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Hurricane Irene shuffles orientation schedule as ’Deis dries

By Debby Brodsky

Section: Featured, Features

September 2, 2011

<i>Photo by Ingrid Schulte/The Hoot</i>

Just in time to welcome the Brandeis class of 2015, Hurricane Irene crashed down on the first day of first-year orientation, forcing faculty and staff to make quick safety decisions and rearrange the orientation schedule.

As Governor Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts last weekend, Brandeis canceled the first day of move-in and orientation activities. Incoming first-years and parents scheduled to move onto campus Sunday had to suspend trip plans from 33 states and either move in early or wait until Hurricane Irene’s flooding slowly abated. By Saturday, 650 students had already moved into the dorms.

As the presence of Hurricane Irene concerned traveling students and parents, Brandeis administrators faced a multitude of difficult decisions. Such decisions included whether or not to allow students already en route to campus to move in, how to move students into residence halls as efficiently as possible, and how to staff dining halls and provide other essential services to students in the midst of Irene’s heavy rains and winds.

Prior to the arrival of Hurricane and then Tropical Storm Irene, Brandeis international students, fall athletes and some returning students had already moved back to campus. Brandeis administrators stressed their decision that the safety of students was more important than the schedule of orientation activities.
University administrators assured nervous parents that orientation activities would remain on a flexible schedule and students would be able to adjust, even if they missed the opening festivities.

“You will miss nothing that puts you at a disadvantage regarding academics, social life, etc.,” Dean of Student Life Rick Sawyer wrote in an e-mail last week. “It is far better that you and your family get here safely whenever you can.”

Other local colleges and universities such as Boston College, Boston University and Bentley University monitored the progress of Hurricane Irene to determine whether they would be able begin their first-year orientations on schedule. Like Brandeis, Boston College delayed first-year orientation by one day, while Boston University and Bentley University only suffered delays of several hours to their move-in schedules.

Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan said that Brandeis was prepared to initiate emergency preparedness procedures had the storm required them. Those plans included evacuation procedures to move students from dorms into Levin Ballroom and Gosman Athletic Center.

The campus flooded in several buildings because of the heavy rains but had crews on hand to pump out the water. Buildings that flooded included the basement in Goldfarb library, the Castle, Ridgewood, Renfield in Massell residence quad and the loading dock outside Usdan, associate vice president for Facilities Services Peter Shields said.

Damage costs were minimal and mostly included carpet cleanings and overtime labor pay, Shields said.

Senior vice president for administration Mark Collins praised the Facilities department for their plans to protect luggage outside Epstein from heavy rain.

“Thanks to the foresight of Mary Sharrigan, luggage was protected from Hurricane Irene,” Collins said.

And by Monday, the campus was mostly cleaned up and sunny skies returned to welcome the incoming first-year students.

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