Closing the University of Florida


Why is UF open today?  Why didn’t we announce before Hurricane Irma, like FSU, that classes won’t resume until Monday of next week?  Why was UF planning to remain open on Friday of last week as the storm bore down? 

Those are some of the questions I’ve received during the past week, and you may wonder as well. UF and USF are the only large universities in the state that have classes today. UF reopened on Wednesday and classes resumed on Thursday.

Many members of our university community have experienced severe hardship due to the hurricane. Some of those with family and friends in other parts of the state have seen them lose their homes and personal belongings.  Here in Gainesville, many employees and students living off campus still do not have power or even running water.  Although our campus never lost power and no buildings suffered significant structural damage, it will likely take more than a year for our natural environment to recover.

UF has an emergency operations team that closely monitors weather-related threats, particularly potential hurricanes.   When UF opens a shelter, the emergency operations team of nearly 40 people moves into a weather-hardened, 24/7 emergency operations center and does not move out until the last evacuee leaves UF’s shelters.

When emergency operations becomes aware of a significant threat such as a hurricane, the emergency policy group, consisting of over 20 campus leaders including the president, is activated.  It is this policy group that determines when the campus should be closed and when classes should be canceled.

However, the ultimate responsibility for campus closures rests with the president.

Our overriding concern is always the safety of our students and employees and the people in our community.  If we believe our students and employees will be safe, then UF will usually open with normal class schedules – even when members of our community are experiencing personal hardships. The circumstances are always complex and the decision is influenced by dozens of factors – again, with safety the primary concern.

There will be numerous students and employees who cannot be back on campus now that it has reopened and classes have resumed.  For those individuals, we are committed to being as understanding and as flexible as possible as everyone safely manages their personal circumstances.

The State University System is discussing today whether the semester should be extended for some universities, which could impact holidays and December commencement.  Unlike K-12 public schools, universities don’t have built-in make up days for closures.

Here is some post-hurricane information you may find helpful:

  • Students who face financial hardships caused by the storm may be eligible for financial assistance and should contact the Office of Student Financial Affairs at 352-392-1275 or visit S107 Criser Hall.
  • Faculty and staff who are experiencing a temporary financial hardship, or who wish to donate to those who are, may participate in the “Aid-a-Gator” emergency funding program, which has been established by UF Human Resource Services. For more information, or to make a donation to the program, visit ufl.edu/aidagator/
  • Anyone wishing to volunteer or to help with hurricane recovery locally can find out more through Volunteer Florida, org/irma; Gators Volunteer,  gatorsvolunteer.ufl.edu; or by donating food or becoming involved with the UF Field and Fork Pantry, fieldandfork.ufl.edu.

 

As always, I welcome your input, both positive and negative.  My personal email is kent.fuchs@ufl.edu.  If you have someone you would like to thank, please let me know and I will pass along the praise.  So many in the UF community have personally sacrificed for others and for this campus the past week.  I am forever grateful.