My letter to the editor  regarding the treatment of graduate students during hurricane Ike was printed today in the September 26 issue  of The Thresher (@Update: My friend Eileen Meyer wrote an opinion article in the October 3 issue  of The Thresher which echoes many of the concerns I addressed in my letter, and with which I wholeheartedly agree: Graduate student concerns omitted from hurricane plan .@) :
To the editor:
As a graduate student not living in university housing, I am upset by the lack of protection I was offered by Rice University against Hurricane Ike and, particularly, about the late notification.
In 2005, when Hurricane Rita approached, all graduate students were offered shelter in McNair Hall. Last week, it was not until Thursday afternoon – a day before predicted landfall and too late to organize an evacuation – that I was informed I could not seek shelter on campus and I should follow my “own hurricane preparedness plan.” Guess what? My preparedness plan included coming to campus. The university stated it could not provide the facilities to protect all graduate students, yet I have been told the overflow shelter in the Student Center was closed due to lack of need.
Hurricane Ike mostly spared Rice University, and most students felt safe in their apartments. However, had the storm been worse, the unannounced reversal of the previous shelter policy and the late announcement could have led to injuries and even loss of life. Considering that many graduate students are internationals and have never experienced a hurricane before, the message of rejection broadcast by the university has certainly caused enough anguish. The one exception has been Dr. Adria Baker and her staff at the Office of International Students and Scholars, who were helpful and reassuring throughout the storm.
I encourage the university to provide shelter to all of its students, regardless of where they live. Should this not be feasible, then Rice must send out a warning well in advance, to make students aware that they may have to rethink their hurricane preparedness plans. I knew that Ike was coming; I just did not know I could not rely on my university if worse comes to worst.
Computer science graduate student
I hope the GSA’s proposal mentioned in this week’s front page article  will improve the situation in the future.