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Campus Computing News

Winds of Change

By Claudia Lynch, Benchmarks Online Editor

Hurricane force winds blew across the Gulf Coast on August 29th and again on September 24th this year and changed the lives of many people forever. That included people at colleges and universities, as this month's Network Connection article, "Weathering the Storm," points out.

The IT community at UNT played a special part in helping ease the strain of the situation for evacuees of both storms who found themselves in Denton. CITC employees Scott Windham, Data Communications; Matt Duncan, Unix Support Services; J. P. Williams, Central Web Support; Tracy Hansen, Desktop Support; Brenda Kirk, Network Manager; Stormy Shippy, Desktop Support and Sandy Burke, Helpdesk Support Services were instrumental in setting up and managing a computer network at Camp Copass — a Baptist church camp on Lewisville Lake, east of the Denton city limits (click here to see some pictures from the Camp Copass facility).

Camp Copass housed more than 300 Katrina evacuees from September 2nd through September 23rd. The computers were set up to enable evacuees to fill out FEMA forms, search for loved ones, write resumes, and complete homework assignments. Many people from UNT and the Denton community volunteered in a variety of capacities at the Camp, and UNT Network Managers and others in computer related positions were especially helpful in guiding people through the process of using the computers. Many evacuees had never used a computer before and they needed one on one support. E-mail addresses had to be set up, passwords chosen so that they could be remembered, etc. It was a daunting task for the volunteers and the evacuees alike, but it was accomplished successfully, due in large part to the volunteers' patience and willingness to help.

When Rita blew through the Beaumont area, the UNT community was ready to help again. This time, UNT became a home away from home for evacuees when we opened up "Mean Green Village" on September 23rd.  The American Red Cross was directly involved this time, running the evacuee center. Many of the same people involved with setting up and running the computer network at Camp Copass did it all over again at Mean Green Village, with Scott Windham and Sandy Burke taking leadership in the endeavor. Approximately 200 people were housed at "Mean Green Village" through October 4th. Amazingly, some of the people there had initially  fled from New Orleans to Beaumont when Hurricane Katrina struck.

Besides hosting the evacuees, UNT also provided the North Texas Animal Rescue Alliance a facility near Mean Green Village so that they could care for evacuees' pets. President Pohl summed things up in the September issue of the UNT Alumni Newsletter, the North Texas Insider:

UNT also worked with the North Texas Animal Rescue Alliance to open a pet evacuee center nearby. The pet center, which is being operated by nearly 100 volunteers from 21 rescue groups across North Texas, has housed nearly 40 pets, including a 12-foot boa constrictor, a bearded dragon lizard, a parrot and cats and dogs.

In addition, as a result of our response to Hurricane Katrina last month, we enrolled about 100 students who were displaced from New Orleans universities. UNT provided office space, as well as access to computers, e-mail and libraries, to four faculty members from affected areas so that they could continue their professional work. Our community also collected more than $32,000 to help those affected.

I'm extremely proud of the students, faculty, staff and volunteers who worked around the clock to help those in need during this recovery period.

UNT System Response

For further information on the UNT System response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita see:

From the students' perspective, via the NT Daily:

 

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