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Nov. 8, 2012

Sandy notifications frustrate CSU students

Decision to keep campus open was based on functionality, not commute

By Eric Bonzar

Engaged learning turned into an enraged yearning for answers, as hundreds of Cleveland State students turned to social media to vent their frustrations and concerns over the campus’ emergency notifications on Oct. 30.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and its devastation to not only the East Coast but also Northeast Ohio, the Cleveland State Emergency Notification System released a statement via text messaging and through social media, stating the university’s West Campus was closed because of weather and utility failure.

The main campus remained open at 6:27 a.m.

That is when students’ frustrations flooded Twitter and Facebook.

Student concerns on Facebook ranged from vulgar displays of disgust, to humorous, yet valid posts like Ian Beale’s who said, “Someone should tell the dean we aren’t literally ‘Vikings’ and this commute thing isn’t going to work out.”

With 256,000 people without power in Northeast Ohio — 152,000 of them in Cuyahoga County alone — and numerous roadways and stretches of highways closed including Interstate 90, many students questioned the university’s reasoning.

Joe Mosbrook, director of Strategic Communications, said the decision was a group decision between himself, the vice president for Business Affairs and Finance, campus police, marketing facilities and services and “anyone who is involved in the operations of the facility.”

The Cleveland Stater requested comments from Vice President for Business Affairs and Finance Stephanie McHenry, Assistant Vice President of Facilities and Safety Joseph Han and the Dean of Students and Vice Provost for Student Affairs Dr. James Drnek.

Each person pointed to Mosbrook.

Mosbrook said the decision was made not in regards to students’ ability to commute, but in regards to whether or not the university was able to function.

“We talked about the pros and cons and we decided as a group,” he said. “Ultimately, we determined that the campus was functional and there was nothing prohibiting the campus from working.”

Mosbrook said the group collectively agreed that the campus was functional and safe, and that is why classes continued as scheduled.

Frustration turned to confusion at 10:27 a.m. when the campus released a status update stating that although the main campus was open and functioning, the university understood that there were commuters who could not make it on to the campus, and that their absence would not be counted against them.

Mosbrook said concerns regarding the first notification prompted the updated notification.
“We responded to concerns,” Mosbrook said. “We didn’t want people who hadn’t left already to feel obligated to come.”

Many students once again turned to social media for answers, believing the university’s update was cryptic and unclear.

Students protested that attendance was not the primary concern. It was facing penalties for missed assignments, projects or tests due that day.

Many students said teachers have varying policies regarding these issues, they and feared they may be penalized for circumstances out of their control.

Cleveland State student Gina Stem voiced her concerns on Facebook.

“I guess I’d just prefer CSU to flat out say, ‘If you have an exam or project due, you will be allowed to do it at a later date without penalty,’” Stem said. “Instead, I’m left to interpret how my professor will handle this when I cannot get a hold of her.”

Mosbrook said if individuals felt they could not make it to Cleveland State for whatever reason, they needed to make individual choices on their own as to whether or not to come.

“If you’re in a dangerous situation where you cannot get here, or it’s incredibly inconvenient for you for whatever circumstances, I don’t think there is anyone at CSU that is going to hold that against someone,” he said.

Mosbrook said students who currently have unsolved issues because of events that occurred on Oct. 30 are encouraged to contact Drnek.

“I’m not going to make a blanket statement and say everyone is excused for absolutely everything, but I think that if there are some difficult situations, our dean of students will take a look at them and try to find a workable solution,” Mosbrook said. “If there is a conflict between a student and a professor, we have a process to resolve that.”

Mosbrook said although the remnants of Hurricane Sandy caused confusion and frustration, the university feels that its decision to remain open was the correct one.

“What happened Tuesday was a very unusual situation, something I don’t think we’ve really ever dealt with before,” Mosbrook said. “But for instance, if it is a snow day, and we close the university, it’s because people cannot navigate throughout the campus. It’s because the walkways are not safe and because the garages aren’t accessible because of snow. It’s not because of the commute — it’s because of the actual campus conditions.”