On June 29, severe thunderstorms and high winds swept across the United States. Millions of people in 10 different states lost power and many of these states declared a state of emergency, which is still in effect today.
As of Tuesday, June 3, Appalachian Power still estimates more than 10,000 people in Montgomery County alone still have no power. Their crews are working around the clock, but restoration estimates are still anywhere from Friday to as late as Sunday.
Following these storms were record-setting temperatures, leaving those without power to seek alternate shelters during the day, and sweat through the nights as best they can. Local and state governments have opened cooling shelters and many local businesses are welcoming people to hang out in their establishments during operating hours.
But what has been Virginia Tech's response to the plight of the community and many of its own students? The answer is not much.
Some dorms were opened for university staff considered “vital” and their families, free of charge and including basic accommodations like air conditioning, showers and clean water. A discount on food at D2 was similarly provided.
No such offer has been extended to any off-campus students or members of the community. Classes continue this week as normal, with students still expected to attend regardless of their housing and power situation.
Facilities with air conditioning and water, such as Newman Library, Squires Student Center and the academic buildings have not had their hours extended. These same places will be closed on July 4, which is understandable under normal holiday situations, but still does not help anybody who will be without power on that day.
There are no university programs to pass out bottled water, or offer off-campus students, many of whom had to dispose of spoiled food, a discount on meals. Even something as minor as easing up on parking restrictions seems to be out of the reach of the university; if you are looking to hang out in one of the buildings that does have air conditioning during the day, make sure you either take public transportation to campus or keep an eye on the time to refill your parking meter, as Parking Services will give you no breaks.
Now this is not to say Virginia Tech has not been affected by the power outages. When Summer II classes started on July 2 and engineering transfer students went to purchase and pick up their software bundles from Software Distribution, several of them found that their access to the software was denied.
Due to the weather-related problems of the past weekend, some of the Virginia Tech servers apparently had a backload of data to process, and the Summer I session was “extended” to include Monday. The end result of this is that some systems did not see some of the students in Summer II as enrolled, thus preventing them from downloading the software they had purchased and needed for their classes that were already in session. It seems as though weather-related problems can be an excuse for the university, but not its students.
The University of Virginia opened its recreation centers for local residents to take showers and find some relief from the heat. The town of Blacksburg has opened the community center as a cooling shelter. Virginia Tech however, seems disappointingly oblivious to the plight of the community and its off-campus students, unless you are a vital staff member of the university.
Everywhere on campus are signs proclaiming the Hokie Nation, or Hokie Pride. It seems that this only applies though when the university is ready to accept your money for tuition or donations, not when you are actually in need. So for those of you who have slept little this past week due to the heat, disposed of the expensive contents of your refrigerators, gone over your monthly budgets on food eating at restaurants because you have no way to cook, struggled to keep your laptops and phones charged to keep up with your assignments, and looked around for even a short relief from the heat, good luck.
Don't expect any help from Virginia Tech though.