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Church-related colleges welcome Dillard students

 


Church-related colleges welcome Dillard students

Sept. 14, 2005        

By Vicki Brown*

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — While Dillard University officials struggled to assess damage from Hurricane Katrina, other colleges rolled out the welcome mat for students from the historically black, United Methodist-related school in New Orleans.

“I have strongly encouraged students to enroll in other universities for this semester, and I understand many of them have,” said Marvalene Hughes, president of Dillard.

Reports of fire at the 55-acre campus have not been confirmed, Hughes said. “Reports are mixed. Some said the fire destroyed three buildings on campus, but others indicated the fire may have been across the street at buildings owned by Parks and Recreation.”

To her knowledge, all Dillard faculty and students are safe, although Hughes said many are scattered around the country. Some 250 Dillard students were given shelter at United Methodist-related Centenary College in Shreveport, La.

“Every cell phone with a 504 area code (the New Orleans area code) was out of commission after the hurricane,” said Hughes, who stayed with her sister in Alabama before setting up shop temporarily in Washington. Other staff are working out of an architect’s office in Atlanta.

She is asking faculty, staff and students to make contact through e-mail addresses posted on the Web site www.dillard.edu. Offers from other colleges willing to enroll Dillard students are being posted there, along with e-mail addresses and telephone numbers for those colleges, Hughes said.

Wanda Bigham, assistant general secretary for schools, colleges, and universities at the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry in Nashville, said generous offers began pouring into her office immediately after the hurricane from colleges all over the country, including offers from 60 United Methodist-related institutions to assist students from schools along the Gulf Coast.

“The offers were amazing,” Bigham said. Some colleges even offered to send a bus to pick students up, in addition to making offers of free tuition or free room and board, she said. Agency staff relayed those offers to the university for its Web site.

Officials at Albion College, a United Methodist-related school in Michigan, said faculty and staff would be willing to create a special set of courses for Dillard students, since the semester is already under way. The college had already accepted three students displaced by the hurricane.

Hughes said she understands many students have enrolled at other historically black colleges or at schools close to their homes. “Many want to be close to their homes,” she said.

Dillard has promised students they will not lose academic credit. Students who enroll at other accredited colleges will get full credit for those classes. In case classes can be resumed in January on the Dillard campus, a plan is being developed by Bettye Parker-Smith, provost and vice president for academic affairs, to offer the equivalent of two full semesters between January and August.

Hughes said faculty and staff who have direct deposit will get paid, and officials are working on a system to pay employees without direct deposit if they can be found.

Bigham said one of the problems has been letting students know about the offers from other colleges. Classes are already under way at many colleges, and information that would enable Dillard’s beleaguered faculty to contact students is at the flooded campus in New Orleans.

Rust College, another of the 11 historically black United Methodist-related colleges, offered help defraying tuition and other assistance. But Clarence Smith, registrar of the Holly Springs, Miss., school, said no Dillard students had enrolled. However, he said, Rust has two eight-week sessions that make up a semester. One is under way and the other begins Oct. 17, and he said some Dillard students might enroll then.

Even though Dillard students do not have transcripts or other information they would normally need to enroll, other colleges have been accommodating, Hughes said. “I’m not aware that any student has had problems enrolling at another college,” she said.

Hughes said she is in Washington to lobby for federal assistance and to work on other fund-raising to help Dillard recover.

“We will be back and better than ever,” she vowed.

An online link to donate directly to Dillard is at www.gbhem.org/hurricaneresponse.html. Donations can also be mailed to the Dillard Hurricane Relief Fund, c/o The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, P.O. Box 340007, Nashville, TN 37203-0007.

*Brown is an associate editor and writer in the Office of Interpretation at the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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