Effect of Hurricane Katrina on Tulane University

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As a result of Hurricane Katrina and its effects on New Orleans, Tulane University was closed for the second time in its history—the first being during the American Civil War. The university closed for four months during Katrina, as compared with four years during the Civil War.[1]

The School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine's distance learning programs and courses stayed active.

Prior to Katrina, Tulane University was the largest private employer in the city of New Orleans; immediately afterward it became the city's single largest employer of any type - public or private.[2]

Evacuation[edit]

Tulane began to publicly respond to the arrival of Hurricane Katrina on August 27, 2005, with an initial plan to close the university until September 1. The following day, that date was extended to "no earlier than" September 7. University officials led a rare evacuation of nearly 400 students (one report said that the number was closer to 700) to Jackson State University, all of whom remained safe after the hurricane's passage and returned to their homes if they were from outside the gulf coast region. This was the second time Tulane's evacuation plan had been used, the first being in September 2004 during Hurricane Ivan. In other recent hurricanes such as Georges in 1998, Tulane simply used its larger dorms as shelters for students.

During the storm, Tulane University Hospital & Clinic lost power and received patients from neighboring hospitals and from the Louisiana Superdome. These patients, along with all hospital staff, staff family members present, and patients were evacuated within five days via helicopters from the top floor of a neighboring parking garage. This rescue effort was organized, directed, and paid for by the hospital's parent company, HCA.[3] On February 14, 2006 it was the first hospital to reopen in downtown New Orleans after the hurricane.[4]

Damage[edit]

On August 30, the university reported that "physical damage to the area, including Tulane's campuses, was extensive" and conditions in the city were continuing to deteriorate. Power was out, water levels were rising, all city roads were blocked, and most of the Tulane workforce had evacuated. (Ultimately, the damage was less than what was at first suspected. The water levels stopped at sea level, resulting in standing water ranging from several inches to several feet on the half of the campus sitting north of Freret Street, but no flooding on the other half, which contains the historic academic quad and buildings that extend to Gibson Hall on St. Charles Avenue.)[5] By September 1, only a core group of public safety and facilities personnel remained on campus. Tulane president Scott Cowen and an "emergency team" relocated to Houston, Texas to coordinate planning for recovery. Tulane reported that security was being maintained on campus and that students' belongings were safe in the unflooded areas of the dormitories. On September 2, President Cowen announced that the University would cancel classes for the fall semester.

Damage to Howard-Tilton Memorial Library[edit]

Howard-Tilton Library Collection Post-Katrina

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans on August 29, 2005, the 40,000 square foot basement of the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library was flooded with more than eight feet of water. Four feet of water filled the basement of the library annex in Jones Hall. These areas housed the library’s special collections, the Maxwell Music Library, and a very large collection of government documents. Due to serious flooding and damage to nearby neighborhoods, the library was inaccessible to reconnaissance teams for several days. In that time, the standing water in the basement, combined with the lack of electricity (and, thus, lack of temperature control and air circulation), lead to high humidity and temperature and thus the development of mold in the library at large. The disaster management company BELFOR was called to the scene as quickly as possible to begin recovery work. A temporary air circulation system run by generators was installed just 10 days after the storm and within a month, all of the water had been pumped out of the basement.

The damage from the flooding was significant. Basement walls were coated in slime and muck. Furniture and shelving had floated to the corners of the space, dislodging the materials that they once had housed, and subjecting them to submersion. The Maxwell Music Library had held more than 43,000 titles including books, scores, journals, and many rare and historic sound recordings on CD and LP. More than 70 percent of the printed books and scores were salvaged for restoration, but no recordings could be saved. The Government Documents Archive, which had held over 500,000 volumes, lost 90% of its collection. Nearly all of the salvaged government documents were trapped in storage units containers that had to be ripped apart to get at the saturated material inside.

A very large Microforms area on the north side of the basement had held more than 30,000 titles of facsimile collections of rare or scholarly material and newspaper archives. Less than five percent of these materials could be salvaged because of the damage that lengthy immersion in dirty water can do to microforms, especially in formats such as fiche or microcard. None of the materials from the original 19th century Howard Collection could be salvaged, due to structural wreckage and especially dangerous conditions in that area of the library. Despite the significant obstacles to success, more than 300,00 important print volumes, 18,000 reels of microfilm, and 629,711 archival items affected by the storm were salvaged and restored through a highly technical and elaborate process. [6]


Diaspora[edit]

In the faculty dining room at Tulane is this impressive quilt representing all organizations that took in Tulane students in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.

