Hurricane, Opinion, Staff Editorial

Academic calendar adjustments are a merciful approach to a disruptive hurricane

Two weeks have passed since the fiercest storm in recent memory scraped through South Florida, leaving debris littered throughout the region and many Floridians displaced from their homes.

The University of Miami issued the first mandatory evacuation in its history, reacting to grim forecasts for the East Coast. Classes were canceled for almost three weeks, and a revised academic calendar elicited mixed reactions among students, faculty and staff. However, those mixed reactions paled in comparison to the general relief among the UM community at how safely and effectively the university handled the emergency.

Last year, Hurricane Matthew threatened to hit South Florida. The university responded by canceling two and half days of class, but many students found the time insufficient to evacuate or prepare their homes for the storm. Director of Emergency Management Matt Shpiner said in an interview with The Miami Hurricane that he and his staff learned from that experience and decided to make the first call on cancelations far ahead of time to prepare for Hurricane Irma.

Throughout the storm, Shpiner and other emergency management personnel were proactive in sending out notifications to the UM community, often sending multiple in a day. The team was also prepared to offer safe, off-campus accommodations for students who did not have any other options for evacuation.

To clean up debris and give evacuated students sufficient time to return to campus, the cancelations were so lengthy that the academic calendar had to be adjusted. Although the changes aren’t optimal, they avoid the issue of cramming an extensive amount of missed material into a short period of time, which greatly helps students in the long run. It’s a reasonable approach to keep students on track in their studies, which, at the end of the day, is the university’s primary goal and purpose.

Other schools have taken far more extreme approaches in the past. Tulane University closed for an entire semester following Hurricane Katrina. Enrollment dropped as students transferred and the university’s budgets were slashed. It is too soon to tell if the reminder that hurricanes are a reality in South Florida will have an impact on admissions at UM, but both prospective and current students can take solace in what has proven to be an effective safety procedure.

So while the academic calendar changes may be irritating or add pressure on some students in the coming weeks – there is no significant loss of time to cover the full materials of a course and no long-term detriment to academic progress.

We’ll all scramble this week to rewrite important dates in our planners, reschedule club events and make up lost hours of work. But once the chaos dies down, we’ll be back on track, the same U we know and love.

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.

September 25, 2017

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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.