How Jackson’s College is Responding to the Water Crisis

As Jackson’s water emergency has left the city’s campuses with little to no water pressure, forcing schools to move classes online and go without air conditioning, many college students are using portable showers and toilets. I’m using.

Administrators at three Jackson-based universities (Bellhaven University, Millsaps University, and Jackson State University) have no idea how long these emergency measures, such as restricting cafeteria hours and distributing bottled water, will last. not.

“The situation is fluid and no pun intended,” Michael Bolden, director of campus operations at Jackson State University, told Town Hall on Tuesday. Things are moving up and down depending on how .

Because Tougaloo College has its own well system, a Mississippi Today spokesperson confirmed that it was not affected by the city’s water emergency.

There were no classes on Tuesday at Belhaven University, a few blocks from the JH Fewell Water Plant. The administration has been closely monitoring the situation in meetings throughout the day and hopes to have a better idea of ​​how to proceed by the weekend.

Some buildings now lack water or have low pressure on higher floors. The university has limited meal service to boarding students and is distributing bottled water for drinking and non-potable water to flush toilets.

In a letter to the campus, Belhaven University President Roger Parrott said, “Due to the uncertainty, we are taking the following steps tomorrow only.

Parrott said he hopes to provide more information to students by Tuesday evening, but Belhaven University is on a “downhill,” so the campus will be one of the first areas in the city to regain water pressure. I expect it to be

“Thankfully our campus is ‘downhill’ and has kept the water on longer than elsewhere in town,” Parrott wrote. “Once the factory is repaired, he will be one of the first areas in town to restore water pressure.”

Colleges and universities are effectively small municipalities, providing 24-hour housing, food, security, medical care, and utilities for thousands of Jackson students. Water disruptions are impacting not just student learning, but every aspect of life on campus, from dorm showers to buying hot meals on campus.

“We are approaching the 24-hour mark for this event,” he said.

UMMC put its campus under fire surveillance, but it was unclear if other Jackson Colleges were doing the same as of Tuesday afternoon.

Annie Mitchell, Vice Chancellor of Marketing and Communications at Millsaps College, said: “We rely on the city for that.”

At Millsaps, a small liberal arts college on a hilltop in downtown Jackson, the emergency management team meets twice a day at the start of the second week of classes, Mitchell said.

On Tuesday morning, water pressure was back above 30 PSI, allowing students to flush the toilets.

“Millsaps is one of the tallest places in the city, and our student dormitories on the second and third floors make it difficult to flush toilets with gravity alone,” Mitchell said.

The mobile showers and toilets were brought in Monday night, but Mitchell said he did not yet know how much it would cost the university. The Wi-Fi outage on campus wasn’t due to the city’s water emergency.

“Our provider had a global outage. It was really unfortunate timing,” she said.

Millsaps also requested a portable hygiene station from food provider Aramark.

As for classes, Mitchell said Millsaps moved to virtual around 11:30 a.m. Monday after seeing a drop in water pressure. Students and faculty are off today in case they need to go home, and classes (except labs) will be virtual for the rest of the week.

“At the time, I wasn’t really sure how water would affect services on campus, so I just wanted to give students as many options as possible in terms of where they would go: laundry, flushing toilets. , showers, etc.,” she said.

Jackson State University held a one-hour town hall on Zoom Tuesday afternoon to discuss the impact of the water emergency on campus. Her four top administrators at a university just west of downtown answered the students’ questions. Brown McClure, Bolden, President Thomas Hudson, and Alisa Mosley, Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Almost three weeks ago, the university was delaying dormitory move-ins due to low water pressure. JSU has now moved classes online for the rest of the week and plans to resume in-person classes by next Tuesday.

The IHL’s risk management office has reached out to JSU and is “ready to assist with any needs identified by the university,” Brunton wrote in an email.

Many dormitories do not have water on the upper floors. JSU delivered water bottles to the students last night and this morning. There is no laundry service and the library is closed to ensure water is available for students’ basic needs. The university is moving forward with bringing in water for preparing meals in the cafeteria and installing portable showers for students by tomorrow.

Air conditioning has been a problem in parts of the campus, but Bolden said students should start noticing cooler temperatures in the afternoon.

Students asked multiple questions about whether living in the dormitory was safe. Parents asked if they should prepare to take their children home.

“You can come, but as we have stated, you should be aware of the ever-changing circumstances that are taking place and the implications for the state of Jackson – we are not going to turn down students who arrive. But this is really up to you — the point and the comfort level of whether or not you arrive on Saturday,” said Brown-McClure.

During City Hall, Brown McClure repeatedly told students that the campus was not in an “evacuation situation.”

Again, campus is open. We are not closed,” said Brown-McClure. “You can still hang out, you can still walk in the square. I just looked outside. I have to.”

“Campus safety is still here, the cafeteria is still here, and we are open,” she added.

Brown-McClure told students that tuition and housing costs are set by the state and cannot be adjusted by the university.

The administrator also answered multiple questions from students about JSU’s efforts to acquire its own water system. The goal became especially urgent after last year’s ice storm froze the running water to the university. Jackson’s water problems caused periods of low and no water pressure on his JSU campus until 2010.

Hudson told students that JSU is actively working to explore the possibility of building its own water system on campus. He said there are state and federal funds available to help universities build their own water systems, but didn’t go into details.

Four colleges in Mississippi have their own water systems, according to institutions of higher learning, including Alcorn State University, Mississippi Valley State University, Mississippi State University, and the University of Mississippi.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center uses its own water source for approximately 90% of its campus, with the remainder supplied by the city.

In an email to the Faculty Council last week, Bolden wrote that the university had “launched a request for funding to determine the best option to meet its needs.” Major and regular conversations with the Department, members of the MS State Legislature, and City of Jackson officials.”

Millsaps is also considering building its own well system due to the impact of the 2021 ice storm on students and campus. The university is currently in the funding stage of the project.

Mitchell said Millsaps found no “direct correlation” between ice storms and declining enrollment, but Jackson’s water problem is a challenge for students, faculty and staff.

“One of the perks of going to Millsaps is that it’s a great living experience,” she said.

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