Students who lost homes mixed on UA tornado response

Jason Galloway

A week after an EF-4 tornado left many homeless, affected UA students continue to wait for insurance claims and financial assistance from the University.

After the tornado hit, the University set up the UA Acts of Kindness Fund, planned to accept donations that would then be distributed to students and faculty members who suffered damage from the storm. According to Cathy Andreen, director of UA media relations, the fund had raised more than $101,000 as of Tuesday afternoon, but a date on when students can apply for these funds has not been set.

“Information on how to apply for the funds will be available soon,” Andreen said in an e-mailed statement. “As soon as the process for applying for the funds is finalized, we will communicate that information to students.”

Since the storm hit, the University has provided shelter at the Student Recreation Center for students and employees, put some affiliated victims in dormitories and set up a tornado support group for students through the UA Counseling Center.

It also set up an Emergency Call Center that remained operating until Sunday afternoon for students and parents to call with questions. Andreen said the University has sent at least 10 update e-mails to all students since the storm hit and has updated its website regularly to provide the latest information.

However, communication has been difficult for students who lost homes or are still without power. Multiple students with destroyed homes said they had not heard of UA Acts of Kindness and had not received any help from the University.

“I feel like [the University] should have reached out to me by now,” said Ryan Maxwell, a freshman majoring in MIS. “I’m surprised they didn’t send out a welfare check just to make sure everyone’s OK and get some replies, see who needed help. They haven’t even asked for anything, so I don’t even know if they know I’m affected.”

Maxwell’s home was on Lake View Dr., in the heart of where the tornado passed through the city. He said he has other friends who live in the neighborhood who also had their homes destroyed, and they also haven’t received any help from the University.

Senior Samantha Haggerty, whose house across the lake from Maxwell’s on Forest Lake Dr. was destroyed, is behind the University’s efforts to help students.

“I think [the University is] doing the best they can right now,” said Haggerty, who was fed at Lakeside Dining and housed in a campus dorm until she left town over the weekend. “There are so many people who were devastated by this storm. It’s hard to get up and start going again, so I’m sure it is for them as well.”

Aside from the University’s collective efforts, many professors are lending a helping hand to students, from sending check-up e-mails to visiting and cleaning up students’ destroyed homes.

“The first day, most of my professors tired to contact me,” said journalism masters student Alison Smith, who lived in Arlington Square Apartments in Alberta City. “Some journalism professors actually took up a collection and gave me some cash. That was nice of them.”

Andreen said students will have to apply to receive any funds from UA Acts of Kindness and that decisions regarding the distribution of funds will be made by a committee of UA employees who are appointed by President Robert Witt.