The American Council on Education and the Association of American Universities urged their member institutions to help displaced students from Tulane and the area's other universities. Hundreds of universities (492 in total) made provisions to allow Tulane students (and students from other affected colleges) to enroll as "provisional students" for the fall semester. When the university reopened in the Spring, Tulane transferred credits earned by students elsewhere. To further help students graduate on schedule, Tulane offered two academic semesters between January and June 2006. A regular spring term began January 17, with a seven-week "Lagniappe Semester" which ran from May 15 through the end of June.

Tulane School of Medicine relocated its students and essential teaching staff to Houston, Texas, and continued its fall semester at Baylor College of Medicine. This was aided in part by the support of Michael DeBakey, pioneering heart surgeon, graduate of Tulane School of Medicine and chancellor emeritus at Baylor College of Medicine. Students taking the basic science medical courses used the facilities at Baylor, while 3rd and 4th year students did clinical rotations in several of the nearby teaching hospitals located in Houston, Galveston, and Temple. Tulane attempted to keep the medical students together, and discouraged transfer, except in the most extenuating of circumstances. Students were able to request transfers, but many medical schools supported Tulane's attempts to retain their student body and thus their school, although some students were successful in their appeals to transfer. The School of Medicine's stay in Texas ('Tulane West' or 'Tulane at Baylor') ended, with the students and faculty returning to New Orleans in July 2006.

2005–06 Renewal Plan[edit]

Facing a budget shortfall, the Board of Administrators announced a "Renewal Plan" on December 8, 2005 to reduce its annual operating budget and create a "student-centric" campus. At the end of January 2006, the administration reported an estimated $90 to $125 million shortfall for the 2005–06 year. Tulane laid off about 2,000 part-time employees in September and October 2005, 243 non-teaching personnel in November 2005, 230 faculty members in December 2005, and another 200 employees in January 2006.

Under the Renewal Plan, Tulane eliminated six undergraduate and graduate programs in the Engineering School: mechanical engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering, computer engineering, environmental engineering, and computer science, and also a bachelor's degree in exercise science. The remaining two engineering departments, biomedical engineering and chemical and biomolecular engineering, were merged into the new School of Science and Engineering. The university cut twenty-seven of its forty-five doctoral programs and suspended eight NCAA Division I intercollegiate athletic programs.

As a result of the plan dismissing so many tenured faculty without what the American Association of University Professors considered "due cause," Tulane, along with three other New Orleans based universities, was censured [7] by the AAUP.[8] Tulane’s responses purportedly showed that the AAUP's draft report was flawed significantly and contained numerous errors of fact, omission and interpretation. Tulane's administration responded that the final version of the AAUP report acknowledges (mostly in footnotes) some of the corrections Tulane offered, and continued to assert that errors and meritless conclusions remain in the final version.[9]

For spring 2006 the administration reported that "94 percent of all students" returned. By keeping the school smaller, officials said they will not have to lower admission standards.

The university Renewal Plan created a single undergraduate co-ed college, Newcomb-Tulane College, in July 2006, discontinuing Tulane's liberal arts and sciences coordinate college system that comprised Tulane College (for men) and the H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College (for women). On March 16, 2006, the board announced establishment of the H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College Institute, an umbrella organization for extracurricular programs, "to enhance women's education at the university."

Claiming that dissolution of Newcomb College violates conditions on the gifts and will of its founder Josephine Louise Newcomb, Mrs. Newcomb's heirs sued Tulane to enforce their ancestor's donor's intent. The lower courts found for Tulane and the Louisiana Supreme Court refused to review the lower court decision.

Critics of the Renewal Plan charge the school administration of using Katrina as the excuse to push an agenda that would otherwise have been difficult to accomplish.[10] In response to cutting several engineering degree programs, students, faculty, and alumni started the Save Tulane Engineering campaign to reinstate the five engineering majors and the separate school. The American Association of University Professors expressed concern at the lack of meaningful faculty involvement in crafting the Renewal Plan, as did many students.[11]

On April 4, 2007, Tulane University announced that the School of Science and Engineering will introduce a new major beginning fall 2007, Engineering Physics. The major, the first new engineering major added since the School of Engineering closed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, is designed to meet the criteria of the Engineering Accreditation Commission, and is geared towards preparing students in quantum physics and nanotechnology.[12]

On May 8, 2007, Tulane announced that more than 1,375 high school seniors had committed to coming to Tulane University as part of the class of 2011. This increase in enrollment, surpassing 882 students from the class of 2010, and a planned 1,200 students for the class of 2011, marks a strong return in enrollment that nears the level prior to Hurricane Katrina. Tulane welcomed 1,500 new students including 128 transfer students in fall 2007.[13]

Effect on Athletics[edit]

See Tulane Green Wave

References[edit]

External links[edit]