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Most Katrina Students Leaving in Spring

By Angeline Wang

As schools affected by Hurricane Katrina prepare to reopen, the 10 displaced undergraduates hosted by MIT this term are also making plans for their next semester. The four seniors will be returning to their normal colleges to graduate, but plans for some of the remaining six are less certain.

MIT waived tuition and fees and provided housing for the visiting students, who came from Loyola, the University of New Orleans, Tulane, and Xavier.

“At this point, [the four seniors] are making plans to return to their home institutions and are generally in contact with their respective advisors in Louisiana,” said Julie B. Norman, associate dean of academic resources. “Now that the seniors’ situations are clarified, I will meet with the other six students to assist as necessary,” Norman said.

While some students are looking forward to returning to their universities, Luke H. Harris ’09 said he would like to stay at MIT.

“I like it here a lot” said Harris, for whom MIT was originally a first choice for college. “I have met a lot of good people. The classes are tough, but it’s worth it.”

Since Harris had only just arrived at Tulane for his first year when he was evacuated, he is in a different situation than some upperclassmen. “Seniors are mostly worried about graduating. Others want to see their friends,” he said.

“Right now, I’m just taking things a little at a time to see where I’ll be next semester,” Harris said. He said he believes that even if he cannot stay this spring, he will be able to return to MIT as a transfer student next fall.

Students enjoy MIT experience

The visiting students have generally found life at MIT to be enjoyable. All are doing well and are “particularly resilient,” Norman said.

“My MIT experience has been great,” said Kate A. Babineau ’06 from Loyola. “The MIT community has been extremely welcoming, and I already feel comfortable here. My classes are interesting, and I enjoy what I’m learning.”

Babineau, one of the two visiting students who chose to live off campus with family, said other than the hour-long commute, “my living situation is great.”

However, “I miss New Orleans a lot, and I look forward to the day when I can go back full time,” Babineau said. “I visited two weekends ago for the first time since the storm, and although the city is still in rough shape, it seems like people are really trying to regain a sense of normalcy.”

“So far my MIT experience has been amazing,” said Dorothy A. Hernandez ’07, who has already registered for classes at Tulane next semester. “As excited as I am to return to Tulane, I will be sad to leave and will miss the friends I have made in the MIT community.”

Universities offer extra term

Loyola, Xavier, and Tulane will each be offering an extra semester, to help students catch up on their credits, especially for graduation, Norman said.

The University of New Orleans was hit the hardest out of the four schools, and all employees are working at remote locations as the campus is restored. “Remediation work is in full progress on the campus,” Norman said.

Alton A. Torregano ’07, from UNO, said he is especially concerned about housing at UNO. “I don’t have anywhere to stay,” Torregano said. “Almost all the housing immediately surrounding the university is unavailable.”

The director of student housing at UNO has indicated that Bienville Hall, UNO’s traditional residence hall, should be operational for spring, Norman said. Torregano said he will know officially from MIT in the coming weeks whether he has the option of remaining next term.