Conceding Defeat -- for a Semester

Tulane and Loyola call off plans for the fall, colleges outside New Orleans set re-opening dates, and academic conferences relocate.
September 6, 2005

Tulane University announced Friday and Loyola University on Sunday that they would not open for the fall semester in the wake of the damage of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The universities' announcements came as leaders of key higher education groups issued guidelines for colleges to use in helping students unable to attend college in New Orleans.

Other colleges in New Orleans may well be forced to make similar decisions. And academic meetings scheduled to take place in New Orleans during the next few months are being moved or called off. But a number of other colleges that suffered damage from Katrina are announcing plans to re-open for this semester.

Meanwhile, colleges nationwide continue to offer slots to students -- and in some cases, faculty members -- displaced by Katrina. Special fund raising drives are being launched, such as a campaign by the United Negro College Fund on behalf of three member institutions hit by Katrina, Dillard and Xavier Universities in New Orleans, and Tougaloo College in Mississippi. Sallie Mae announced new loans and loan relief for students at institutions shut by Katrina. And curators and others concerned about the Gulf region's many rich historic and cultural landmarks and research centers started to take stock of the damage that had been done.

Facing the Inevitable

While the decisions by Tulane and Loyola were not a shock, they do not bode well for the ability of other colleges to quickly regroup. Tulane and Loyola are not located in one of the more heavily flooded parts of New Orleans.

Scott Cowen, Tulane's president, posted the news about calling off the fall semester on Friday on a temporary Web site set up by the university. He wrote that despite progress in New Orleans and at the university ( its Web site is once again operational, and is now devoted to news about how the university will try to recover), it would be impossible to have a fall semester.

Cowen urged Tulane students to enroll at other colleges for the semester, but pointed to a set of guidelines issued by the American Council on Education and seven other higher education associations that are designed to ensure that students fleeing New Orleans return in time to their home institutions and that New Orleans colleges do not lose tuition revenue. The guidelines urge colleges to admit students from New Orleans institutions only on a temporary basis, to not charge tuition if the students have paid a New Orleans college already, and to send tuition charges to the students' home institutions if they haven't paid tuition.

While there will not be classes at Tulane this fall, its Green Wave athletic teams will compete. While details have not been announced yet, the university is working to enroll groups of athletes at colleges where they may practice together and compete on behalf of the university. The football team is at least temporarily at Southern Methodist University, in Dallas.

On Friday afternoon, Tulane's women's soccer team took on the University of Louisville, becoming the first Tulane team to compete since Katrina. While Tulane lost, 2-1, the university's athletics department noted the achievement of the women on the team in even staying competitive. "After a week in which they were evacuated to Jackson on a 10-hour bus trip, slept on a gymnasium floor in a power-less gym while Katrina roared through Mississippi and witnessed the devastation of their city on television from Birmingham while riding an emotional roller coaster, the ladies of the soccer team represented Tulane proudly and impressively," the department said.

Tulane students who are not together for athletics are using blogs to stay in touch and to express their emotions. While some trade information about possibilities of enrolling elsewhere, many students express intense loyalty to the university. One student's blog entry, "If we don't graduate together, I'm gonna cry," led many others to pledge not to enroll elsewhere, and to graduate late if need be, provided that they graduate together, and in New Orleans.

Much of the attention at Tulane and elsewhere has been focused on students, but there are numerous practical problems facing faculty members and other employees. For example, Tulane's Web site notes that records for payroll were largely wiped out. The university is trying to gather necessary information to start paying its employees again.

Loyola announced its plans on Sunday, noting that students could enroll for the fall semester at any of the university's 27 sister Jesuit institutions in the United States.

At the same time, Loyola announced that it would pay faculty and staff members through the fall semester. Loyola administrators are setting up temporary offices in Alexandria, La.

Delgado Community College and Nunez Community College have also announced that they are closed until further notice. Delgado announced that full-time faculty members would be paid, but that adjunct faculty members would only receive pay for hours that they had worked.

Elsewhere in the Delta

Other colleges in New Orleans have not announced official closings for the fall semester, although it is clear that this semester will be far from normal. The University of New Orleans has a lake front campus, much of which has been under water since Katrina arrived last week.

A statement from Tim Ryan, the chancellor, on Friday, said that the university would start online classes in October and would work to open its main campus and satellite campuses "as soon as possible."

New Orleans is a key city for historically black colleges. Leaders of Dillard and Xavier continue to work to re-open their campuses. And many students from Southern University's New Orleans campus are moving to Southern's flagship campus in Baton Rouge.

Like Southern, many Louisiana colleges outside of New Orleans are expecting a quick influx of displaced students. The Louisiana Board of Regents has set up a directory so that displaced faculty members can indicate their availability for work, and institutions with sudden hiring needs can bring on new talent.

Many colleges in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama shut down in the immediate aftermath of Katrina and are now announcing re-opening dates. In Louisiana, classes will start Wednesday at Nicholls State University and Thursday at Southeastern Louisiana University. Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge will start classes today, one week late, with plans to issue a revised academic calendar for the semester.

The University of Southern Mississippi had hoped to resume classes this week, but has pushed back the date until Sept. 12 because of difficulties with power and debris. The University of South Alabama and the University of Mobile will resume classes today.

New Locations for Academic Meetings

While Katrina's greatest impact is on colleges in New Orleans, the hurricane is also leading to changes of plans for thousands of academics nationwide who had planned to attend academic meetings in New Orleans. For academic meeting planners, the last year has been a challenging one already, with labor strife in San Francisco leading a number of associations to move meetings from hotels there. New Orleans and San Francisco have been among the dozen or so cities with facilities large enough to play host to the largest of academic meetings, and attractive enough to be a great lure for attendees.

Among the academic groups that have announced plans to move meetings from New Orleans are:

  • The American Society for Microbiology had been expecting 12,000 attendees for a meeting September 21-24 on antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy. The conference has been postponed until December 16-19 and will take place in Washington.
  • The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning has announced that it is evaluating new locations for its annual meeting, and will keep the scheduled dates of November 8-12.
  • Phi Delta Kappa has announced that its annual conference, scheduled for November 10-13, will either be moved or called off. A decision will be made by September 12.
  • The Council on International Educational Exchange is looking for a new location for its annual meeting, November 16-19. While a new location has not been picked, the council announced that the Forum on Education Abroad, which typically meets in conjunction with the council's annual meeting, will move its meeting with the council.
  • The Council of Graduate Schools has yet to pick a new location, but has announced that it will find one for its annual meeting, December 7-10.



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