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Butler Perez, Tonia

Manager of Legal Services Tonia Butler Perez put her juris doctorate away and rolled up her sleeves to work the Student Hotline during the five days that Hurricane Sandy shut down the Cranford Campus. The Hotline telephones were set up as a six-line chain that rang incessantly. Ms. Butler Perez volunteered to take one of the first lines. As soon as she ended a call and hung up, the phone would ring again. Most of the students called to find out whether their Cranford classes were moving to Elizabeth or else were available via the online Hurricane Sandy ANGEL Shell. However, Ms. Butler Perez also received a number of calls "just because they had no lights or hot water. They wanted to find a place to get warm and wash off, so we invited them to come here" to the Kellogg Building in Elizabeth. The employees on the Hotline took a team approach to service. She says, "Having six of us all working at once enabled us to address a student’s problem right on the spot rather than forwarding the call to someone else." However, when a student had a problem she couldn’t solve: "Then I would go get someone to help that student. It might mean getting a counselor on the line." The key to the success of the Hotline: "It provided students with a human voice rather than an answering machine." And action on the Hotline was non-stop. "We weren’t taking any lunch breaks," she smiles.
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