Days after our last issue hit the mail, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast with Category 5 ferocity, decimating the fragile levee system that had protected New Orleans from flooding for more than a century. Even now, several weeks after the fact, officials still haven't fully assessed the death and destruction wreaked on Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Tulane University and Loyola of New Orleans announced they wouldn't reopen until spring 2006. All told, there are about 25 postsecondary institutions in the areas affected by Katrina, and some sources estimate 120,000 students have been displaced. And storm season isn't over yet.
Since the terrorist attacks of 2001, we've brought you stories of what colleges and universities were doing to ensure the safety of their students and the continuity of education. It became clear that IHEs were going to great lengths to prepare for the worst.
Sadly, in Katrina's aftermath, it was also clear that the mechanisms put in place by the government to handle such disasters failed miserably. Critics charge bureaucratic bungling prevented rescuers from responding quickly after the storm--an argument I won't get into here.
Instead, I want to recognize the efforts of dozens of colleges and universities that did jump into action. Immediately after the storm, an online higher education emergency network sprouted, with schools sending messages to worried parents that their students were safe, or offering to accept transfer students in the hope that they could continue their education. Numerous higher ed associations and corporations joined them. In particular, SCUP, the Society of College and University Planners, quickly established a communication link, setting up a listserv to spread the word of schools that were accepting students or organizing fundraisers, blood drives, and food drives. The University of Louisiana at Monroe, unaffected by the storm, offered spare dorms and facilities as relief shelters for thousands of evacuees. The school's Lafayette campus took in 6,000 at the Cajundome. McNeese State University (La.) housed 1,200 special needs patients at its Burton Coliseum.
In an overwhelming show of support and cooperation, institutions around the country have offered to temporarily enroll displaced students. The list includes: Babson College (Mass.), Binghamton University (N.Y.), California State University System, Christian Brothers University (Tenn.), Dordt College (Iowa), Green Mountain College (Vt.), Henderson State University (Ark.), Hiwassee College (Tenn.), Lander University (S.C.), Lindenwood University (Mo.), Murray State University (Ky.), New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rice University (Texas), Southern Utah University, Spelman College (Ga.), St. Gregory's University (Okla.), Unity College (Maine), University of Akron (Ohio), University of Charleston (S.C.), University of Kentucky, Utica College (N.Y.), University of Wisconsin-Madison, Washington and Lee University (Va.), Wheelock College (Mass.), and others.
Higher ed vendors have joined the effort, too, with Blackboard offering free ASP hosting for three months to clients who have been affected by Katrina. The Sallie Mae Fund said it would match any Hurricane Katrina Red Cross donations made by NASFAA members. EDUCAUSE will launch a community exchange site to help those who have resources or can offer assistance to connect with those who need the services. And NACUBO launched campusrelief.org, an information clearinghouse for institutions and students.
These institutions and companies deserve our thanks.
Help the relief effort. See UB's list of Hurricane Katrina resources on our website at www.universitybusiness.com/katrina.