The four campuses of the University of Nebraska are joining together on a coordinated, long-term response to the recent flooding that has devastated communities across the state, according to a presentation today to the NU Board of Regents.
Experts have estimated recovery from the natural disaster could take nine years or longer, regents learned. The university is committed to putting its resources and expertise to work to help Nebraskans rebuild over the long term, President Hank Bounds said.
“Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint,” Bounds said. “The University of Nebraska has an opportunity to develop a thoughtful, coordinated, system-wide effort to support our students, affected colleagues and fellow citizens. We’re going to be engaged however we can, for as long as Nebraskans need.”
The university-wide effort is being coordinated by Chuck Hibberd, dean and director of Nebraska Extension, which has a long history of supporting disaster relief. Hibberd is assembling a team of experts from across the campuses who will help facilitate volunteer opportunities, connect with community experts and coordinate other efforts to ensure that support is provided where and when it’s needed.
“Nebraskans’ lives and communities have been upended. We want to help them rebuild so we’re stronger than before,” Hibberd said. “We’re going to be deliberate and thoughtful in our approach, and we’re going to be there for the long haul.”
Current efforts include:
- The university’s highest priority is making certain impacts of the flooding do not impede any student’s ability to continue their coursework. Under the leadership of the university-wide team of chief academic officers, each campus is working to provide leniency for students whose families, homes, communities or financial situation has been impacted. Campuses are making flexible coursework, admissions and enrollment options available for incoming and current students who have been affected, including:
o Waiving the $45 admission application fee for new applicants.
o Affected students who are admitted for fall 2019 may choose to defer their admission and scholarship offers until spring 2020.
o Campuses that require an enrollment deposit for admission will extend the deadline for students planning to start in summer or fall 2019. Affected students may choose to request an enrollment deposit deferral.
o Instructors have been encouraged to offer flexibility in class assignments and attendance where appropriate.
o University housing teams will assist students in need of emergency housing.
- The University of Nebraska Medical Center is leading efforts to support mental health and well-being in communities across the state. For example, UNMC’s Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska is hosting a webinar series for behavioral health professionals focused on the mental health aspects of dealing with flooding aftermath.
- The University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Nebraska Business Development Center is helping to explore opportunities to partner with impacted businesses to help them recover.
- Students from the UNL College of Law are helping to provide free legal help to impacted Nebraskans on issues like FEMA assistance, insurance, government benefits, housing and document recovery. Individuals can apply here.
- The NU-wide team is exploring opportunities to engage students who want to volunteer, with student safety being paramount. Those opportunities will be shared as they are developed.
- Nebraska Extension is providing resources and advice to affected individuals and families, homeowners, businesses, and farmers and ranchers here.
- The University of Nebraska Foundation has stood up a new University of Nebraska Emergency Assistance Fund that will support students and employees who face sudden financial hardship resulting from natural disasters, home displacement, food security or other crises.