Despite an approaching hurricane and some other expected challenges, Samford University completed a successful first day of classes Aug. 29.
Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast early in the morning and began an overland path that was projected to include the metropolitan Birmingham area on its eastern fringes. University officials spent the day monitoring the weather situation and taking precautions to ensure the safety of the campus and students. Late in the day, plans were for the University to continue full operation on Tuesday.
"This is our third hurricane in less than a year," said Joseph W. Mathews, vice president for business affairs and co-chair of the University' emergency response team. "I'd like to say that we have become professionals in dealing with this, but this is not exactly the type of thing that you want to handle on a regular basis."
More than 4,500 students are expected when enrollment is complete, according to Samford Provost J. Bradley Creed. Undergraduate enrollment was more than 100 students higher than fall 2004 and includes more than 700 first-year students, the second highest first-year total in Samford history. Official enrollment totals will not be available for several days.
"We have an outstanding fall enrollment, and that is a good thing," Creed said. "It speaks well of our admission team, our faculty and staff and our students that we have so many new and returning students. We are challenged with ensuring that everyone has a positive experience this fall, but I am confident that we will meet the challenge."
Creed said he was not aware of any major glitches in the University's academic programs on day one. Students swarmed the campus early Monday as classes began under cloudy skies. By mid-afternoon winds had picked up but rain held off until most classes were completed for the day.
The University plans to remain open for classes unless it loses power, Mathews said. Generators will provide power to the University Center, and campus dining services will remain to provide food service for residential students. Campus safety, facilities services and residence life staff are on campus around-the-clock to ensure the safety of the campus and to provide services to residential students, Mathews said.
A student-sponsored Welcome Back event at Birmingham's Sloss Furnaces National Historic Site was cancelled because of the pending stormy weather. Other Welcome Back activities later in the week will be held as weather permits.
Students returning to the campus for the fall semester found construction workers and vehicles throughout the campus. Work began during the summer on a new music building and recital hall adjacent to the Wright Fine Arts Center, closing one small parking lot serving the university's administration building.
Cumberland School of Law students will work and study in a more pleasant environment this year as a result of a multi-million dollar renovation of the heating and ventilation system in Memory L. Robinson Hall.
Renovations also were done in Pittman Hall to accommodate first-year women students. Pittman formerly was a men's residence facility.
Parking was a challenge on the first full day of the fall semester, not an uncommon sight on many university campuses. Students and employees were seen circling campus lots looking for vacant spots. Overflow lots also were full, and two shuttle buses provided service to the central campus from overflow lots. Some students and employees opted to illegally park on grass and in no parking zones to make it to class on time. Regardless of the parking situation, Bobby Breed, director of campus safety, stressed that it is important for students and employees to observe parking regulations, many of which help ensure the safety of the campus.
A new parking lot south of Seibert Stadium is under construction and expected to be ready by early November.
Long lines also were seen in the University cashier's office, book store, food court and dining hall, not unusual were the first day of classes. Residence facilities also were filled to capacity.