BU ‘Very Fortunate’ With Sandy and Response, Spokesman Says

Kenmore Square Billboard Being Repaired
Billboard in Kenmore Square being repaired, after falling on the roof from Hurricane Sandy’s strong winds. / CREDIT: Sonia Su

By Sonia Su

BOSTON – Despite the devastating damage in New Jersey and New York, Boston University handled Hurricane Sandy this weekend well, with no terrible consequences, BU spokesman Colin Riley said in a news conference Wednesday.

“The University really lucked out [and] came through the storm quite well,” Riley said. “Thoughts and prayers go out to all those people who are recovering and have suffered some devastating loss.”

Having been downgraded to a superstorm on Monday night, Sandy hit Boston Sunday night through Monday with strong winds and rain, causing businesses, schools and public transportation along the East Coast to close.

Riley said he does not know of any injuries or serious damages caused by the storm, citing only water damage and a billboard in Kenmore Square that fell down onto its roof.

“Because it came down, some of the metal holding the frame landed on the sidewalk,” Riley said. “Fortunately, nobody was in the area.”

Strong winds also knocked a few trees down and tilted a heavy iron lamppost near Harry Agganis Way in West Campus, which was removed Tuesday evening, Riley said.

Students received updates on Sandy and changes to the University schedule via BU Today, the BU Alert Service and email. Despite some students’ and parents’ criticism of BU’s “delayed” notifications, Riley said that there was probably “no need” to update the site every two hours.

“My view is that we could have just told [the BU community] in the morning whether there was school or not,” Riley said.

One of the controversies, particularly apparent on BU Today‘s comments section and on social media, was when BU delayed notifying students of changes to the Tuesday schedule from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

When asked about the delays, Riley said that they had anticipated receiving more information about the storm but didn’t know about public transportation.

“We knew [Gov. Deval Patrick] was having a press conference at 8:30, so we wanted to hear what he said … [and] what the transportation secretary said about public transportation,” Riley said, adding that public transportation was the key factor.

Riley even acknowledged the truth to a persistent campus rumor: that the BU administration is reluctant to cancel classes.

“We are very reluctant to cancel school,” Riley said, and adds that the real difficulty is not in the students who are within walking distance to get to classes, but the employees, staff and faculty who rely on public transportation and commute long distances.

Nevertheless, BU made sure to accommodate students’ needs. In particular, Barbara Laverdiere, director of Dining Services, realized “the need not only to meet the demand of meals out there but then go the extra step and to make some boxed lunches,” Riley said.

More than 1,000 meals were made and delivered, Riley said, to the Residence Life offices at 518 Park Drive on South Campus, Danielsen Hall, Myles Standish Hall, Kilachand Hall (formerly Shelton Hall) and the Towers.

“We’re very pleased that they made that effort,” Riley said.

He said that there was then the problem of getting the emergency personnel home, after the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority announced it would stop service after 2 p.m.

In response, BU provided shuttle buses, and volunteers drove more than 100 employees home.

Students whose friends and families are affected are encouraged to speak the school’s counselors, the University Service Center and the Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore.