Resilience, resourcefulness, and service. These are the words that come immediately to mind as we monitor the response of our community colleges to the horrific devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath.
Certainly, our hearts go out to the colleges and the college families that have suffered damage to their places of work, their homes, and their communities. Full assessment of that destruction is as yet incomplete, but through news reports and direct outreach to college leaders, we are getting a clearer picture of the impact of this latest disaster.
Strong leadership and a commitment to students and communities – hallmarks of the community college – are serving our colleges well even under these dire circumstances. While they work to restore their campuses to full operation, support college personnel, and ensure learning continuity for students, many colleges are also serving as safe havens for those displaced by the hurricane's destruction and concomitant flooding. The many first responders that were so superbly prepared at our community colleges are rushing in to save, protect, and heal.
At the national level, your association is taking steps to support the colleges in what we feel are appropriate ways.
- We are contacting state offices and individual college leaders to assess damage and need, so we can share that status report with colleges across the country. That information will be part of an ongoing update on the AACC home page starting this week.
- We will include strategies for disaster recovery gleaned from AACC's own experience and from leaders around the country.
- We are monitoring federal communiqués for the most current information and possible resources. A recent advisory from Secretary of Education Duncan outlines possible actions to help students cope, and AACC has been asked by departmental officials to suggest further ways the department might assist affected colleges.
- We have assembled current crisis planning and recovery information in a centralized section of the AACC website, and we have enlisted corporate experts to provide timely information at future AACC meetings.
I experienced firsthand during Hurricane Katrina the seemingly insurmountable challenges that confront our leaders in times of natural disaster. AACC supported the Louisiana colleges during that most trying ordeal. With the engagement of the AACC Board and other leaders around the country, we will be working to "pay it forward" for our colleagues affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Walter G. Bumphus
President and CEO