When disaster strikes, collaboration is key

It’s hard to believe almost 10 months have passed since Hurricane Harvey made landfall along the Texas Gulf Coast. It dropped more than 50 inches of rain on the greater Houston area, including several communities served by College of the Mainland.

To be certain, the Storm of the Century tested the will of a city and its citizens. For College of the Mainland, it also tested our ability to maintain campus operations for students, faculty and our administration.

Long before Harvey made landfall, College of the Mainland had a disaster response plan in place to ensure every campus unit, from academic affairs and human resources to campus police and marketing and communications, knew what to do in the event of a natural disaster. Of course, no one could have predicted the magnitude of Harvey’s damage, but having a plan kept everyone focused on their roles as campus leadership worked to ensure the well-being of students and employees while restructuring the delivery of classes for the upcoming fall semester.

This excerpt comes from the current issue of the Community College Journal, the flagship publication of the American Association of Community Colleges.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, College of the Mainland made the decision to delay the start of the fall semester a full two weeks to give students and employees time to recover. In fact, the campus was the first educational institution in the Houston area to announce a delay of its fall semester.

With flooded streets preventing campus leadership from meeting at the campus, regular conference calls were scheduled to create a framework for thoughtful decision making, reduce confusion, and build a true sense of cooperation among campus leaders. Administrators and key staff up and down the line were invited to participate and all input was valued. Early discussions centered on schedules for campus damage assessments and contractors to repair damage.

In time, we focused on collaborations with faculty to restructure 16-week courses to it a 14-week semester.

College of the Mainland leaders worked with faculty to recommend alternate times to replace classes missed while the campus was closed. Faculty and administrators also created several 12- and seven-week courses for select programs, a big help for students needing even more time. After all, students shouldn’t suffer academically because of the storm.

Read the full article.

Have you read your college’s emergency plan lately?

About the Author

Warren Nichols
is president of College of the Mainland in Texas City, Texas.