A handful of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have either evacuated their students, closed campus, cancelled classes, or all of the above in preparation for Category 5 Hurricane Irma’s expected landfall in and near a handful of southern states this weekend. The Weather Channel was predicting “the worst case scenario” in Florida, where four HBCUs were bracing for Irma’s expected wrath.
Not only was Florida A&M University (FAMU) suspending its classes and closing its main campus in Tallahassee, it was forced to cancel a number of its signature events that coincide with the beginning of the fall semester, such as the President’s Convocation.
Unlike some of the other HBCUs in Florida, FAMU was not evacuating its students who live on campus and said it would still provide “dining services” and “essential staff.”
But Bethune-Cookman College ordered the full evacuation of its Daytona Beach campus and Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens “urge[d] all students to leave campus” and offered transit to those who needed shelter.
It was unclear whether students at Edward Waters College were ordered to leave the Jacksonville campus, but the college announced it would “be closed for all activities beginning Friday, September 8, with plans to resume normal campus operations on Wednesday, September 13.” There was a chance Irma could “pass near Jacksonville” as a Category 1 hurricane, the weakest designation for such a storm, according to local news outlet News4Jax.
Florida wasn’t the only state in Irma’s sights, as shown by South Carolina State University (SCSU) canceling a soccer match against Gardner-Webb University as well as its football game against Charleston Southern University. The latter closed its campus Thursday night and issued a mandatory evacuation order for students living there to leave by noon on Friday.
“When faced with situations such as the impending hurricane expected to impact South Carolina, we always want to exercise caution and use good judgment to ensure students’ safety,” SCSU Athletics Director Stacy Danley said in a brief statement.
A state of emergency was declared in North Carolina, although it was unclear how or if Hurricane Irma might affect the state. Still, while not taking any immediate actions, North Carolina A&T University told its students to remain vigilant and watch for any updates from the school.
On the flip side, at least one HBCU was offering to help the people and families being displaced by Irma. Alabama State University (ASU) will be using a part of its campus to shelter Irma evacuees, the school’s president announced Thursday.
“We are allowing the Red Cross to use the ASU Dunn-Oliver Acadome Concourse as an official Hurricane Irma shelter, where they may house those who need shelter and assistance from what may be this century’s most catastrophic storm,” said Alabama State Interim President Leon Wilson, via HBCU Digest. “While the Red Cross and EMA personnel will be in charge of the process, the University community will be present to welcome the victims and assist in making ASU their home away from home.”
On a related note, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) launched the Hurricane Harvey HBCU Students’ Relief Fund on Wednesday to “provide financial support to the thousands of HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) students in Texas and Louisiana impacted by the effects of Hurricane Harvey.” It was unclear if the UNCF would either expand its existing fund to include Hurricane Irma or create a new initiative following this weekend’s storm.