Prioritize the safety of dorm residents during extreme weather events


Munji Nfor, Columnist

Living in Texas means learning how to navigate random and weird weather. From observing rain in the middle of a sunny day, to wearing shorts and long sleeves year round, the Lone Star State has seen a drastic change in weather patterns in the past couple of years . 

Arguably, the biggest example of that was the winter storm in February of this year.

At the University, students in the dorms were fortunate enough to have not experienced power outages and had occasionally low water pressure. Students that were staying in West Campus, however, had a far more difficult experience during the historic event. 

After the weather returned to normal, there was very little information provided to incoming students about how to prepare themselves in case of a similar storm and how the administration was working to maintain stability during Winter Storm Uri. This isn’t just insensitive but also comes across as underestimating the severity of the situation and the concerns of students.

University Housing and Dining should better equip students to protect and prepare themselves for unexpected and uncharacteristic weather events by providing more thorough safety information.

Katelyn Harvey, a mechanical engineering sophomore who lived on campus, described her experience during the storm.  

“So I was staying in Duren, and my experience during the winter storm definitely wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it was still not super good,” Harvey said. 

Harvey explained that there was a lack of transparency from UT administration as to how the students were supposed to take care of themselves during such uncharacteristic weather. 

She also emphasized that the students were both uncertain and frightened at their situation, as even Resident Assistants, who work for the University, were left in the dark and unable to give residents the answers they sought in regards to access to necessities. 

This is not only concerning for students who see RAs as their biggest support system in the dorms, but stressful for RAs as well, whose jobs are to make sure students feel confident about their living situations.

To try and avoid this confusion in the future, I propose that a list of resources and recommendations, compiled by students who lived in dorms during the winter storm and University staff, be posted on the University Housing and Dining website or sent through email for eventual on-campus residents to use as a guide for the upcoming school year.

This communicates that the health and safety of on-campus residents is actively being prioritized by the administration as well as exhibits respect towards student experiences and opinions. 

Dr. Aaron Voyles, the Director of Residence Hall Operations, explains that this could be done with the help of organizations that already have disaster plan lists, as every student has unique needs that can be addressed with specific safety measures they can determine themselves.

Voyles also explained that the University wouldn’t solely rely on outside sources, as there has been active communication between the department and student leaders about communication methods during hazardous events. 

While Voyles expressed his confidence that the dorms are prepared for extreme weather, there is still work to be done when it comes to administrative communication with students and UT staff. A step in the right direction could be providing emergency preparation information to the UT community.

Transparency has been an issue that the university has struggled with for some time, but it is inexcusable for the silence to continue after a record-shattering weather event like Storm Uri.

Nfor is a public relations sophomore from San Antonio, Texas.