University prepares for shorter semester, flood stricken students
In response to Hurricane Harvey, UH locked its doors and shuttered its windows for a total of nearly eight full class days, counting Saturdays. Despite the lost time, UH will not be extending the Fall 2017 semester.
Following the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s recommendation that UH does not have to make up hours missed due to Harvey, the University decided not to extend the semester, according to the Harvey FAQ website.
Everyone returned Tuesday to a campus still recovering from flooding, and the University at large and its encompassed colleges have plans in place to help students and professors alike cope with the lost time.
“Students dealing with housing, childcare, financial and other Harvey-inspired challenges may require extensions of assignment deadlines, some delivery of online instruction, independent study, and other accommodations,” said Robert McPherson, dean of the College of Education, in an email. “I have encouraged faculty to be creative in their pedagogy.”
University spokesperson Mike Rosen said a preliminary assessment of all buildings on campus found that 88 percent were fully operational, 18 percent were partially operational and 2 percent were non-operational due to flooding.
“Remediation efforts are ongoing,” Rosen said in an email. “The biggest impact of the storm has been on the UH community — many of our students, faculty and staff have lost vehicles, have flooded homes and were displaced. We recognize not everyone will be able to return to campus starting Tuesday, and we are willing to accommodate them in any way realistically possible.”
The Harvey FAQ page advised students to contact their professors or a program representative if they were unable to return to campus by Tuesday. If unable to do so, the website advised students to email their circumstances to [email protected].
“Some possible accommodations may include relaxing participation criteria, allowing online participation, dropping the lowest exam,” said Dean of the Bauer College of Business Latha Ramchand in an email. “While we are fortunate in having all our instructors back on campus on Tuesday, we have suggested that instructors also leverage the technology available on Blackboard.”
Ramchand said professors received an email from the Provost listing specific Blackboard tools they can use to supplement class time for students who can’t get to campus.
According to the final Harvey update sent on Sunday, students who are financially affected by the hurricane can request additional financial aid through the Cougar Emergency Fund and submit a Financial Reconsideration Appeal to potentially increase their aid through one online application.
“This will enable the University to connect affected students with every type of fund available,” the update stated.
The already-existing Cougar Emergency Fund is designed to help students with “extraordinary need” or who “find themselves dealing with a personal or family emergency” that may prevent them from affording the costs of attendance at UH, according to an information sheet about the grant program.
Aid awards typically cap at $2,500, according to the document.
Anthony Ambler, dean of the College of Technology, said in an email that cramming material into the semester’s remaining weeks would not be appropriate, and that College of Technology faculty have discussed how assignment deadlines should be moved or relaxed. Ambler said accreditation authorities said they support the college in that endeavor.
“We will be listening to the students and working to accommodate them — remembering that some will not be able to get to campus for a few more days, and some will have lost everything,” Ambler said. “Focus on the students.”