University offers assistance to displaced students

GW, along with dozens of other universities across the country, will allow students from Tulane University and several other institutions in the New Orleans area to take classes here after Hurricane Katrina forced schools to delay their semesters.

Students from the Gulf area looking to take classes at GW would be enrolled as non-degree students on a space-available basis. While no University housing will be provided, GW said it would waive any late registration fees that these students might incur, according to an e-mail sent Thursday afternoon by Donald Lehman, executive vice president for Academic Affairs.

University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said that he came to the decision after speaking to national organizations and finding out what other universities were doing.

Trachtenberg added that GW has several ties to Tulane, pointing out that its current university president Scott Cowen received his master’s degree and his Ph.D. from GW. Louis Katz, University executive vice president and treasurer, formerly worked at Tulane.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Trachtenberg said in an interview Thursday night. “We would expect them to do the same thing if the situation was reversed.”

The University is also coordinating a relief drive for donations to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. In a mass e-mail Thursday, John Williams, GW’s provost and vice president for health affairs, encouraged all students to make a contribution to the fund, which will be located in Ross Hall.

Tulane University, whose Web site, e-mail service and telephone lines have been down because of hurricane infrastructure damage, has posted instructions for students on an emergency Web site. The page states that the university will try to recover as quickly as possible.

“The uptown campus is covered with debris from fallen trees and shrubs, making it almost impossible to drive or even walk on campus,” Tulane University President Scott Cowen wrote on the Web site. “We have no power in any of the buildings other than a few where we control the power source.”

Cowen noted, however, that although he is optimistic, until conditions stabilize it is impossible to do any long-term recovery planning. New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin has said that the city will not be functional for at least two months.

Tulane University has not canceled its fall semester as of Thursday, but is rumored that it will do so because of the city’s damage.

“I know all of our students are anxious about our re-opening date; again, in the next few days we will be able to speak more confidently about a start date for the fall semester,” Cowen wrote Wednesday. “We will recover from this event and be stronger because of it.”

Other universities are providing similar services for displaced students. Syracuse University in New York said it would provide housing and food services for the first 15 undergraduate students from Tulane who want to attend classes, The Associated Press reported Thursday.

Rice University in Texas will be admitting undergraduate students enrolled in Tulane from the Houston area on a space-available basis without any out-of-pocket expense. Texas Southern University is admitting students from Louisiana and is also hiring displaced faculty from Tulane, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Prior to Thursday afternoon’s decision to admit displaced students, the University stated that it could not accommodate any transfer students from the Gulf area.

GW Admissions Director Kathryn Napper said that the admissions office has received between 50 and 75 phone calls in the past few days, mostly from freshmen at Tulane looking to transfer.

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