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ECU campus ready for return that many students can't make


Ron Mitchelson


By Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Florence has flown, and classes and campus activities resume today at East Carolina University to the surprise and dissatisfaction of many students and families still struggling with the effects and remnants of Hurricane Florence and apparently not ready to return.

ECU officials issued a notice that they would be ready and available to help students make sure their academic efforts can be completed while keeping their safety foremost in their concerns.

“The university is committed to supporting our students who cannot return by Wednesday for the start of classes,” a message posted at the ECU website read. “ECU is here and ready to help you on an individual basis to manage this difficult situation. Please contact the Dean of Students Office as needed.”

Residence halls opened at noon on Tuesday, but students unable to return to campus due to flooding and other storm effects who find themselves in need of assistance can contact the Dean of Students Office by filling out an online form at bit.ly/2NecOEm, calling 328-9297 or emailing DOS@ecu.edu, the ECU website said. Students also should notify professors in advance if they expect to miss classes, according to the notice.

Campus dining options were available starting on Monday and students can check studentaffairs.ecu.edu for the latest information on other student affairs services. For those returning to Greenville by air, ECU Transit also offered shuttles from RDU airport to campus. 

ECU Provost Ron Mitchelson emailed faculty on Monday, addressing decisions the university made ahead of, during and after Greenville dodged the worst of Hurricane Florence.

Mitchelson said he recognized  that most students and many faculty travel to Greenville from other parts of the state, including counties affected  by the storm.

“Some of you witnessed it in person. You are in our thoughts,” Mitchelson said.

The student evacuation decision made in anticipation of Florence’s predicted fury was a wise one, he said, The decision on when to bring them back more difficult.

“If you live north or west, (8 a.m. today) seems like a reasonable goal,” he said. “If you live to the south, it probably does not.”

Mitchelson acknowledged that many social media posts indicated the displeasure of students and families with the return schedule. He pointed out that UNC Chapel Hill and N.C. State reopened a day earlier.

“They also have many students who must find their way back to those campuses from counties like Craven, Jones, Carteret, Pamlico, Onslow, Pender, New Hanover, Brunswick, Sampson and Duplin, among others,” he said.

“Given what we hear from social media, some students (and some employees) will not make it back for Tuesday morning classes in the Triangle or (this) morning classes in Greenville,” Mitchelson said. “There are a significant number of families who are outraged that we (and NCSU and UNC-CH) would even consider it.

“One of the recurring themes from the outside is that faculty members don’t care and will not listen to excuses,” he said. “I know better than that and it disturbs me greatly to think that this perception exists.”

Mitchelson called on staff and faculty who will back to work today to fill in and assist those who cannot return as soon.

“We will need that spirit if (this) morning is to be successful,” he said. “I know that if Dr. (Thad) Wasklewicz needs a geography course covered later this week he can call on me and I will be there.

“I also know that ECU faculty care deeply about their students and their welfare,” Mitchelson said. “I know that they will issue the appropriate flexibility and accommodation needed for our affected students.  This is what we do in times of need.

“We have have always risen to the occasion (during Floyd, Irene and Matthew),” he said. “Given these circumstances and the associated anxiety, your flexibility and responsiveness are essential. Again, thank you for going above and beyond.”

ECU’s Chancellor Cecil Staton said that the ECU community stands ready to assist with recovery efforts.

“Since moving to eastern North Carolina, I have seen the resilience, tenacity and kindness of the people who live here,” Staton said. “In the coming days, I know that we will work together to move from rescue efforts to returning people to the lives and communities many had to evacuate.

“I want to pledge to you that ECU ­­— our students, our faculty and our staff — will be alongside you,” he said.

A web address, florencerecovery.ecu.edu, posted information for those in the campus community who wish to donate or assist with recovery efforts.

ECU also established a Hurricane Florence relief fund to help toward financing community volunteer operations and to assist ECU students with emergency needs related to Florence. Donate at  www.piratealumni.com/hurricanerelief by clicking on the rural Prosperity Initiative, Students Treasure Chest or Chancellor’s Fund for Excellence box.