05 May 2009

Campus disruptions, pandemics, and good timing

Business continuity (BC) plans consider any day a bad day for a disruption in campus activity and services. You may find some calendar considerations for when to test contingency measures but otherwise BC assumes that some response is needed every day of the year.

Academic continuity (AC) plans, where they exist, are more likely to specify responses according to time of semester or quarter. Our limited examples demonstrated that timing mattered. When Hurricane Katrina hit, the fall semester was only just underway. With a full semester ahead, it was possible to recover, helped tremendously by the Sloan Semester. The remarkable aspect of that solution was that Sloan-C coordinated the project in only 21 days. Would the solution have been possible in a disruption at mid-term?

At Virginia Tech, administrators made a good call in offering students the option of leaving campus without penalty—possible because most students were within 2-3 weeks of the end of their courses. Similarly, in the current response to flu, campus administrators have some leeway with end-of-term timing and, with luck, enough breathing space to make good decisions about holding or canceling commencement gatherings.

If there is any benefit to the pandemic (or near-pandemic, depending on your lens), it is in the heads-up for campuses not yet attending to academic continuity planning. For an extensive model that addressed the possibility of H5N1 pandemic influenza (and remains in place) see Middlebury College's Pandemic Flu Response web site and supporting documentation.

© 2009 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. Email contact: bold[AT]marybold.com. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as legal or professional advice. Bold is the co-author of Reflections: Preparing for your Practicum or Internship, geared to college interns in the child, education, and family fields. She is a consultant and speaker on assessment, distance learning, and technology.

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