Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

HBCU Faculty and Community Groups Offer Plans for Future Hurricanes

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

HBCU Faculty and Community Groups Offer Plans for Future Hurricanes

Article excerpt


Days after the current hurricane season began, a consortium of academics and community organizers gathered in Jackson, Miss., to confront the likely possibility that Katrina was not their last deadly storm.

The need for clear, well-researched disaster plans that includes civic engagement was the focus of the symposium, "Response to Community Crisis: Lessons from Recent Hurricanes." The three-day event held earlier this month was sponsored by Tougaloo College and included the HBCU Faculty Development Network and Campus Compact, a group of college presidents committed to involving the academy in civic causes.

"HBCUs are very vulnerable in this kind of crisis because they tend to be very old and to have old institutional resources," said Dr. Joseph Stevenson, director of Jackson State's executive doctoral program. "We have to apply and leverage knowledge within the institution and with each other."

Stevenson was among several presenters who discussed the specific threat of hurricanes to historically Black colleges and universities, as demonstrated by the devastation of Xavier University of Louisiana, Southern University New Orleans and Dillard University during Hurricane Katrina. All three campuses were dosed for the fall semester. Xavier reopened in January while Southern moved many of its operations to its Baton Rouge campus and opened a temporary trailer campus in New Orleans. Dillard held classes for 1,048 students in the Hilton hotel in downtown New Orleans, and the campus is slated to reopen on Sept. 25.

Presenters offered case studies and best practices for preparing campuses for disasters and for using physical and intellectual institutional resources to help needy populations in the surrounding communities.

"Where are the nearest health facilities? Where do you get 5,000 bottles of water? How do you move students out of the area?" were among the questions Stevenson said the plans should address.

The Jackson State presenters recommended that Dillard, SUNO and Xavier collaborate on a joint emergency preparedness plan, developed with the assistance of government and private funding.

Others suggested special planning for preserving archives and collections, developing community-campus partnerships with organizations such as United Way and faith-based programs, and assisting elderly citizens and residents of nursing homes in their communities. …

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