Hurricane Ida crashed on the Louisiana coast and neighboring Mississippi on Sunday, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power, including the city of New Orleans. Colleges and universities in and around the city are now grappling with yet another crisis in addition to the spread of the Delta variant early in the academic year.
“We came back this semester to be face to face for the first time,” said Dr. James H. Ammons Jr., Chancellor of Southern University in New Orleans (SUNO). “And now, with the loss of power in the city, this educational process will be halted for days, maybe weeks.”
Ida made landfall in Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane. On Monday, it was downgraded to a tropical storm. SUNO is one of eight colleges and universities in New Orleans that withstood the ravages of Ida. 40 other higher education institutions are within 160 km of the city.
“Hurricane hit New Orleans on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina,” Ammons said of the Category 5 hurricane that devastated New Orleans in late August 2005, killing more than 1,800 people and costing the city $ 125 billion in damage. “Ida has now arrived at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, which has added challenges to the university and the community at large. “
Many higher education institutions affected by Ida, including SUNO, were closed on Monday and will remain closed until Wednesday, possibly longer, depending on when power is restored.
Tulane University, a partner institution in New Orleans, has announced that the campus will be closed and classes canceled until Sunday, September 12. Classes will begin online only from September 13 to October 6 as the city works to restore power.
“We are very grateful and count our blessings – especially our students, faculty and staff,” said Dr. Michael Fitts, President of Tulane. “We are continually amazed and touched by the courage, positivity and exceptional personal commitment of the Tulane community. Many in our area have suffered extensive damage and we plan to participate in relief efforts to support our neighbors in need. . “
Loyola University of New Orleans also announced plans to resume online classes on September 13, given uncertainty about when critical power and services will be back up and running in New Orleans. Before the storm, the vast majority of Loyola University students had been evacuated. About 350 students out of a total population of 4,500 students remained on campus and were safe during the storm. The University helps them move.
At SUNO, there were 41 students living in on-campus housing which are now being transported to the university campus in Baton Rouge. While there was no major damage to Ida’s New Orleans campus, Ammons said resuming education will be a challenge for everyone.
“The hurricane just interrupted a semester that had so much hope because we are bringing our students back,” he said. “All of us in higher education have a huge responsibility to ensure that our students acquire the skills to be competitive while many deliver our programs virtually. We want to get back to a normal educational environment as soon as possible. “
Rebecca Kelliher can be contacted at [email protected]