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UH's President Acknowledges Pissing Off A Lot Of People

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UH president Renu Khator took a lot of heat for her decision to open campus and hold classes beginning the Tuesday after Ike hit.

Some faculty and staff loudly complained; students were confused about how flexible attendance requirements would be; communications, in terms of getting the word to the UH community, were spotty.

Khator is acknowledging all that in an open message to Cougars.

"I think the decision I made last week made 90 percent of the people unhappy!" she writes.

Khator says she's not sure she'd have decided any differently with hindsight, but she does cop to some of the problems UH ran into.

1. Our communications systems were not designed to adequately address a scenario where vast numbers of us had no power, and therefore, no access to email, limited cell phone functionality or access to TV news reports. We quickly learned that a message sent was not necessarily a message received. Televisions and radio were only offering brief three or four word messages on what was open/closed. Three-quarters of our faculty and staff members were not registered for emergency PIER text messaging. And the vast majority of us had no power to view the Web site. The result was that most people either had no information or had partial information. They knew the University was opening but did not know about the flexibility that they had.

2. Our primary assumption did not hold up – people did not fully understand "individual flexibility" since we had never exercised it before under these circumstances. Staff members continued to call with questions about what we meant, and how they should log their leave time. Eighty-nine percent of the students surveyed in a class of 300-plus said they were worried about their exams and attendance.

3. It became very difficult for professors and students to operationalize the intended "flexibility." Some did not have the tools to exercise it (professors did not have cell phone numbers of their students to inform them if they could not make the class), and others did not know what material they should or should not cover in class.

The end result was mixed: some felt frustrated and some felt comforted.

We're sure there will be plenty of meetings about all this.

-- Richard Connelly

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