Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Katrina and Community

One of the side effects of Hurricane Katrina is that we are now witnessing a forced experiment in the role of the law school as both a physical place and a physical community.  From the AALS listing of law schools accepting displaced students, it appears that every law school in the United States is offering to do its part for the Tulane and Loyola students in diaspora.  Some schools have accepted dozens of visiting students; here at Buffalo I’ve met two Tulane students so far, and I imagine more will be coming.  Other schools are also offering space for librarians, faculty, and administrators.  On the other hand, Inside Higher Ed reports today that Loyola-New Orleans law school has announced that Loyola is relocating for the fall semester to the University of Houston Law Center.  According to Inside Higher Ed, “several hundred of Loyola’s 800 law students are expected to start the fall semester in Houston soon, where they will be taught by a cadre of at least 20 Loyola professors.”

Obviously the disaster presents huge challenges to every institution intending to recover over the next several months.  Dean Brian Bromberger at Loyola, and the entire University of Houston Law Center community, are showing great wisdom and generosity in this heroic effort to maintain the sense of Loyola’s first year students as a class, and I’m sure this will help enormously in Loyola law school’s recovery and survival.  Tulane has a much harder challenge in maintaining that sense of unity with their students dispersed across the country.  

Perhaps we in the other law schools can help.  Can we use distance education technology to help students, faculty, and administrators from both Tulane and Loyola keep in touch?  Associate Dean Joseph E. Kennedy at UNC-Chapel Hill has proposed a seminar on disaster relief that could be offered by law schools across the country.  I have suggested that CODEC, the CALI-sponsored Consortium for Distance Education, could help coordinate these efforts.  Could we also help by hooking up our foster-students with the technology to keep in touch with their fellow students in student organizations, journals, and the like?

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