus even caused some displacement, requiring students to move from their dorms and apartments to safer locations. The additional stress caused by this means the university will have to support students in myriad ways.

UH has already begun offering financial support through the Cougar Emergency Fund and the Financial Reconsideration Appeal, which may give afflicted students up to $2,500 in grants. It’s a step in the right direction — with natural disasters come expensive repairs and replacements and fewer cash on hand to pay for tuition.

Monetary consolation, however, is not the only means of support students need. And support from administration is not enough. It also must come from professors, faculty, student services and the entire UH community.

Mental health

According to a study from the National Center for PTSD, a third of disasters are floods, and at least 25 percent of survivors had symptoms of a diagnosable disorder.

With no pulse of what each student, or even a student in any given area, might have gone through, the student body post-Harvey may be carrying more than fatigue. After natural disasters, affected individuals often experience an increase in stress and anxiety, depression, suicide attempts and PTSD.

Yet our campus’ principle mental health resource, Counseling and Psychological Services, has a reputation for inefficiency and long wait times.

To face what could be a wave of new mental health concerns, CAPS will need to prepare accordingly.

Transportation and housing

Figuring out where to sleep and how to get to campus are another concern. Wired magazine reported that some 40,000 homes and 1 million cars were lost in the flooding. UH has some answers.

Students who lost vehicle permits due to Harvey can go to the Welcome Center Garage or the Stadium Garage to get a replacement. Parking and Transportation Services asks that you do it by September 15. Also, parking violations on campus will not be enforced until September 18, according to the University’s Harvey resource website.

They have not said anything about refunding parking permits.

Concerning housing, students who need emergency housing can apply for a room at the Quadrangle at a cost of $23.79 per night — cheaper and more convenient than a hostel. Students who take this option need to move out by September 30.

Students who wish to live on campus post-flood can still do so as well with the deposit waived.

The professor’s job

All of these issues can have a big effect on the student-professor relationship. There will most likely be an increase in tardiness, drops in GPA and overall increased angst.

How will faculty respond to this?

The best solution is to just flexible. Professors should get a general feel for where their students stand post-Harvey and open up the door for transparency. Make students feel comfortable about regular updates on their housing, transportation and financial situations.

Allow students to be flexible with due dates and be level-headed when dealing with stressed classrooms. Of course: All of this within reason. If professors are unsure about anything, do what you do best and be curious. Ask questions and engage with your students. It will make for an easier process for all.

It is going to take a lot of effort from every facet of the University to put this campus back together again.

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