November 1, 2012

College Supports Members of Community Impacted by Hurricane Sandy

rescue workers with pulling life raft though flood waters in Staten Island

Portions of Staten Island have been flooded.

‌Colleagues around the college are expressing their deep concern for students and members of the college community who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy and the damage it created in the New York City, New Jersey, Long Island and lower Hudson Valley areas in particular.

“The entire college community shares our thoughts for all of those who have suffered such devastating losses. We have been in touch with all of our locations and people in our community throughout the week. Leadership downstate and Coordinating Center security and communications staff have been working to make sure all of our staff are safe and fully informed,” said Acting President Meg Benke. “The work of deans, associate deans, unit coordinators, faculty, student services and other professional and support staff has been extraordinary over these very trying days.”

Members of the college’s faculty and staff and hundreds of students are without power and facing serious personal challenges.

“Many of us, unfortunately, have had experience in dealing with personal tragedies and student situations,” Benke said. “As I am sure others can share, dealing with personal issues first, and leaving the worries about school to later is a good idea. Student services, mentors and coordinating staff offices will make accommodations.”

Adjustments are being made to academic deadlines and various student services that impact students and faculty. Benke, along with cabinet members, have taken immediate steps to make accommodations with key offices that impact students. Coordinating Center offices have initiated supports at a distance for downstate offices.

An extension of admission deadlines has been implemented and College Registrar Mary Edinburgh and Vice Provost Marjorie Lavin are looking into the timing around when an “incomplete” changes to a “no credit” assessment and the possibility of delaying or extending registration for the January term, particularly for student groups.

“With so many of our students and faculty without power, or possibly with greater challenges, we will work in support of them. Deans and associate deans will support specific needs that are identified,” Benke said. “The Office of Enrollment Management and the call center are working with student financial services and supporting follow-up related to de-registration and student services issues that normally would be handled at the center."

Suggestions for any other areas of concern for follow-up are welcome.

Recommendations have gone out to faculty and staff in the CDL and nursing programs that may also be appropriate for others. The following steps are recommended as the staff and faculty deal with students who remain in emergency situations:

  • Clarify adjustments and expectations for students during the time of impact from the storm, including power outages thereafter.
  • Define involvement in the course during this time.
  • Communicate status to students and suggest to them they do the same.
  • Keep in mind, some members of our community may be relegated to mobile devices for all communications.

The college’s colleagues and students downstate have significant challenges: the student whose home and all possessions including textbooks and computer went up in flames when fire swept through the Breezy Point section of Queens; the nursing student who has been working around the clock helping others in New York City and has had to let her studies slip; the associate dean whose home remains flooded; the Staten Island staff who are coping with massive damage.

This message from Staten Island Unit Coordinator Margaret Sousa highlights what downstate colleagues and students are coping with.

“The whole first floor of our unit was flooded and the building does not have any power. Students have let us know that they have lost homes, had cars burnt, etc. Areas are still flooded so even getting to the unit seems most difficult and then we wouldn’t be able to get in anyway. The difficulty of getting around the damage affects gas usage and gas stations have limited gas supplies and long lines to get to it,” Sousa wrote.

On behalf of the entire college, Benke reiterated her concerns for downstate faculty, staff and students:

“While I know many do not have access to power and telephones, I still want to let you know that our thoughts are with you, and please, let us know if there is anything more we can do to help. We also know that many of our students are members of the National Guard or work in areas of emergency management, and the industries or building trades, and will be dealing with the impact of the storm well beyond the current period. Feel free to make suggestions for additional remedies and send them directly to me,” Benke said. “Again, for those experiencing these challenges, please take care. We send you our sincerest hopes for quick improvement in what must be a very difficult time for you and yours.”