JSU to Finish Spring Semester Despite Tornado Devastation


“We will finish the spring semester,” said JSU President John M. Beehler. “There are hundreds of details to be worked out as to exactly how this will be accomplished because we have many classrooms that are either destroyed or unsafe to use. As a result, this will call for the kind of planning, creativity and flexibility for which the Gamecocks are known. But there should be no doubt about this: We will fulfill every obligation to our students through our dedicated faculty and employees.”

Options for completing the spring semester include offering some classes through hybrid or distance learning and relocating classes to alternate buildings.

Through Thursday, the focus has been on restoring power, internet and other services on and around the campus, while assessing damage, removing debris and making plans for housing displaced students. Crews are cutting up the many downed trees and removing debris campus wide with backhoes, trucks, and earth-moving machines, as local police officers control access to the campus.

Officials are also working on plans to allow students limited access to some campus buildings to get their personal belongings. However, many buildings will remain “off limits” for an extended time due to safety concerns. Severe damage occurred to Logan Hall and Patterson Halls, two campus residence halls, and the university pledges to work with residents on recovering belongings in alternative ways, if the buildings are not safe for entry. 

Beehler issued a statement on March 20 declaring the campus closed “until the campus is rendered safe and its capital assets secured to prevent future damage and loss.” Classes have been cancelled until at least April 2. Students will be notified specifically about when they can return to campus and when classes will resume as soon as possible.

Of more than 70 campus buildings, severe damage occurred to dozens and at least one appears to be a total loss. Merrill Hall was devastated – with severe damage to the roof, the physical structure and the many glass panes throughout the building, including the signature curved front atrium. It is a major safety hazard for anyone entering the building. 

Disaster relief agencies have been working to establish centers on the campus, and Calhoun County EMA announced that it set up a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) in the RV parking lot on Mountain Street NW, adjacent to Meehan Hall/JSU Stadium. The center will provide a central point for people to receive mental health services, health and human service basic needs, ID replacement, and short-term SNAP (food stamps) assistance. Agencies at the DRC include United Way’s 211, Catholic Charity Services, American Red Cross, and East Alabama Regional Planning Commission.

For continued updates, visit the newly established website: www.jsu.edu/jsustrong.