Update from Chancellor Sartarelli

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Dear Campus Community:

Now that we have been back in session for a couple of weeks, I wanted to provide you with a comprehensive update on our post-hurricane progress – and to let you know that your patience has not gone unnoticed. Please allow me to begin with my thanks to all of you for your perseverance as we have tried to adjust to this new – albeit temporary – normal. Countless friends and colleagues have had to adapt to personal stresses caused by the evacuation and, in so many cases, by destruction at home. Faculty and students have faced the necessary challenge of course changes and a compressed schedule. A great number of students had their living arrangements uprooted, both on and off campus. It is enough to make us wonder how we have survived. In a word: together. We have survived this together, and will continue to do so, as best we can. 

The impact of the storm on our students can’t be overstated. We will continue to do what we can to acknowledge that with various methods of outreach and services. In addition to the great flexibility that has been demonstrated by our faculty throughout the semester, students can find support in various other areas of campus. Fisher Student Center will be open until 1 a.m., Monday-Thursday, for the rest of the semester. FSC will also offer study breaks with coffee/tea and cookies on Sundays at 3 p.m. and Mondays and Wednesdays at 8 p.m. In addition to taking advantage of the ongoing chemistry study sessions and faculty advising in Randall Library, chemistry students will have access to seven workstations in the library, with specific software from the Dobo computer lab. The library will also be open 24/7 as of noon on Sunday, Dec. 2, through 11 p.m. on Dec. 14. “Recharge @ Randall," a semi-annual exam study break with food and activities, will be held on Monday, Dec. 10. On a more serious note, we encourage any students encountering academic difficulties to reach out to their academic advisors. In addition, the Counseling Center is available for walk-ins and by appointment for those students who could use personal support. Our Student Affairs team has excelled, as usual, in responding to student needs, and I thank them for the passion they pour into their work every day. (I owe a special measure of gratitude to our Housing and Residence Life team, who, when faced with an unprecedented and seemingly insurmountable hurdle, dove in, strategized and executed where many others would have given up. Kudos to Peter Groenendyk and his entire staff.) 

Our students have been not only agile in facing the unforeseen challenges of this semester, but also full of vigor and spirit — illustrated by their commitment to their studies, their hours spent volunteering in our community, and, during a break from all that hard work, their support of the UNCW-Clemson exhibition game on Oct. 27, which raised approximately $25,000 for the Good Shepherd Center and $25,000 for the Campus Emergency Fund. (By the way, if you are a student or employee in need of financial assistance as you continue to recover from the hurricane, please submit an application here. We know your recovery will be a marathon and not a sprint. Our donors, inside and outside the university and throughout the state, have stepped up in droves to try to help.) 

We have learned a lot about ourselves, personally and as a campus, in the last several weeks. I am proud of our response, but like all of you, I always want to improve where possible. To that end, we expect to undergo an “after action” process as soon as the literal and figurative dust settles, and there will be an opportunity for campus to submit feedback. It will likely be a long while before our campus is again picture-perfect, and I have appreciated your patience throughout the process. In terms of our areas of repair, Dobo Hall remains the focus as we continue to try to restore the building to full functionality. This will take time, but we have not sacrificed the academic integrity of our science programs. To minimize the disruption for students, the university has relocated classes and labs to MARBIONC and other buildings on campus. Next semester, we plan to have modular lab units in place on our main campus, and by the end of the summer of 2019, lab facilities comparable to those in Dobo Hall should be operational in other campus buildings. Leutze Hall and Cameron Hall also sustained significant water damage. Our project management team plans to start drywall replacement as soon as possible. The work proposed during this semester will be in corridors and classrooms, but there will be no interference with classes; all work is to be performed after hours. We will use winter break to perform the same service in office spaces. Building assessments have been underway since the storm, will continue through the rest of the semester, and will continue as long as they are needed. This work will be performed at times with the least impact to normal campus operations. The first academic buildings undergoing a second full review (the first took place immediately after the storm) will be Leutze and Cameron, with the work beginning this week. In the meantime, our EH&S team has added a REPORT button to their webpage, so employees and students can alert our staff to any safety or environmental concerns. (Resident students should first discuss any concerns with their residence hall coordinators.) We can’t fix issues unless we are aware of them, so we are counting on you to speak up by contacting us directly with any concerns. 

Dobo and Leutze have, necessarily, received the most attention from our incredibly dedicated Facilities and ITS teams and other Business Affairs units, working alongside our Academic Affairs staff and department chairs to preserve and protect the academic experience. But I want to acknowledge those faculty and staff throughout campus and at CMS whose work, research, and/or office space took a hit from the storm. It has been heartbreaking to hear of materials ruined or progress halted because of damage done or the extended absence from campus. Please know your campus community may not be able to fully understand your loss, but stands behind you and hopes for as complete a recovery as possible. 

Since we all returned to campus, we have talked a lot about the damage done to buildings and residence halls, but an equal amount of damage was done to one thing we all need more of, even without these extenuating circumstances: time. We have had to make up lost classroom time. Students who had just arrived on campus as first-year students lost the time they’d invested in getting to know our campus as home. Our faculty continue to struggle to find time for scholarship and research on top of their increased teaching pressures. And we have all lost the time we sometimes take for granted: time to pause and reflect, consider our next steps personally, academically and professionally. The storm has dictated how we’ve spent this semester, in large part, and I know it’s been frustrating and difficult. However, we have the opportunity to create our future, in the long term, and I am certain we will emerge from this better, stronger, more unified, and more determined than ever. I thank you for your extra effort, and I hope you agree that we have come a long way since early October. The vibrancy of this beautiful season reminds us how fortunate we are to be here. It has been a while since I’ve signed off like this, but I believe now is a good time: Go Seahawks! 


Jose V. Sartarelli