In response to the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina, the University has begun admitting displaced college students from disaster-stricken universities while continuing to locate missing University students from areas hit by the hurricane.

Chelsea Trull
A man sits on the front porch of a home surrounded by water from Hurricane Katrina, in New Orleans, yesterday. (AP PHOTO)
Chelsea Trull
A message board has been set up on the floor of the Reliant Astrodome to help evacuees contact each other. Approximately 18,000 evacuees packed into the Reliant Astrodome for their third day in the stadium. (AP PHOTO)

Sue Eklund, the University dean of students, said yesterday that of the 86 current University students who are from the disaster-affected areas – Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana – her office has yet to hear back from 32 students.

“We have not heard of our students being seriously injured or worse, though it’s important to note that some do have missing relatives, more have missing friends,” she said.

Eklund added that her office is using e-mail to contact the missing students and offering to pay for plane tickets for students unable to access their bank accounts. She said the Office of Financial Aid has also been assisting students financially affected by the disaster on an individual basis.

While the University does not know the whereabouts of 32 students, Eklund said many of those students may have ignored her office’s e-mails or will only begin checking their University e-mail accounts once school has started.

With some colleges effectively shut down from the flooding, University officials said their offices have been inundated with inquires from displaced students hoping to attend the University.

Ted Spencer, director of undergraduate admissions, said on Friday that his office has received about 50 inquiries, 31 of which were from Tulane University students. Tulane, a college of about 8,000 undergraduate students located in New Orleans, canceled its fall semester on Friday.

The Office of Undergraduate Admissions has so far admitted 12 as nondegree students, Spencer said, adding that the office does not plan to limit the number of displaced students who wish to attend the University.

“We are taking this one on a case-by-case basis,” Spencer said. “There is no number associated with this. Our primary concern is to help the students in the area attending a university by helping them continue their education.”

He also noted that the admissions office has in some cases abided by an “honor system” for displaced students that have never applied to the University and as a result undergraduate admissions does not have their transcript information on hand.

But Spencer said his office does not anticipate any future problems because the students who have been admitted either applied to or were accepted by the University but chose to attend a different college. Spencer said he expects the inquiries to cease by Sept. 9, when fall semester is underway.

The University’s law school also announced on Friday it would begin accepting displaced students, with priority given to third-year law students and to students with connections to the state or the University. Sarah Zearfoss, director of admissions at the Law School, said on Friday there would be 10 openings.

The Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning also announced it would admit 15 displaced architecture students. The Rackham Graduate school has also begun accepting displaced graduate students. The Michigan Daily could not reach the other schools to obtain their admissions policies regarding displaced students.

The University has yet to develop a tuition policy for the displaced students, said Kelly Cunningham, a University spokeswoman.

“The University is working with others in the higher education community to best figure that out,” she said.

Spencer, the director of undergraduate admissions, said he has found that many of the displaced students have already paid tuition for their original schools or that their parents currently have no access to their bank accounts.

Despite its residence halls being over peak capacity, the University is trying to secure on-campus housing for the displaced students. Alan Levy, spokesman for University Housing, said the office has offered on-campus housing to at least two students. Housing hopes to secure lodging for other displaced students through off-campus housing groups that have offered discounted rates, Levy said.

Carole Henry, assistant vice president of University affairs, said University staff members have also aided incoming displaced students by providing them with emergency funds to buy school supplies.

“There were staffers who literally went shopping with (a) student and bought her the items she needed. We are just doing whatever we can,” Henry said.

Along with incoming students affected by the hurricane, the University has also accepted one faculty member, Prof. Steven Pierce, from Tulane University’s history department. Pierce will teach history at the University beginning Sept. 21. Cunningham said the University so far has no plans to receive any more faculty members from other universities affected by the hurricane.

In addition, the University Health System has begun planning a relief effort, but Krista Hopson, spokeswoman for UMHS, said on Thursday the health system leadership still needs more time to organize a proper response. She added that the University’s Survival Flight helicopters are still on standby to transport hurricane victims if needed.

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