Welcome to Tulane, Now Leave

The car was unpacked, the roommates were chatting and the parents were hovering – but similarities between move-in day at Tulane University in New Orleans and Colgate University ended there.

Less than five hours after arriving on campus for the start of the 2005-2006 school year, members of Tulane’s class of 2009 were told, quite bluntly, to “get out of town.”

On August 27, as Hurricane Katrina approached the Gulf Coast, Tulane University President Scott Cowen called an emergency meeting of parents and students to deliver a simple message: “Welcome to Tulane; now leave.”

Administrators initially expected classes to resume the week of September 5, but the extent of the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina on the Tulane campus and the New Orleans community proved too great for the University to open its doors for the fall semester.

As a result, thousands of students previously enrolled at Tulane and other similarly affected Gulf Coast institutions have enrolled as visiting students at generous colleges and universities nationwide. Last week, Colgate joined Harvard, Princeton, Brown and other leading institutions as it welcomed two displaced students to Hamilton, first-years Sarah Weinrib and Melissa Gordon.

Gordon arrived at Tulane at 9:00 am, only to learn at the emergency meeting five hours later that she would be heading home. She had already moved all of her belongings into her dorm room and was forced to leave behind everything except her Laptop computer.

Since Gordon’s parents were with her in New Orleans, she was able to go home to Westchester County, New York, but students without transportation were sent to Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi, to wait out the storm.

Once back in New York, Gordon called Colgate University, where she had been offered admission, to see if any space was available for the fall term. The University was able to arrange a room for her in ‘Gate House and enrolled her as a visiting student for the fall semester. Gordon says that her welcome here has been so warm here that she might consider staying beyond winter break.

“Even though I wasn’t planning on coming here, I’ve met a lot of nice people,” Gordan said. “I really like my classes, and my roommate rocks.”