Hurricane Irene tore into the east coast causing damage in many states, New York included. Unfortunately, the hurricane hit the northeast states the weekend before universities were set to open their doors for the first day of fall classes.
The schools normally let their students return the Sunday before class starts. Many SUNYs sent messages to their students saying that if they needed to come back earlier, they could do so because of the hurricane and their safety.
The schools’ concern was, of course, the safety of their students traveling in hurricane weather. In order to ensure that students didn’t get trapped in the hurricane while trying to move in, schools allowed students to move in earlier. Oswego State was one such school. But – at Oswego State – safety came with a price tag of $30 per day. That’s right, $30 was the going rate for Oswego State students’ safety. Other SUNY schools did not charge their students anything to return early.
The “Flexible Opening” on the Oswego State website states: “Safety is our top concern, and we encourage students and their families to make their travel decisions based on their safety and the safety of others; we will do our best to accommodate early and late arrivals.”
While the school’s decision makers said the students’ safety was – ostensibly – their main concern, they failed to mention that safety would cost each student $30 per day. Being hit with an unexpected bill, after having erred on the side of safety, just didn’t – and doesn’t – seem fair.
The fact that the school was charging this “safety fee” went viral. The Internet became the very thing that organizations dread; it became a weapon against Oswego State. Facebook became the most lethal weapon as the power of social media took its course in letting those that had nothing to do with the fee spew their opinion on the matter.
Students and parents alike were outraged. As a result of the negative publicity, Oswego State has decided not to charge students or credit those that had already paid to be safe from the storm. But the questions remain: Did Oswego State want to look like a hero when it wasn’t? or did Oswego State try to benefit monetarily from the hurricane scare? The answer to either question might scare the inquisitor.
It is disheartening to feel that the school might put its own economic interests ahead of its students’ safety. On the first day of class, we’re taught about the integrity policy and how we must read it, learn it, and apply it while in school. Shouldn’t the school set the example by practicing what it preaches? Where is that integrity when it comes to charging students trying to take reasonable precautions in regards to their safety? As students, we already pay a high price – not only for our classes, but for dorms, books, meals and the other arts we support. Oswego State did not handle this situation well. Somebody made a wrong call and now everybody that tried to look like a hero – doesn’t.