I understand President McConnell’s inaction in addressing Hurricane Irma. After all, it costs a lot of time and money to cancel classes and shut the College down. In that aspect, waiting on Governor McMaster to call for an evacuation makes perfect sense – best to keep things running smoothly until the government literally commands you otherwise. That is the dilemma a lot of businesses face.
But who among us considers the College a business?
I am here to take part in this institution’s great tradition of learning. Professors are here to impart knowledge. Together, we meet in classrooms to solve problems, discuss important issues and grow as a community. While administration may think of the College as a business, it makes a living selling itself as an institution of learning.
This is the distinction causing student outrage toward the College’s inaction to Hurricane Irma. We are in a “state of emergency,” as the “College of Charleston Emergency Management Team” put it in the Cougar Alert sent Wednesday Sept. 6 at 2:30 p.m. A state of emergency, as defined by Oxford Dictionaries is, “A situation of national danger or disaster in which a government suspends normal constitutional procedures in order to regain control.” This means the government has no control over the situation. Meanwhile, the College defines it as “a procedural declaration,” and is to “remain on its normal business schedule.” The word “business” seems to smack you in the face there when you look at the big picture. A business only has one thing to consider: money. An institution of learning, however, recognizes that the act of learning is a nuanced process, easily affected and to be placed above all else. A residential college recognizes the primacy of the safety of its students, faculty and staff.
I can tell you one thing: since Governor McMaster called for a state of emergency, there has been close to zero learning actualized on campus. Even critics of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs do not argue the bottom two levels of his pyramid, which outline the human needs that must be met before anything else can be accomplished: physiological needs (i.e., shelter) and safety. While students are sitting in lectures pretending to take notes, they are actually addressing those basic human needs as outlined by Maslow. How can any problems be solved, any important issues be discussed or any growth occur when all students can think about are how they will get off the peninsula, where they will go and what will happen to their homes and apartments when the storm actually hits. When Hurricane Matthew hit last year, the Charleston International Airport was already closed by the time the College canceled classes. If we wait until an evacuation is called, chances are flights will be hard to come by yet again. Has President McConnell considered the students who need to fly home to safety? Has he considered the increase in traffic congestion that will be caused by delaying?
I guess the real question is, how can the College expect to remain a respectable institution of learning when the administration takes for granted not only learning itself, but the safety and basic needs of its students? But as I said, a business only has one thing to consider.
CORRECTION: An earlier post stated that no flights were departing CHS Thursday Sept. 7 after 1 pm. THAT ONLY PERTAINS TO ONE AIRLINE. Other flights are leaving today. Please continue to check the Charleston International Airport website if you need to fly home. Correction made Thursday Sept. 7 at 9:30 a.m.