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HBU adjusts to Ike’s damage

HOUSTON (BP)–Houston Baptist University officials are hoping for power to be restored to the campus this weekend. If so, students will be permitted to return to their residence halls on Saturday, Sept. 20, and classes will resume Monday.

In the meantime, the university has encouraged students who have stayed in the area after Hurricane Ike to assist at the End Hunger Network, a food distribution charity near the city’s downtown area.

About 75 students had arrived there to work on the morning of Sept. 18, Martha Morrow, HBU assistant vice president for communications, told Baptist Press.

On campus, staff members in various offices in the Brown Administrative Complex are relocating from the heavily damaged facility, Morrow said. Some will have temporary offices in the new University Academic Center, which opened this year to house HBU’s honors college and art department. Other staffers will work from a range of locations, from portable trailers already on campus to storage closets that are being converted into makeshift offices.

Examination of the Brown complex and the adjoining M.D. Anderson Student Center, which form a quadrangle, has not been competed, Morrow said, noting that the demand for engineers is extensive in Houston in the wake of the hurricane.

“We’re not the most severely damaged place in Houston by far,” Morrow said. HBU took “a significant hit,” but in seeing the extent of damage elsewhere in Houston and on the Texas Gulf Coast, “you realize that you’re still pretty blessed.”

The initial damage estimate at HBU from Hurricane Ike ranges from $8 million to $10 million, President Robert Sloan reported on the university’s www.hbu.edu website Sept. 15. The tally “is expected to rise,” Sloan noted, “as building and infrastructure inspections continue throughout the coming weeks.”

Among the HBU administrative staff moving to temporary locations are those in the admissions, registrar, financial aid, communications and spiritual life offices, the bookstore and post office.

By comparison, the university’s residence halls weathered the hurricane well, Morrow said.

Without power at the campus, HBU’s technology capabilities have been curtailed, ranging from e-mail to accessing information stored on the university’s computers. Only the www.hbu.edu website remains operational because its computer server is located elsewhere in Houston. The university’s emergency alert telephone/text message system also has functioned well, Morrow said. Administrative staff members currently are working from laptop computers and cell phones.

HBU’s Brown Administrative Complex and M.D. Anderson Student Center are the oldest facilities on the campus, which opened in the early 1960s. The university currently has 2,500 students at its 154-acre campus just southwest of downtown Houston. Hurricane Ike came at a time when HBU had enrolled a record freshman class of 475 -– twice the number from two years ago -– and hired 30 new faculty members, Morrow said.
Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston.

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