U. of Puerto Rico Is Closed as Hurricane Maria Wreaks Destruction

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A report by Samuel Hoisington for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The University of Puerto Rico’s 11 campuses and central office are closed in the wake of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria.

“The whole island is without power right now, and the destruction has been catastrophic,” Joseph Martinez Huarneck, the university’s director of communications, told The Chronicle in an email on Thursday. “The communications infrastructure has practically collapsed. Cellphone and internet service are unstable. TV and radio stations, except three or four, are unable to broadcast.” He said it was unclear when the university would be able to reopen. “It will all depend on when power is restored,” he said.

Additional emails to Mr. Huarneck and other staff members weren’t immediately returned. A message on the university’s website says: “Due to the effects of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, our services and communications are limited. We will provide more information shortly.”

An official on the Río Piedras campus, in San Juan, told El Vocero, a newspaper,that classes could be out for a month or more. The paper described multiple buildings as damaged, dormitories without power, and trees uprooted on the university’s largest campus. A news producer posted what he said was a photo of the campus, in which trees can be seen obstructing the road.

The student newspaper there posted a video that shows uprooted trees littering the campus.

Milagros Rodriguez, a professor and librarian at the university’s Humacao campus, is unable to return there. She is using her Facebook account to share updates about hurricane damage. She is worried about her colleagues and the collections she cares for.

“I’m in charge of five collections at the library in the third floor. I’m really concerned if they are safe,” she wrote. “At this moment I don’t have news about my co-workers.”

This is the third major hurricane to make landfall in the United States in recent weeks. Texas colleges reported relatively minimal damages from Hurricane Harvey. Florida colleges were shut down in the days before Hurricane Irmamade landfall, and were able to reopen relatively quickly.

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