Hurricane Sandy was a significant storm that impacted each of us in different ways. Although the College resumed full operation one week after the storm, the college community remains sensitive to the fact that not everyone’s situation has returned to normal. Those who saw the damage and devastation following the aftermath of the storm, saw shocking images of destruction--almost beyond comprehension, and certainly more than any of us had ever previously witnessed in this region.
In many ways, the College was fortunate. Our Eastern Campus sustained no wind or flood damage and was relatively unscathed by the storm. The Ammerman Campus saw numerous trees fall. In addition, restoration of power to the campus and to traffic lights in the surrounding area took a full week, impacting travel to, from and around Selden. The Michael J. Grant Campus experienced damaging winds, loss of power and challenges to maintaining sufficient fuel supplies to keep operations running.
Due to the condition of our campuses, the College’s Emergency Response Team convened and made a daily decision to cancel classes and activities from October 29th to November 4th. With each decision to close, only those staff members considered essential to bringing the College back into full operation, were asked to report to work. Safety, security and maintaining our operations remained paramount concerns. Cancellation notices were issued via numerous methods including New York Alert. In many situations, those notifications were the only mode of communication that remained operational in the days immediately following the storm. I cannot overemphasize how important it is for all members of the college community to stay connected by signing up for New York Alert. It only takes a minute to add your contact information to this vital service, and once you enroll you will always be among the first to know the College’s operating status.
In retrospect, I believe the College’s planning and storm preparation enabled our institution to come through this storm successfully. Essential staff worked around the clock to restore the campuses, even while their own families were simultaneously attempting to recover at home. I want to commend the work and effort put forth by our public safety and maintenance and ground crews from the Association of Municipal Employees (AME) units. They worked diligently to ensure the campuses would be safe when students, faculty and staff were able to return. I am also grateful for the conscientious work of our networking and telecommunications staff as they brought our systems back online. Select members from our Guild of Administrative Officers and Exempt staff were also tapped as “essential” during the course of our recovery and did not hesitate to deliver on the work requested from them.
Even now, however, there remain members of our college community who are still working to return their homes to the standards that were in place prior to the storm. I hope they will make steady progress in their efforts to address the numerous issues facing their families. While a complete recovery for everyone will take additional time, I would like to encourage us all to come together and show compassion for those who need it. I urge those of you who feel fortunate about surviving the storm’s impact, to take a minute and make a gift to our Foundation’s relief fund.
Due to the storm and its aftermath, the College was closed for an entire week of classes. Since we were already past the mid-way point in the semester, we saw no way to create a make-up schedule that would fit within our remaining calendar days at a level sufficient for us to meet statewide SUNY requirements and deliver the required class contact hours. In our opinion, it would have been impossible to make up all of this missed instructional time. We chose to petition the State University of New York, the State Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Education for relief in order to shorten our semester by seven days. At this time, we are still awaiting a decision on our application submission.
Since our return on November 5th, I have been inspired by the individual stories that have been shared with me. I have also been motivated by seeing our faculty return to the classroom and our staff reopen offices throughout our campuses. We were able to launch priority registration, as planned, on November 7th and were delighted to see that the volume of students registering continued without any interruption—even as we faced a nor’easter that arrived quickly on the heels of the hurricane.
Thank you for your patience as we transitioned back to full operation on our campuses. Let us hope that our students and colleagues who continue to suffer from the hurricane’s aftermath recover quickly and completely.
Dr. Shaun L. McKay