Give students more time

Here in the opinion department at The Daily Texan, we rarely comment on state or national issues. We focus on UT and how we can push for change here on campus. But in a disaster such as the recent winter storm that left millions of Texans without power and water and experiencing catastrophic damage, death and destruction due to the collapse of critical infrastructure during a winter storm, UT students are unavoidably affected.

Our community has been crippled by incompetence at the state level, and we’re angry.

Students are struggling to recover from a week without reliable sources of power, heat, internet, food and clean water, which some are still without. Needless to say, many students are not using the fragile access to power they do have to prepare for classes this week, which are set to resume this Wednesday.

One member of the editorial board was without power from 2 a.m. Monday morning until 5 a.m. Thursday morning. She and her three roommates slept two to a bed, four in a room, bundled in hats and coats as the temperature inside dropped to the low forties at night.

They dared to drive to a friend’s place with power a mile away on Wednesday, crawling down the icy streets. When they came back, fire trucks lined the street because a neighbor’s gas line had broken. The member cried — worried about their neighbors who could only check in through Facebook every few hours, worried about a third freezing night and worried the power would never turn back on.

Another member of the board had the pipes burst in her building at 2 a.m. Tuesday and had to evacuate. She stood with her cat in the rain for 30 minutes in 20-degree weather before being allowed back inside. The entire first floor of the building was flooded. She had to make a nest of blankets to raise her and her pet’s body temperature.

A couple days later, the member lost water. She had to rely on the generosity of her friends and community to access boiled water. That was the same day she ran out of food.

Another member started the week with a fall down the icy steps of her dorm, as the ground wasn’t salted until later in the day. A few days later, as the member went to turn on her shower, she noticed the pressure of the water had dropped significantly.

She anticipated the loss of water that many peers were reporting and began to fill containers  –– a good preparation, until the boil water notice arrived.

Hot plates and kettles aren’t allowed in her dorm, so she transferred each container into her single cereal bowl and hoped the microwave would be hot enough. The only working toilets in her area were on the ground floor of her dorm, so she anxiously waited her turn as a large crowd gathered outside.

Members of the UT and broader Austin community came together to support students. Students volunteered at warming centers, distributed information, organized supply drives, drove to pick up people in need and deliver donations. Neighbors checked on each other and opened their homes. This support allowed students to survive the week. Class was, and still is, the last thing on anyone’s mind.

Professors, if you haven’t already, push your assignments and deadlines back at least a week. We understand learning needs to continue, but these are abnormal circumstances.

In his Feb. 19 email, even UT President Jay Hartzell encouraged professors to consider delaying due dates for major exams or assignments this week.

“We need to prepare for a time of transition. Students will be coming back from serious adversity,” Hartzell said.

The consequences of the winter storm didn’t end once the sun came back out and temperatures started to rise. Push deadlines back so students can focus on keeping themselves and their loved ones safe right now. Give students the time they need to recover.