UNL Opens Door to Hurricane Victim Students

Dear Colleagues and Students:

We have all been saddened by the news of Hurricane Katrina and the stories of personal grief and tragedy that have emerged over the past several days. This devastating natural disaster has affected the lives of millions, and our hearts go out to them. I have received calls and e-mail messages from students, faculty and staff asking what they can do to help, and offering suggestions for university efforts. In the face of such an overwhelming situation, our initial gestures may seem small. In the long term, I know we will find ways to make more significant contributions to the recovery and rebuilding efforts that lie ahead.

I want to update you on some of the things the University of Nebraska community is doing to assist victims of the hurricane. First, thousands of college students in the Gulf Coast region — including many students from the Midwest — have seen their campuses closed indefinitely due to hurricane damage. We have opened the doors of our campuses to them.

For those students eligible for admission who are unable to return to their home campuses, we will immediately accept as many as we can at our campuses. We will allow them to enroll this fall at in-state tuition rates, and provide assistance in quickly registering them for classes, finding housing and whatever additional help they need.

On Wednesday, we established an email address (NUhelp@Nebraska.edu) and a 24-hour toll-free number (1-800-742-8800) to handle inquires. Prospective students can also complete a brief form at www.nebraska.edu. We have provided this information to local and national news outlets and to the national higher education associations.

We have received many inquiries over the last two days, and our campuses are already working with displaced students who wish to enroll at NU this fall. I want to commend the individuals on each campus who have taken on additional responsibilities and are providing timely, patient and professional assistance to these students. The reaction from students and parents with whom we have talked has been very positive.

There has been an enormous outpouring of support from faculty, students and staff on all of our campuses. Student and other groups are organizing fundraising efforts. Faculty and students are discussing service-learning programs involving on-site assistance. NU students, faculty and staff who have personal ties to the affected area have been encouraged to seek counseling and other assistance through existing university programs. We are also looking into providing space, to the extent available, to accommodate faculty from affected institutions.

Thank you in advance for your generous donations of time and assistance. I am grateful that the University of Nebraska can play a small role in providing help to those affected by Hurricane Katrina.

James B. Milliken
President, University of Nebraska

The Doomed City

The Doomed Cities,” by Michael Leeden, National Review Online, 1 September 2005, http://www.aei.org/publications/pubID.23118/pub_detail.asp (from private email).

In toto:

As we mourn New Orleans, let us also celebrate it, as New Orleanians famously celebrate their own dead. The city has long been admired for its literary creativity, its exceptional food, and its wonderful music, and deplored–albeit also frequented–because of its legendary corruption and degradation. The possibility of its destruction no doubt played a role in the character of its people, and it is no accident that an annual bacchanal took place there, in the riotous celebrations of Mardi Gras. Death has always been omnipresent in the consciousness of the city; dancing in defiance of death was the city’s trademark, and the spirited music that defined New Orleans for much of the world was played at the happiest occasions, and at the most famous funerals.

New Orleans is one of a handful of cities that are defined in large part by the recognition that it can all come to an end most any day. Joel Lockhart Dyer wrote that “New Orleans is North America’s Venice; both cities are living on borrowed time.” New Orleans and Venice are both subject to the vagaries of the water gods, and both have acted sporadically to fend off their seemingly inevitable fate. But their basic response to the looming disaster has been defiance, a ritual assertion of life in the face of the inevitable, and an embrace of human frailty that echoes the frailty of the city itself.

Carnival in Venice, albeit more so in the past than today, has much in common with Mardi Gras, including the use of masks by the celebrants, who thereby throw off their daily identities to participate anonymously in the licentious celebrations. Thomas Mann knew what he was doing when he wrote Death in Venice, in which a proper German professor (pointedly named Aschenbach, the stream of ashes) hurls himself into bawdy Venice to recover his repressed sexuality and creativity. Similar characters abound in the works of Tennessee Williams, who lived many years in New Orleans, the setting for both A Streetcar Named Desire and The Rose Tattoo. William Faulkner also found New Orleans a congenial place for his creative labors. And in both cities, the bacchanals are religious, celebrating both sin and the hope of redemption thereafter, as if a sinner were more attractive to the Almighty than a virtuous soul, at least on that day.

Moreover, Venice prefigured the most likely cultural and political destiny of New Orleans, no matter whether the long-anticipated catastrophe came or not: a slow slide into monotonous ritual, a city transformed into an historic theme park, more frequented by tourists than defined by the energy of its inhabitants, an anachronistic curiosity like Florence, where one focuses on things past, not present or future.

