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After Katrina

We have all been moved by the unspeakable tragedy that has befallen our fellow citizens as a result of the horrific devastation of Hurricane Katrina. As long-time residents of Louisiana, my wife Rachel and I are stunned almost beyond belief by the destruction of New Orleans and smaller communities throughout the wide path of the storm.

It was terrible to see the dispossessed huddled in the Superdome like steerage passengers below decks on the Titanic. It is sobering to think that there is a very real likelihood that human activity has created the planetary phenomenon of global warming, intensifying the extent and force of storms like Katrina, while more local mismanagement of precious wetlands and river basins has laid the stage for this vast human and ecological disaster.

Joining with citizens throughout the country, members of the UVM community, individually and collectively, took action to alleviate the immediate suffering and contribute to the long-term well-being of the millions who have felt the scourge of Katrina. At the University of Vermont we are also exploring how we can help students and faculty based in New Orleans at Dillard and Xavier universities, two of the nation’s leading historically black colleges, so that they can sustain their studies and programs until their campuses are able to re-open.

The connections between Vermont and Dillard run deep in the institutions’ history and are also very recent. UVM alumni were instrumental in the founding of Dillard, and in 2004, we honored Michael Lomax, former president of Dillard and now president of the United Negro College Fund, with an honorary degree. Working through an effort coordinated by New York University’s Faculty Resource Network, we are making arrangements to host some of the displaced Dillard faculty for the remainder of the fall semester. In addition, a number of Tulane undergraduates have enrolled at UVM, three as permanent students and an additional six for the fall semester only.

Though thousands of miles separate the Gulf Coast and Burlington, Vermont, we are all drawn closer by the test of this greatly troubled time in New Orleans and surrounding communities. The gruesome spectacle of Katrina’s aftermath is a vivid reminder of why UVM’s commitments to social justice and environmental stewardship must be expressed above all in the preparation of students who will be leaders committed to making a difference in their lives and work.

To the alumni and parents of the UVM community directly affected by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, our thoughts and prayers are with you all.

—Daniel Mark Fogel