Disaster strikes and students respond

Three hurricanes and a mass shooting are having a noticeable impact on people around the country. Queens University is no exception.

Alyssa Pacheco, a sophomore from Columbia, did not hear from her extended family in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico for 11 days after Hurricane Irma devastated the island.

Queens students who went to The Fillmore last night for Foster the People concert said the band declined to play one of their most popular songs, ‘Pumped up Kicks,’ due to the song’s reference to gun violence.

The impact has been big and small as all across Queens’ campus, teachers, faculty, staff and students gathered to console and discuss the disasters, their impact and how the campus community could respond, reflect and rebound.

In Knight-Crane Hall, communications professor Zachary White gathered his freshman Roadmap class in their third floor room to voice thoughts on the shooting.

Professor Joseph Cornelius said that student safety was his greatest concern. He took out class time to allow students to discuss the recent events in Las Vegas and Queens’ safety protocol. (SEE SIDEBAR)

As he walked out of a morning faculty meeting where they discussed campus response to the disasters, John Downey, dean of students, said that many people seemed overwhelmed and that the administration of Queens would continue to make efforts to reach out with resources for those in need.

While students had not yet sought counseling for the Nevada shootings, many had come for help dealing with the ongoing hurricane reports and recovery. Jill Perry, assistant dean for health and wellness, has received several visitors to discuss concerns about the hurricanes. The dean of students’ office provided a list of prospective students who may have been affected, to help her office prepare. Her best advice for students was to keep active and to try not to obsess over the events.

Dr. Alexis Carreiro, assistant professor of communications, said that her way of preparing is to “always knows where the exits are.” As a faculty member, she wants to maintain a balance in class, allowing students to communicate with one another about the recent events without politicizing the discussions. She used these events to highlight how different methods of reporting can influence the response from the American population.

Destiny Wilkinson had family in the U.S. Virgin Islands that was impacted by both Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. Like Pacheco, communication with them has been difficult. “This experience has been traumatic,” Wilkinson said. “It’s been hard to function knowing that people from my homeland are suffering like this, and it’s even harder knowing that the U.S. isn’t doing anything about it.”

Andrew Au, director of operations for the Knight School of Communication, recalled his wife’s family being trapped in Florida during Hurricane Irma and the difficulty they had coordinating their safety. He praised Queens’s communication with faculty and students. “Queens is really good at keeping us updated. There was no stone left unturned regarding what [they] wanted us to do,” he said.

The increased attention for safety at Queens was spurred by a shooting in Las Vegas. Out of a crowd of 22,000 at a Jason Aldean concert, 59 concert-goers have been confirmed dead, with an additional 527 wounded, according to CNN. The shooter has been identified as Stephen Paddock, who was found dead by authorities after they breached the hotel room he was acting from. Police believe he acted alone, and have yet to find a motive for his actions.

Officer Jason Long, 34, of Campus Police said, “We are as prepared as possible all the time. We learn from others’ mistakes, which helps us stay proactive. What students and faculty don’t see is that we have done rapid response trainings, FBI training and response drills with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.”

Concerns of safety of international students` families have also been raised. In Puerto Rico, there are 16 confirmed casualties from Hurricane Maria, though the loss of power in over 70 percent of households on the island has made search and recovery efforts, as well as repairs, difficult. Officials estimate that the death toll could reach the hundreds, according to Omaya Sosa Pascual, reporter for the Center for Investigative Journalism.

Jeff Brown, Queens’ Dining Director, noted a conversation he had with a Puerto Rican employee. Unable to communicate, the employee had pulled his phone out to show him a map of his hometown, with a swollen river flowing through it. “My town, my family,’’ was all he said.

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Published by students of Queens University of Charlotte, 1900 Selwyn Avenue, Charlotte, N.C. 28274.