MSU response to Hurricane Katrina

09-02-2005

I’m going to interrupt my reflections on the start of the new academic year to share a few thoughts about the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf coast, particularly in southern Louisiana and Mississippi.

I can’t recall a natural disaster in the United States during my lifetime that caused so much destruction. Many in the MSU community have friends and family in that area. Our thoughts are with them and with all of the victims and their families.

In many ways, the tragedy is still unfolding. As I write this, there still are search and rescue operations underway, and the human toll continues to rise. Individually, members of the MSU community are doing what they can: making contributions to the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and other relief organizations; donating blood; and putting together grass-roots efforts to do even more.

Across campus, people are looking for ways to help. Some initiatives are in the planning stages, others are already underway. Michigan State is working through the Association of American Universities to help Tulane University by offering temporary housing and library access for students and helping faculty sustain their research programs. We are handling other requests from displaced students from the New Orleans higher education community on a case-by-case basis. And MSU College of Law has offered to take in 25 law students from Tulane and Loyola Universities, both located in New Orleans.

The university will collect money donations during the first two home football games of the season, and $2 from every game-day program sold at the Sept. 3 game will go to the relief fund. And we will hold a candlelight vigil on campus Wednesday, Sept. 7, for the victims and survivors of the hurricane. More information on these and other initiatives can be found on the MSU Newsroom in a special report on Huricane Katrina.

In addition, MSU’s Counseling Center is offering its assistance, even if it isn’t entirely clear yet what kind of assistance people here and arriving here might need. But we learned after 9/11 that needs vary from person to person, and whatever they are they eventually must be addressed.

As always, Michigan State’s experts and expertise are available to help. Thomas Wolff, MSU associate dean for undergraduate studies in the College of Engineering and associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is a consultant to the Army Corps of Engineers, working on levee design and risk assessment. Like many, he’s ready to offer whatever assistance he can. But like many of his colleagues nearer the affected areas—who have their bags packed and are poised to go—he’s waiting until the extent of the damage can be determined and the authorities send out the call.

We will continue looking for ways to put together a broader MSU response and ways for our community to participate in the ongoing relief efforts, the clean-up and eventual rebuilding which, we’re told, could take months, maybe even years. I’ve asked Barbara Steidle to coordinate the many activities that will be part of the MSU response.

Meanwhile, I encourage each of you to do what you can.

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