Students turned away from Rec Center shelter during hurricane

The Hansel E. Tookes, Sr. Student Recreation Center on Florida A&M University's campus. 
Photo submitted by Alyssa King.

Hurricane Michael caused many to leave their homes and find shelter elsewhere. While some students evacuated Tallahassee, others stayed hoping to find safety on campus.

Early Wednesday morning on Oct. 10, the day of the hurricane, eight students tried to seek shelter at the Florida A&M University recreation center. To their surprise and dismay, they were turned away.

“I was disappointed, honestly. I could not believe they turned us away from shelter during a Category 4 hurricane,” said Maisia Daniels, a junior at FAMU.

The students were told that the recreation center was open only to the FAMU football team and everyone else had to go to the Foster Tanner band room for safety.

Although there was another place to relocate to, they couldn’t understand why certain students were allowed in the recreation center and others were not.

The situation prompted the frustrated students to take their frustrations out on social media.

“If I a person, let alone a student at FAMU who pays tuition, is told that I cannot get into a facility because I am not a football player, that is sad! There is no argument to be had. Wrong is wrong,” said Daniels.

Many students voiced their opinions on social media, siding with the eight students who were turned away.

“To physically turn someone away at the door during a natural disaster when you could easily help them and quite possibly save their lives is disgusting,” said FAMU junior Mikala Shannon.

After being tagged in numerous posts about the incident, FAMU made a statement on the official FAMU Twitter page.

“Please know, all FAMU students/employees were welcomed and invited to the band rehearsal hall for shelter via FAMUInfo, FAMU websites, social media and iStrike. The football team shelter area has limited spaces and cots. It could only be authorized for team activity at this time.”

Student body Vice-President Robyn Seniors saw what was being said on social media and contacted the administration immediately to see how to resolve the situation.

“Please go to the band room first as that was the original designated area for shelter. There are currently 17 cots left. When the band room becomes full, then and ONLY then will we open the Rec,” Seniors tweeted. “We chose the band hall because the rec has more windows making it more of a safety hazard. We are currently housing the football team there so they can prayerfully make it to NCAT for their big game Saturday.”

While Seniors’ response may have calmed some,  others still felt snubbed. In the eyes of the students, there should have been no reason why the eight students were turned away while trying to find shelter as a crisis was beginning to unfold.