Letter from President Ronald L Vaughn

Published: Sep 24, 2004

The last month of unprecedented hurricane-related activity has taken its toll on every member of the University community. While the University experienced minimal campus damage, the disruption of classes, services, activities, and programs has no doubt caused stress and inconvenience. I wish to convey my heartfelt gratitude to each of you who prepared for the storms, re-arranged your schedules, provided assistance to colleagues and students, and exemplified a spirit of patience and cooperation as the uncertainty of weather conditions posed substantial threats to the Tampa Bay area. I also am grateful for the support that you personally provided me and my family as we retrieved my daughter Susan from hurricane-torn Grenada, where she was enrolled in veterinary school. I saw first-hand the utter devastation that a hurricane can bring and am thankful our community has been spared such destruction.

 

Our primary concern in these situations is the safety and security of the University community. When any threat to our community is manifested, we follow our Emergency Operations Plan which is a set of guidelines that were developed in conjunction with the Hillsborough County Emergency Operations Center (HCEOC) and the American Red Cross (ARC). Decision-making about the cancellation of classes, services, activities, and programs includes several criteria, including the impact of closure on regular operations, such as classes; faculty and staff personal/family needs; travel issues for students, faculty and staff; and time involved in preparing the physical campus and coordinating personnel who remain on-site and who are part of the recovery process. Coordination with local authorities such as the HCEOC, ARC, Tampa Police Department and the Tampa Downtown Partnership occur, as well as with Lawton Chiles Elementary School, our designated shelter for students.

 

Making early decisions is crucial. The time needed to prepare the campus for a storm is often longer than would appear. The Emergency Operations Team considers the above criteria and the projected path and severity of the storm, consults with its core and auxiliary members, and makes its decision, always erring on the side of safety. I know that this conservative approach can be frustrating, particularly as it affects lost class days. However, safety remains the primary factor, and these decisions are based on the best available information at the time.

 

It is my hope that the remainder of this term is uneventful in terms of tropical activity, and that you will be able to recover your schedules and activities in a manner that is acceptable to you. Deans will work with faculty in developing class makeup schedules. I encourage you to assist us in our hurricane planning de-briefing and process improvement efforts over the next few weeks by sending your comments and questions to Dr. Rod Plowman at rplowman@ut.edu. As always, your feedback is welcome.

 

Most importantly – thank you. Your spirit of community is deeply appreciated. Your support and actions demonstrated that we dealt with this emergency in a timely and thorough manner, and I am confident that we will recover quickly.

 

For more information, contact the Office of Public Information at publicinfo@ut.edu.