Khator visits students, staff, offers words of encouragement
It has been an unorthodox start to the semester, with many students being displaced or losing their transportation due to the unprecedented effects brought on by Hurricane Harvey.
To accommodate faculty and staff, the University of Houston offered free childcare at the Recreational Center Wednesday where UH President and Chancellor Renu Khator spent some time mingling with the children of students and staff members who are still adjusting to post-Harvey life.
Joining in on the fun, Khator helped orchestrate a highly competitive game of Red Light, Green Light before leaving to greet students at the Student Center North. Here she checked on students and implored them to seek help via campus resources if needed.
“It has not spared anybody,” Khator said. “In my office, almost all the staff have lost either their car or home, so I know it has not been easy. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I was here for hurricane Ike too.”
Khator said it has been difficult to implement policy changes that would benefit everyone. While some students were affected in extreme fashion, others made it out unscathed, creating an issue of how to proceed with the semester.
“How is it that you provide support and compassion and flexibility to those people who have been directly hit and still get up as an organization and start functioning and start bringing some normalcy?” Khator said.
Khator’s answer to this question is three mantras she has preached to her staff over the course of last week.
“We have had three commitments which are: maximum flexibility, full support and heartfelt compassion,” Khator said. “The second important thing is for students to feel that this is not a wasted semester and that they are not losing out.”
Khator said professors have flexibility to use different methods to accommodate students, such as reaching out through blackboard, using finals week for lectures and spreading out their exams.
“Everybody is rethinking now as to what is it they can do to complete the coursework while making sure that they are very sensitive to student needs, because there are many students that just can’t be here who need a little more time,” Khator said.
Even though Harvey brought many changes to city and campus life, it did relatively little damage to UH.
“The physical infrastructure remained pretty good,” Khator said. “Out of 460 plus classrooms, only eight are out of commission.”
Khator said most of the buildings should be functional by next week — including Bayou Oaks.
“It has been so heartwarming to see,” Khator said. “People have been offering a spare bedroom, or saying ‘I’m leaving from this time to this time and I can take three people with me.’ Ride-share, textbook share, I mean it is absolutely amazing. I knew I had a great campus here but now I feel even more humbled to see what I have seen in the last week here.”