What Happens if a University Burns Down?

Hypothetical questions are always interesting to consider, especially those based on catastrophe and destruction. Unless we have past occurrences of the scenario in question to learn from, the hypothetical answers depend on analyzing the data and considering a number of theories.

Take a university burning to the ground, for instance. What exactly would happen next in that scenario?

What Happens if a University Burns Down - Pass by Catastrophe

There would be students at the university studying and, supposing they aren’t killed in the fire, what would happen to their grades? Would they automatically pass everything, have to repeat everything, or could we expect something else entirely?

The Urban “Pass by Catastrophe” Legend

There is an urban legend which states that if a university were to burn down or be destroyed in some other way, all the students there would graduate with a bachelor’s degree right away.

This theory is an interesting one, but there is a difference between what is interesting and what is true. Bear in mind that most universities are huge, covering a lot of land and tens or hundreds of buildings. Unless there is an extreme natural disaster or a nuclear bomb happens to drop on the whole thing, it is unlikely a whole campus would burn down.

Also read: What Happens if You Fail a Class in College

Something else to think about with regard to this urban legend is assuming a university would abandon every student after such an occurrence. There have been natural disasters and school shootings in the past, which did not lead to the schools getting rid of their whole student body. Instead they look for safer alternatives and try to get back on track as soon as possible.

Has Anything Similar Actually Happened?

Think back to August 2005 when New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Tulane University had no option but to cancel the fall semester after suffering over $650 million in damages caused by the hurricane. Scott Cowen, who was the president of the university then, suggested to students that they take classes at a different college while Tulane worked on cleaning up the campus.

New Orleans devastated by Hurricane Katrina-Tulane University
New Orleans devastated by Hurricane Katrina-Tulane University

Another example we can look at is the Virginia Tech shooting which happened in April 2007. This resulted in 32 being killed and a further 17 wounded. The school decided to suspend classes for a week. Students were given the choice of abbreviating their coursework and still getting a grade. Every student who died in the shooting received a posthumous degree.

A Student Affairs President Gives His Opinion

A staff writer of the Valdosta State University newspaper actually asked the school’s student affairs president what would happen if the VSU campus were to burn to the ground.

President of school affairs, responded that although the physical building structure is tied to the college experience in a big way, such a catastrophe wouldn’t necessarily mean the end of anyone’s studies.

Online courses, changing education and distance learning are becoming ever more popular in recent times, and he claims that this adds a huge degree of flexibility to the way someone can earn a college degree.

He also said that if the college were razed to the ground, alternative locations and methods would be used to continue the students’ education. They might be able to rent another facility while their own was rebuilt. VSU can share resources with other colleges, because it is part of a higher education system in Georgia.

A college degree, according to president of school affairs, is gained by passing all the necessary classes. That is the way it has always been no matter where or how you achieve it.

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