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October 31, 2005

Dear Members of Our University Community:

Welcome back! What a week it has been!

Our campuses fared extremely well, and at all times the University remained safe and secure. We had some landscaping damage, a few broken windows, and a few leaks, but nothing that couldn't be cleaned up during the week.

Like most everyone else in South Florida, the University lost power during the storm. We relied on back-up generators for our residential facilities and other essential operations for a short time. We were fortunate to have electricity back in all of the residential facilities within 24 hours after the storm and in most buildings University-wide by Wednesday. We were serving thousands of hot meals on a regular basis in the dining halls by Tuesday.

We decided to remain closed through the remainder of last week and the weekend for a number of reasons. Many of our students left campus prior to the storm and were having difficulty getting flights back into town. Many of our faculty, staff, and commuter students were without electricity and needed to deal with damage to their own homes. Additionally, in the interest of everyone's safety, we wanted to remain closed until most traffic signals, streetlights, and public transportation could be restored.

I know some of us still face the challenges of power outages in our homes and lines at gas stations. These issues are being remedied, and we have been in regular conversations with leaders of the public schools and local government. It will take some time for our communities to recover. Provost LeBlanc and I have asked all members of the University's faculty and administration to exercise sensitivity and flexibility with individual students and employees who may have extenuating circumstances. Please also note that FEMA has established resources for residential losses; please visit http://fema.gov/ or call 1-800-621-3362 for assistance.

During the past week, the provost and I consulted with the academic deans, the Faculty Senate leadership, the vice president for student affairs, and the president of Student Government to develop a revised academic calendar for the remainder of this semester. We're essentially combining reading days and final exam days to make up the missed days without extending the calendar. Graduation ceremonies will still take place as scheduled. The revised academic calendar is posted on the University's Web site.

I am constantly impressed by the resilience, fortitude, and resourcefulness of our University family, as well as our South Florida community. On Saturday we helped 30,000 people cure their cabin fever by going ahead with our football game at the Orange Bowl. There's nothing quite like a Miami Hurricanes victory to boost everyone's spirits. We thank Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and City Manager Joe Arriola for their support and assistance. As an added bonus, our industrious and thoughtful students collected funds at the game to support Hurricane Wilma relief efforts.

I thank all of you for your dedication, hard work, and patience. We all need to thank the University's key staff who prepared for the storm, maintained vital operations, and quickly got the University reopened. I'm so proud to be a part of this outstanding team.

I want to invite you to continue to make suggestions about how we can improve our response to these terrible events. I will be particularly interested in your comments about our communications to you.

Warm regards,

Donna E. Shalala

Office of the President
P.O. Box 248006 Coral Gables, Florida 33124-4600
305-284-5155 Fax 305-284-3768