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Welcome Back, Faculty and Staff (Hurricane Harvey)

Dear UH Faculty and Staff,

What a week of havoc and heroism it has been! While the storm has passed, the pain and suffering continue.  Many of you have your homes flooded, cars damaged and precious possessions lost.  Many of you have relatives and friends who have fallen victim to the fury of Harvey. Furthermore, I realize that some of you are new to Houston and may feel isolated without any support system to lean on.

And yet, we have to somehow find the strength to get up on our feet and move on.

We have a commitment to our students who are stressed and in need of an anchor.  They want to be reassured that they can continue their education at the University of Houston and that their semester will not be a wasted one. It is with these cross currents in mind that we have decided to reopen the campus tomorrow, Sept. 5, and we will do so with three commitments in mind: maximum flexibility, full support and heart-felt compassion for each other and for our students.

We opened residence halls, student service buildings and the main library on Saturday. Some of you may have already visited the campus this weekend to check out your office, classroom or laboratories. The campus has suffered some flooding and leaks, but overall, we have been very fortunate.

As we resume operations tomorrow, you have options. You can work from home, use flexible hours or take extended emergency leave depending upon your need and with the permission of your supervisor. I am personally asking all supervisors to be flexible and compassionate in assessing individual needs.

There will be limited “child watch” available on campus under certified supervision. In the spirit of “Bring Your Child to Work,” we invite you to bring your school-age child to work next week as long as you and your supervisor feel it appropriate. And if you do so, your child is welcome to a free meal (with your paid meal) on Tuesday in Cougar Woods Dining Commons. It is likely that you may informally make arrangements to care for each other’s children, but please be aware that the University cannot assume responsibility for any informal childcare. Also, some work environments may not be appropriate for children so please use your best judgment.

We have also launched an electronic message board, called Cougars Care, for you to post your needs and find those willing to help meet those needs. This board is accessible via AccessUH with your Cougarnet ID. Our daily bulletin, Harvey Update, has been active during the storm to provide accurate and timely information. All issues of this bulletin are posted on the Harvey FAQ page, which is always accessible from University’s homepage.

In addition, Faculty Senate has launched a Facebook Group called Faculty Helping Faculty During Hurricane Harvey. You can join the group and connect with other faculty members. Finally, Provost Short has a Harvey Resource Page for faculty that contains relevant information.

There has been targeted communication from Provost Short for faculty and Joan Nelson, our HR leader, for staff. We will continue to learn more about your issues and find solutions to them.

Finally, I am appealing to each and every one of you to please be flexible and compassionate as you handle student requests. They may feel overwhelmed and traumatized. Your caring touch can make a difference in their decision to drop out or to keep going. If you wish to directly help students, you may contribute to UH Cougar Emergency Relief Fund.

I thank you in advance for your dedication and commitment as we transition into the post-storm recovery. The road to recovery will be long and hard for people and for the city, but we will make it through as a family.

Wishing you the best,
Renu Khator