Fox Boasts Fire Response at Town Hall

In the wake of the largest fire-related evacuation in state history, Chancellor Marye Anne Fox and Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Penny Rue praised the campus’ response to the disaster at an Oct. 31 town hall meeting, despite some criticism regarding UCSD Medical Center’s decision to not pay employees who failed to work last week.After acknowledging the 11 UCSD staff and faculty members who lost their homes to the fire, Rue directed the crowd’s attention to the accomplishments of the campus’ crisis management team and emphasized efficient communication between UCSD and the students and faculty, as well as UCSD and local authorities.

Fox praised the university’s emergency notification system, which was assembled following April’s Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University massacre to keep students continuously informed with up-to-the-minute information through personal text messages and voice mail. Though Fox was overseas on business when the fires first broke out, she said she still received notification from the system and returned to San Diego as quickly as possible.

In addition, the Academic Affairs Office, Business Affairs Office and Housing and Dining Services all worked together to keep the university functioning for those who remained on campus, Fox said.

Rue also addressed the academic and personal issues that students may face due to the fires, especially after canceling the week of classes. She urged students to go to office hours, seek tutoring and use all available campus resources to their advantage to accommodate the missed week.

“It’s stressful to lose a week out of a 10-week quarter,” Rue said. “It’s a sign of strength to ask for help.”

She added that emergency loans are available for those struggling financially, and those who could not get to work.

However, some attendees raised concerns about UCSD Medical Center employees, who — unlike their UCSD staff counterparts — were not paid if they were not working during that week.

Medical center CEO Richard Liekweg argued that the situations were different, because while UCSD was closed for all nonessential staff members, the medical center remained opened during the fires and its employees were expected to go to work.

Vice Chancellor of Business Affairs Steven W. Relyea spoke about measures that UCSD took to protect the community from similar large-scale disasters. He boasted not only of UCSD’s efficient coordination with San Diego city officials, but also about the determination of those who stayed on campus to help.

“The only problem we had was telling someone to take a break,” Relyea said.

UCSD’s campuswide emergency drill, held a week before the fires, was presented as evidence of thorough preparation.

“We had the same people in the same desks doing the same protocols last week,” he said.

Relyea echoed Fox’s sentiment, stressing the importance of the emergency notification system that UCSD modified this past summer. He admitted that although there is no “silver bullet” for communication issues, having a multi-pronged approach with text messages, voice messages and e-mails proved very successful.

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