Hurricanes in the administration

The greatest damage this hurricane season left for UM students probably isn’t from Wilma. It might not be from Katrina. And it most definitely wasn’t from Rita.

Nope, it was Hurricane Cracksquad, a.k.a. “academic deans, the Faculty Senate leadership, the vice president for student affairs and the president of Student Government” that may have caused the most harm. The decisions made, sent via e-mail at 6 p.m. Friday, are more than a bit disconcerting.

Perhaps the most dubious decision was the “revised academic calendar,” whereby reading days and finals week would be converted into make-up class dates. It basically means: Give the administration lemons, and they will squeeze the juice right into our puckered-up mouths. I decided that since Pete Maki was the only student involved in the decision-making process, I would check his fall 2005 class schedule. While Pete may not have supported the decision-I wasn’t in the room-I find it difficult to digest that a student who is taking Theater 101 among his four classes would be responsible for deciding to nix the reading days.

Sometimes the biggest problem isn’t what is decided, but what isn’t. In this case, little consideration was given to test make-ups, a problem that is trickier than it appears: Try taking a test scheduled for last Tuesday. Students could have been prepared for them had Wilma not caused such damage. Some may reason that students should be prepared now that school is back in session, what with the additional week of preparation. But the reality is many students were too busy worrying about family members, waiting in three-hour-long gas lines or removing palm trees from their roofs. The same problem exists for any exam dates interrupted by the storm.

Professors should be in charge of their own classes and show whatever mercy is necessary during hurricanes, when one cannot control circumstances. Consider this explanation, pre-storm, given by Owen Kahn of the International Studies Department regarding an assignment in his INS 502 class due last Tuesday: “Students are responsible for making sure that they have functioning e-mail accounts. Answers received after the times specified [6 p.m. Tuesday] will not be accepted…In the genuine impossibility to comply with these instructions, you must contact the instructor immediately: use e-mail…AND leave a message at 305-668-0084.” That’s right, students apparently are responsible for their power AND telephone lines following a storm.

But should they be responsible for their teachers?

Ben Minkus can be contacted at