MURRAY, Ky. — Student-centered institutions are defined in many ways. A recent incident continued to emphasize Murray State University’s commitment to putting students first, even in difficult and unplanned circumstances.
An explosion at J.H. Richmond Hall on Wednesday afternoon, June 28 caused structural damage to the residential facility as well as other surrounding campus buildings. In the aftermath of the incident, the Murray State community calmly assessed, rallied and responded to the needs of both Murray State students as well as visitors to campus.
All Murray State students living on campus this summer to take classes, as well as camp visitors, were quickly accounted for following the incident. Approximately 45 University staff helped move nearly 70 University students who were residing this summer at Hester Hall, located alongside Richmond Hall. Beginning Fridayevening, June 30 and continuing late that night into the weekend, staff entered Hester Hall to remove belongings individually by room. These items were loaded by truck and delivered to alternate on-campus housing at White Hall. From there, staff assisted students in bringing belongings into their new rooms to make the transition as seamless as possible.
In the interim period while students could not access their rooms, University staff purchased toiletries, bedding, towels and other essentials for students who were displaced.
“I was in awe with how the University responded to the incident. It was really bad for me to see all that happened, especially since Hester was my home for the past three years,” said Matthew Allen, a Murray State student and resident assistant at Hester Hall. “Personally, I really felt like the University was concerned for my well-being and tried to lessen the impact of a very devastating accident.”
Stephanie C. is the mother of a Murray State senior who was attending a two-week summer class and studying in her Hester Hall room at the time of the incident.
“From Wednesday evening until Friday evening I reached out to the Murray State staff trying to help navigate the situation with my daughter,” said Stephanie. “Once Wednesday night was settled, we waited for word when the students could get their things from their dorm rooms. My daughter’s class was over at noon on Fridayand she had planned to drive back home that day. I contacted the Student Affairs office and spoke with (Vice President of Student Affairs) Don Robertson about our situation. Don made sure my daughter’s items were one of the first done so she could get on the road for home. I can’t say enough about how great Don handled the situation over the 48 hours. He was always professional and went way above and beyond.”
Campus visitors who were impacted also included camp participants in Adventures in Math and Science, Governor Scholars Program and Commonwealth Honors Academy, who were staying in areas of campus which were affected.
Soon after the incident, the University helped relocate campers to other residential halls on campus. The Curris Center became a central hub for campers. A call station was set up for parents to communicate with their children. Programs continued within the Curris Center, and on-site food service was offered in the Thoroughbred Room as Winslow Dining Hall was unavailable.
University staff continued to keep the campus and external community informed through regular updates at murraystate.edu, including a letter from Murray State President Bob Davies.
In a letter distributed on July 3, Davies said, “I am extremely grateful to all of the members of the Murray State family who demonstrated compassion in the efforts to maintain services, answer questions, ease minds and provide a sincere caring spirit among all individuals who have been impacted. I am also appreciative to all of the community members who responded with aid, action and words of encouragement.”
Murray State alumni throughout the world showed their support through social media and email, including alumna Carla Hill, ’91 and ’93, who was appreciative of the University’s response following the incident. Hill empathized with those who were impacted, particularly the students on campus who held leadership positions within the residential halls. Hill also has a son who currently attends Murray State and will be returning to campus in the fall.
“I worked the summers in the residence halls, so I knew what a challenging situation those students found themselves in,” said Hill. “The timeliness of the University’s communication really set me at ease. You place tremendous trust in the leadership of an organization when you send your child to college. The way to judge true leadership is how the organization reacts in the face of difficulty. The swift action and the communication of that action by Murray State was impressive.”
Another Murray State alumnus, William Swatzell, ’71 and ’78, was particularly impressed by the web notifications and timely updates posted at murraystate.edu. Swatzell has a daughter who is currently taking summer classes on the Murray campus.
“I thought it was a very quick response by the University, and I thought the honesty came through quickly,” said Swatzell. “Overall, I was pleased and very proud as an alumnus.”
Preparations continue to be made for the first day of classes for the Fall 2017 semester, which will be Tuesday, August 15.