Hurricanes, epidemics, fires or radioactive waste alike would all hamper normal the class schedules. It is important to have contingency plans for the various and sundry hazards that could stop New College from functioning like normal. Emergency plans are what keeps a given situation from deteriorating any further. New College has no such plan.
“Other schools have emergency plans,” Professor of Computer Science and Member of the Education Policy Committee (EPC) David Gillman said. “New College doesn’t.”
An emergency plan is actually a compendium of different plans for a number of dangerous situations, ranging from power outages to hurricanes to explosions. They serve to provide guidelines on what to do in these high-stress scenarios, and coordinate these responses across students, faculty and staff. New College has relied on other colleges’ plans to conduct itself in stressful scenarios. Eckerd College’s plan was a particularly useful resource for New College.
“They are similar to us, in that they’re right on the water and subject to flooding,” Gillman said.
However, Eckerd, for its similar location, is not a perfect parallel to New College. It has 1800 students, nearly three times that of New College.
During Aug. 2019, when hurricane Dorian led to NCF’s closure, problems arose from New College’s lack of a single plan.
“Basically, what had happened was that different people were working under different assumptions,” Gillman said. “Some professors assumed that they could use reading days to make up for the lost days from the hurricane. And some professors and administrations assumed otherwise.”
The EPC, which normally consists of six faculty members and three students, has been tasked with the creation of an emergency plan of New College’s own to avoid the miscommunication and confusion that came before. As part of the process of drafting the plan, the EPC is holding public meetings with both students and faculty to determine the plan’s priorities. On Feb. 25, six students met with Gillman to voice their concerns for any emergency plan.
Students at the meeting expressed that, whatever the plan was, it needed to be communicated well beforehand to the students—if students need to leave campus, they need the time to schedule their departures. Furthermore, since there is limited time to make up any class, it would be better to be able to receive a substitute during the emergency. Pre-recorded lectures were floated as a potential substitute, as the closest to an actual in-classroom experience that does not require a constant internet connection or schedule alignment like streaming.
Concerns for out-of-state students were also voiced; their travel plans are often more complicated and harder to change than an in-state student’s, so changes to class schedules would need to be broadcast well beforehand for them to adjust. Additionally, in situations where the emergency does not permit the time to communicate those disruptions, it was suggested that New College should help those students find temporary housing during the crisis.
On March 5, the EPC will hold a similar meeting for faculty to address their concerns.
The EPC hopes to have a full emergency plan available on New College’s website by the end of the semester. An emergency plan is critical to the healthy functioning of a college during an extreme situation; discord serves only to make a bad situation even worse.
“The main thing we want is something that people know about in advance, so that people aren’t too surprised when the emergency actually happens,” Gillman said. “So that there isn’t too much chaos, and that people aren’t running around like ants.”