Counseling Center Mobilizes for Students
As the world stood still to watch the tragic suicide crashes in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania, UB's administration sprung into action to console students touched by the most horrendous act of terrorism ever perpetrated on American soil.
"Faculty and staff are concerned, anxious and worried about students and their loved ones," said Clifford Wilson, associate vice president for student affairs. "We cancelled classes to give people a chance to deal with this."
At approximately 10:30 a.m., when officials from UB's Counseling Center learned about the terrifying events that had occurred, they were immediately notified by Barbara Ricotta, dean of student affairs, and instructed to set up counseling centers in various locations on North and South campuses.
Counseling centers were opened in 210 Student Union and Michael Hall, with other centers opened from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on the second floor lounge of Red Jacket Hall and the first floor lounges of Lehman and Clement halls. No appointments are needed in any of the counseling centers, which will remain open for the next few days for as long as students are in need of their services.
The Student Union center had an influx of about 50 students while Michael Hall received between 150 and 200 students. According to both Kathleen Scott, director of the UB Counseling Center, and Medical Director Frank Carnevale, most students have visited the counseling centers to utilize the available phone systems to speak with friends and families who may have been affected.
"I think people are shocked and they want information and to contact people," Scott said.
"Most [of the visitors] are from New York City with New York City relatives," Carnevale said.
He added that centers would also provide students with advice on how to console those around them who have friends or families that were victims. The American Red Cross is also pooling resources with the university to provide emergency counseling for students.
"Everybody is pulling together to do the best we all can," Carnevale said.
In addition, aspects of a formal emergency response plan to assist staff and students during times of crisis were put into action, despite the fact the plan was still pending approval by the administration. The plan was first conceived after last-November's blizzard, which paralyzed the entire Buffalo area.
One of the plan's provisions that was implemented is the Parent's Hotline, designed to support families and friends who cannot get through to students. The hotline's numbers are (716) 645-6125 and (877) 434-0665. The latter number is toll free.
"Anybody can call," said Wilson. "If parents are concerned, we will do our best to make sure students know their loved ones are okay and receive any information they may need."
UB Ombudsman Madison L. Boyce is concerned for students who are trying to get in touch with their loved ones and anticipates more tragic news still ahead.
"A thousand people won't even get home tonight let alone find out anything," said Boyce. "As the next one or two days unfold, [students] are going to be getting some hard news."
According to Wilson, there are "more eyes and ears" and "people stepping up to help out." UB Health Services and the University Police are on full alert and prepared to take care of students who may take drastic and harmful measures during their time of mourning.
"People may do things like drink too much or take the wrong kind of pill and we will be there to help them," said Wilson.
"Public safety, along with every other police force in New York State, is on alert if there are problems," he added.
Staff members from residence halls were all notified by the Office of Student Affairs and instructed to assist students throughout the evening.
"Even if people find something out in the middle of the night, we will be here for them," said Wilson.
Wilson, who described the acts of terrorism as "outrageous," was also personally affected. His brother-in-law works in the area surrounding the bombing and was injured by falling debris as the Twin Towers collapsed. He was grateful that his daughter, who works on Wall Street and takes the subway through the World Trade Center, was away on business in Chicago.
The associate vice president added that the administration is urging students to notify them if there are any measures that need to be taken that have not been already.
"The campus is willing to reach out," said Wilson. "If people have suggestions on how we can help better in ways we haven't been doing please let us know."