Irene Delays Columbia Student Move-In While Harvard Opens Early

Hurricane Irene is delaying a rite of passage for students starting college along the U.S. East Coast as campus officials look to avoid compounding the pain of parting with actual physical injury from the storm.

Columbia University, New York University and Harvard College are among schools that have changed or delayed move-in dates for students. Irene, classified yesterday by the U.S. Weather Service as a Category 3 hurricane with top winds of at least 115 miles per hour, was expected to reach North Carolina this weekend before working its way up the Atlantic coast.

New York University switched move-in to Aug. 29, delaying by a day the scene of thousands of freshmen and their parents carting TVs, small refrigerators and beanbag chairs to dorm rooms before sometimes tearful goodbyes.

“We believe this is the best course for ensuring the safety of our new and returning students,” John Beckman, a spokesman for NYU, said in an e-mailed statement.

Typically, 5,000 students arrive on campus on move-in day, spokesman James Devitt said in an e-mail. Jules Martin, vice president for Public Safety, and Marc Wais, vice president for Student Affairs, announced the change yesterday in an e-mail to families.

Columbia University, also based in Manhattan, similarly canceled the Aug. 28 move-in, rescheduling it for the following two days, the university said yesterday.

‘Torrential Rain’

Freshman students moved in yesterday at Harvard. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based school also began opening campus houses where non-freshmen reside yesterday instead of Aug. 28 and Aug. 29 when “high winds and torrential rain” are forecast, Dean Evelynn Hammonds said in a statement.

“Students planning to arrive in Cambridge in the coming days are urged to monitor weather projections closely and should consider, if possible, traveling to Cambridge either before or after the projected height of the storm,” Hammonds said.

George Washington University in Washington, where buildings were evacuated three days ago after a 5.8-magnitude earthquake in Virginia rattled the East Coast, is giving students and parents the option of moving in today instead of tomorrow, University President Steven Knapp said in a statement.

Officials at nearby Georgetown University were checking water supplies and generators and eyeing the storm’s path, said Rachel Pugh, a spokeswoman for the school. Move-in remained scheduled for today and Aug. 27, and some students arrived yesterday, Pugh said in an e-mail.

“At this time, we anticipate that move-in will proceed as planned for our new students,” Pugh said.

Evacuation on Hold

Farther south where the hurricane was predicted to strike with more force, school officials said they were in close contact with state emergency disaster response teams to judge the appropriate response.

The University of North Carolina at Wilmington was reviewing its decision not to evacuate after the storm’s projected path shifted to the west and closer to the campus, which lies near the state’s coastline, Dana Fischetti, a spokeswoman for the school, said in an interview yesterday.

The eye of the storm is still projected to hit farther north.

“We’re still hoping an evacuation would not be necessary,” Fischetti said.

About 13,000 students started school this week. Fischetti said the university would reach a decision in time to give faculty, staff and students six to eight hours of daylight driving to relocate.

The university system allows out-of-state students to move to sister campuses at Greensboro and Charlotte that are farther inland, she said.

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