In response to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, ERAU President Dr. P. Barry Butler announced on Mar. 25 that residence halls will be shut down “by end of day” 0n Mar. 29, effectively giving students less than four days to move out of their dorms.
The decision to close campus was made with little to no input from Prescott campus administration, and without any input from the student body of the university as a whole. Prescott administration was notified of the closure mere hours before both the students and staff were notified.
Dr. Butler’s decision highlights a skewed power dynamic between the two Embry-Riddle campuses: one where the Prescott campus is controlled by Daytona Beach like a daughter campus, rather than being treated like the “sister campus” that students are led to believe.
In response to Dr. Butler’s abrupt decision, Prescott Student Government Association (SGA) President Joshua Limes sent a letter to Dr. Butler outlining a series of what he said were “unacceptable and cruel” actions carried out by university administration. In an act of solidarity, Limes forwarded the letter to the Prescott student body to show that SGA is fighting for them in this difficult time.
In his letter, Limes also asked Dr. Butler a series of questions students have about being properly refunded for the many hardships forced onto them. He followed this up with a demand for an immediate stop to the sudden dorm evacuation. He believed that forwarding the letter to the students would have forced Dr. Butler to finally respond to student concerns.
Limes later said that “the questions still haven’t been answered.”
He wrote the letter to Dr. Butler because it was clear to him that student concerns have been ignored. Limes explained that “Prescott leadership and SGA are usually not consulted about policies or changes that will affect us.” He said that the people at the Prescott campus “hear a lot about wanting to work together, and that our opinions matter, but when it’s time for us to be included we do not see those sentiments come to life.”
Why did university administration make these harsh decisions without input from those affected? A student graduating in May 2020 believes that “the administration forgets that they are here to serve the students because of the fat paychecks that they get.” They think that Limes’ letter to Dr. Butler was ultimately necessary, because university administration “needed to understand how they have tremendously failed.”
The student also believes that the university’s response to COVID-19 makes it “apparent that they lack a disaster recovery plan,” and if administration did have one, “it shows that it is completely incompetent… to recover from a disaster such as this.”
The student attested to the very odd power dynamic between the Daytona Beach and Prescott campuses. They’ve noticed how Daytona is allowed to market in many more places than it allows Prescott to. They’ve also seen that Prescott’s administrative leeway pales in comparison to Daytona.
Prescott SGA President-Elect Melea Tucker confirmed this. He said that “during my time serving as Vice President, I can without doubt believe [that] there is an obvious difference in power between both campuses.” Tucker is unsure of what that exactly entails for the Daytona Beach campus, but he knows that “from a student level, the power shift is definitely there.”
Tucker went on to emphasize that at the time of the announcement of the campus closure, many Prescott administrators “were in the same boat as the students, information wise.”
The student graduating in May 2020 said that the university’s COVID-19 response has been “very appalling, and subpar, and I’m very embarrassed, to be honest.” They feel that “considering a school of Riddle’s… status, providing subpar decisions and subpar services in a time where we really needed them is very disheartening.”
The student will not be returning to Prescott in October for their commencement.
Update: Limes spoke to ERAU Senior Vice President for Administration & Planning Rodney Cruise on Friday, Apr. 10. Limes said: “unfortunately the university does not have all the answers students are looking for at this time. However, I was pointed in the right direction to find some of the answers we are looking for.” He thinks that “there was some good conversation on how emergency response can be handled better in the future, as well as how communication can be improved between the Prescott campus and university administration.”
Limes will be updating the Prescott Student body on SGA’s progress with ERAU administration.