But there is much that separates them. Venice is a northern city, and New Orleans is profoundly southern. A German like Mann might find Venice to be incredibly warm and sunny, but no knowledgeable Italian would. And the presumed naturalness and spontaneity of Venetians could only be taken seriously by someone from even farther north. New Orleans, on the other hand, incarnates the south. New Orleanians are perversely proud of the slow tempo of their daily life, of the absence of industry, and of the fascinating spectacle of human foibles and failures that seems at one with the city. The Italian city that most closely matches New Orleans is Naples, not Venice. Naples also faces destruction–volcanic destruction, from “Vesuvius the Exterminator,” as the poet Verga once wrote–and Naples, too, is noted for a lively, and often lawless style of life, along with great literature, art, cuisine and music. Unlike Venice, Naples is every bit as southern as New Orleans, and the European stereotype of the Neapolitan is very much like the American image of New Orleanians: lazy, happy, spontaneous, and unrepressed, slow-moving but quick-witted, and very happy with the food.

Naples and New Orleans also share a common affliction: disease. An enormous number of New Orleanians and Neapolitans have died of cholera; indeed, one of the best books on modern Naples is entitled Naples in the Age of Cholera. New Orleans had the additional scourge of Yellow Fever. In both cities, the effect of these epidemics and mass deaths meant, as Frederick Starr puts it in his excellent book on New Orleans, “death…was not merely a private drama occurring in the intimate circle of one’s family, but a civic event, experienced by the entire community.” Both cities have a highly developed culture of death. The dead are believed to be actively involved in daily life, busily haunting houses and even restaurants, sending dream messages to the living, and organizing good and bad fortune for those who have or lack proper respect for the inhabitants of the spiritual realm.

The dead themselves require special treatment, because both cities lack proper traditional burial grounds. New Orleans is below sea level, and the soil in Naples is very porous, so the dead are usually placed in tombs, not in the ground. In some Neapolitan churches, you can see skeletons in the walls, and local artists paint clothing around the skeletons. This sort of intimacy with the dead is unknown in most of the modern world.

The combination of a rich culture of death with the looming threat of catastrophe is an intoxicating mélange for the spirit, and it no doubt explains why so many great writers have been drawn to these two southern cities, both of which have developed a unique version of Catholicism, often to the consternation of Rome. As Starr observes of New Orleans (and it is equally true of Naples), “all this frivolity occurs in the very city which, for over two centuries, Death visited more ruthlessly than anywhere else on the continent.”

Doomed cities with an intimate relationship with the dead are special places, incubators of exceptional qualities of spirit and thus of extraordinary inventiveness. If we have lost one of those cities to the forces of nature, it will impoverish our world far beyond the enormous human tragedy. Even if it was long foreseen.

The Collapse of New Orleans

Trapped in an Arena of Suffering,” by Scott Gold, Los Angeles Times, 1 September 2005, http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-superdome1sep01,0,4489032.story?coll=la-home-headlines (from Drudge Report).

An excerpt:

At least two people, including a child, have been raped. At least three people have died, including one man who jumped 50 feet to his death, saying he had nothing left to live for.

The hurricane left most of southern Louisiana without power, and the arena, which is in the central business district of New Orleans, was not spared. The air conditioning failed immediately and a swampy heat filled the dome.

An emergency generator kept some lights on, but quickly failed. Engineers have worked feverishly to keep a backup generator running, at one point swimming under the floodwater to knock a hole in the wall to install a new diesel fuel line. But the backup generator is now faltering and almost entirely submerged.

There is no sanitation. The stench is overwhelming. The city’s water supply, which had held up since Sunday, gave out early Wednesday, and toilets in the Superdome became inoperable and began to overflow.

“There is feces on the walls,” said Bryan Hebert, 43, who arrived at the Superdome on Monday. “There is feces all over the place.”

Proof I’ve Been Way to Busy with Graduate School



New Orleans is gone? wtf?

And from Zen Pundit

Security comes first. And that gets established in a dicey situation in terms of mass psychology by setting a shockingly harsh example with the first looters and then using the moment to swarm the area with boots. Lots of them. Whomever held police and troops back ( or failed to give clear orders, intentionally shifting the legal responsibility to the outnumbered cop or guardsman on a flooded streetcorner) from shooting looters out of stupidity or concern for ” how things would look on TV” has a lot of deaths on their head right now.

Civilization is a fragile thing. Thanks to roaming gangs with guns made possible by governmental incompetence,we now have a situation that could unravel a lot further if we give these inchoate criminal mobs time to organize themselves. The U.S. military needs to step in now even if it means pulling a few combat and military police units from Iraq temporarily. And then massive relief aid needs to follow fast ( you can donate to the Red Cross here ). The penny-ante effort detailed by the AP is not enough.