Message from the President

August 15, 2016

As everyone is painfully aware by now, torrential rains that began early Friday morning, and continued over much of the weekend, have resulted in parts of our region suffering unprecedented flooding. Some are even referring to this natural disaster as a hurricane without wind. 

By whatever name, the result is the same, with many members of the Southeastern family - faculty, staff and students - dealing with their homes being inundated with water, loss of vehicles and other belongings and evacuations impacting themselves and their family members. Lives have been hugely disrupted, and it likely will be some time before normalcy can return for many. 

Fortunately, campus and the immediate Hammond area emerged largely unscathed. Likewise, some areas in our region were only moderately impacted and are steadily returning to more normal activities. 

Given all of these developments, the following actions have been taken: 

Early Friday, when it became apparent that the rains would likely cause severe flooding, Convocation was postponed and campus was closed, with employees being sent home and/or urged to stay there. 

Students scheduled to move into campus housing facilities on Sunday were notified that the move-in period was being extended throughout the entire week. Despite this extension, a significant number of students moved into the residence halls on Sunday. 

Given the necessity to ensure maintenance of critical services, faculty and staff were notified that campus operations would resume Monday (today) but that only employees who could travel safely to campus were expected to do so. 

Freshman Success Day, special activities for new freshmen originally scheduled for Tuesday, has been postponed until further notice, and registration and fee payment deadlines have been extended through at least this coming Friday. 

Employees who cannot return are being encouraged to communicate their status with supervisors when they are able to do so. Deans, department heads and directors have been attempting to communicate with people in order to verify the status of faculty and staff. In addition, a "web form" has been created to allow students experiencing extenuating circumstances to communicate with staff about their status. 

We are continuing to monitor developments and will take additional action as appropriate as we move toward the originally scheduled start of classes on Wednesday. 

The task now turns to launching the fall semester as best we can while helping our fellow Southeastern family members who have been so tragically impacted. 

With this in mind, it is a virtual certainty that an as yet undetermined number of faculty, staff and students will be unable to participate in this normal startup phase of the semester. It is incumbent on all of us who are not impacted by the flood to be accommodating and provide assistance to those who are. 

I was in the Provost role at Southeastern over ten years ago when Hurricane Katrina brought widespread devastation to our region, impacting many faculty, staff and students. I saw first-hand how our people stepped up to help impacted Southeastern family members and even those from other institutions that were impacted by the storm. 

The devastating developments of this weekend have again placed what is likely a significant number of Southeastern faculty, staff and students in peril. How and when they are able to resume a somewhat normal relationship with the university as part of rebuilding their lives will hinge in no small part on how the rest of us rise to the challenge to assist them. 

I know I can count on all of you to do your part as we work through these challenges together.

John L. Crain