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Back to School in a Post-Katrina New Orleans

February 08, 2006

If you walked the halls of Tulane Law School today, you'd never know there was a Katrina.  Never know that storm forced all 1028 law students to either sit out the semester or visit at schools across the country.

Tulane Law School resumed normal classes in Weinmann Hall on January 9, with 84% of its students returning. By then, storm damaged parts of the building had been repaired with six classrooms sporting fresh paint, new carpet and chairs.  The building did not flood but did suffer water damage from numerous roof leaks and broken windows.

But  make no mistake, things are different at Tulane Law School in the post-Katrina world.  

The school is offering classes six days a week,  starting earlier and lasting later each evening,  part of a carefully designed plan to allow 1L students to catch up for time lost last semester. The entire first-year curriculum is being offered in six months this year. To accommodate the needs of the upper level students, 22 additional courses  have been added to the spring lineup.  Fortunately, no law faculty or programs have been cut.

According to Dean Lawrence Ponoroff, this spring semester will be "the most intense, most intimate academic experience of their lives" for the first-year law students, with the student-faculty ratio cut in half.

Against this backdrop, law students and faculty are much engaged in the issues raised by Katrina. There are weekly lectures on environmental and rebuilding issues.  Students are volunteering in many ways from clean up projects to offering free legal services. Some students are expressing themselves in artistic ways by authoring journals, even acting out their experiences on stage.  All are living and learning from the experience.


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