Displaced Students Find Home at UF
Aaron Hutchinson, a 2L student at Tulane University, has no idea whether the 19th century house he rents is underwater. He doesn’t know if his car, which is parked on the top floor of a parking garage, has been looted. He doesn’t know what happened to any of his possessions, save two suits of clothes and his laptop computer.
But he does know he is lucky to get out ahead of Hurricane Katrina, the storm that devastated New Orleans. Like more than two dozen other students from Tulane and Loyola University- New Orleans, he’s hoping to keep his career on track for graduation by temporarily enrolling here at UF.
“Everyone here has been really great,” Hutchinson said. “They have offered me places to stay and clothes to wear. The administration has been really helpful and professors have offered to help me after hours so I can catch up.”
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, law schools around the country have opened their doors to the roughly 2,000 students displaced by the storm. With 29 New Orleans students enrolled and space for a few more, the Levin College of Law is doing its part to help Louisiana law students get back to normal.
“It’s something we can do,” said Associate Dean for Academic Affairs George Dawson. “If you’ve watched television lately, you know there are people in New Orleans with far larger problems than an interrupted education – but it’s going to take a lot of work, in a lot of areas, to get life back to normal, and accepting new law students is something we have the power to do.”
Dawson said Louisiana students aren’t likely to compete with regular UF students for space in coveted classes. He said the law school is accepting only 2Ls and 3Ls, and admitting them to classes only on a space-available basis.
Finding a local place to live has been a major concern for arriving students, said Director of Admissions Lewis Hutchison. So far, however, there has been no shortage of people willing to take law students in.
“The students and faculty have been eager to open their homes to these students,” he said. “So far, we have more housing than we have students in need of it.”
Hutchison said the registration of Tulane and Loyola students has run smoothly, in part because the law school’s leaders reacted quickly to news of the storm. “You can tell everyone had this on their minds even before the storm hit,” Hutchison said. “For instance, when we asked Dean (Patrick) Shannon how many students we could take, he was able to give us a number instantly.”
Of course, UF administrators have good reason to devote their attention to hurricane planning. “This is Florida, after all,” said Dawson. “We’re always aware that in a week or a month, we could be in a similar situation.”