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President O’Neal Responds to Ice Storm

Thursday, December 13, 2007  
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Message from the President:

The past few days at OC have been interesting to say the least.  One of the worst ice storms in Oklahoma’s history just happened to coincide with finals week.  I want to commend, first of all, our students who showed great resiliency in working around a difficult situation.  And secondly, I want to thank our faculty and staff for service way above and beyond the call of duty.  Barring any more weather or electrical problems, we should finish finals by Thursday afternoon.  That seemed very unlikely Monday.

Here’s a quick recap of the experience:

1. Friday - When the weather reports late last week suggested the coming ice storms, the campus took several precautions – Dean Neil Arter sent messages to all the students highly recommending that they not leave the campus for the weekend as they might not be able to return if the roads are impassable.  Dr. Garrett notified the faculty of the potential for rescheduling finals and possibly using our online technology for testing, and the emergency response teams made sure that supplies and equipment and communications were ready.

2. Sunday evening - Many staff members held a conference call to assess possibilities for a Monday closing of campus and rescheduling of finals.  Communications were sent to faculty, staff, and students regarding a delayed opening on Monday morning.  The university’s library remained open until 1:00 a.m. for students who were studying.

3. Monday - All was well until around 3 a.m. when the power went out in all the academic buildings, the apartments on the east end of campus, and many faculty and staff homes in the vicinity.  Fortunately, the west end of campus (dorms and student center) had power.  Communications were sent to the community that morning cancelling the day’s activities, and rescheduling Monday’s finals.  The administrative team spent all day making sure the campus was safe and students were cared for.  Students living in the apartments were encouraged to go to the University Center to stay warm and study.  The cafeteria closed off half of the dining hall to turn it into a study room.  The physical plant and landscaping staff cleared fallen trees and responded to maintenance calls.  Power was restored around 5 p.m. to the balance of the campus.  Throughout the day on Monday and again on Tuesday when power was lost the entire campus community was kept updated through emails and text messages.

4. Tuesday – Fortunately, the temperature was warmer and the roads and sidewalks were much improved.  The campus returned to normalcy in the morning, until power was lost once again in the academic buildings and the apartments.  Two sets of tests on Tuesday had to be moved out of the academic buildings and into rooms in the Student Center and the Memorial Road Church of Christ.

The primary damage to the campus is the many broken limbs and severely damaged trees and plants.  We are not aware of any serious personal injuries.  The emergency generator continued to supply power to our computer and internet systems during the electrical outage and our emergency notification systems worked well.  This event showed the wisdom and necessity of completing the work in connecting the power systems on the east and west end of campus so that we have redundant sources to supply the whole campus.  That will be a priority in the months to come.

Our final exams last through Thursday, which is consistent with the original schedule.  The revised schedule that was published to the campus on Monday allows our students to complete their exams and return to their homes for the Christmas holiday at about the same time as originally scheduled.

I want to commend our administrative team (many of whom were without power at their homes), led during this ordeal by Al Branch, for extraordinary service beyond the call of duty.  Many of them were up very long hours during all of this and performed magnificently.  In addition, it appears that our students and faculty took this detour in stride, in spite of a very stressful time with final exams.  It makes one proud to be part of the OC family.

Mike E. O’Neal, president 

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