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On Friday, Sept. 8, Vice President of Student Affairs Michael Whaley demonstrated the University’s support for those affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma in a campus-wide email, encouraging students, families, and faculty to reach out to the University for aid.

“As you complete your first week of classes here in Middletown, many of us are thinking about those impacted by what seems like an endless stream of natural disasters around the country and the world,” Whaley wrote in the email. “Our goal in Student Affairs is to reach out to students whose family and friends may be impacted by these events (as the class deans have already done with those students who we know are from south Texas, Louisiana, the Caribbean Islands, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Florida) and/or who may be studying abroad in these areas.”

Other than sending a campus-wide email, The Office of Student Affairs has been reaching out to students that live in the affected areas, asking when they can safely return to campus or if they needed to move in early. Student Affairs also wants to make sure those students with delayed arrival times wouldn’t be withdrawn from their courses.

“We reached out before the term started when Harvey hit to check in on students to see if they were okay, or if they were going to be delayed coming to campus, so they wouldn’t get here and be withdrawn from courses,” Jennifer Wood, Dean for the Class of 2019, said. “We’ve just been reaching out to see if we can provide academic support—or just personal support—if they’re concerned about their family members or if they need a liaison for faculty.”

Whaley expanded on how the Student Affairs Center would act as a liaison for students.

“If somebody, for example, had some work due today, but they have family in Tampa, Florida, then we want to know about that so we can work with faculty on their behalf to get extensions or whatever they need so the student wouldn’t have to go to individual faculty members,” Whaley said.

The University also wants to help students communicate with faculty if they’re struggling emotionally with the events or if a student has family members in the affected areas.

“You can’t always predict how students are impacted—like if they’re very sad or feel like this is very concerning—and sometimes people are very distraught,” Whaley said. “So, if it’s appropriate, we just want to connect people to resources, like CAPS or any other resource they may need.”

The University has also participated in creating evacuation plans for students abroad.

“We have an abroad program in Cuba so we had to make sure that those students actually got evacuated out of Cuba before the storm came through,” Whaley said.

Looking forward, The Student Affairs Center wants to help the student body organize as a community to find ways to help those affected.

“I’ll be interested to see students come together and think about this and maybe some things that we can do as a community in solidarity with the many, many people who have been impacted,” Whaley said.

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