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Fostering a Sense of Unity

Fostering a Sense of Unity
And Cooperative Spirit

The recent Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans sparked a flurry of media coverage and reminded Americans that life in the Crescent City remains a distant cry from its pre-Katrina days. It’s not surprising that the event garnered significant coverage. The city is still trying to right itself in the aftermath of a hurricane that has cut New Orleans’ population in half.

The revelry of Mardi Gras is the dominant image of the Big Easy. But there always existed a city hard at work educating thousands of college students. New Orleans has played a vital role in the education of African-Americans, with three historically Black universities located within its borders. Once again, Diverse tunes into the vital higher education story, taking a fresh look at how the city’s Black colleges are responding to the disaster.

In “Starting Anew,” Lydia Lum writes movingly about the struggles of displaced faculty members from all three HBCUs. Dillard University, Xavier University of Louisiana and Southern University, New Orleans have all made painful cuts to their faculty ranks. Many professors have had to look for work elsewhere, but hold out hope that they will eventually return to their home institutions. One bright note has been the commitment of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to pay salaries of 58 Xavier faculty members this academic year, allowing some of them to hold visiting faculty positions at schools around the nation.

Assistant editor Kendra Hamilton reports from New Orleans in “Restoring, Restructuring and Rebuilding,” shining the light on the three campuses and charting their relative progress at resuming their mission.

Kendra lived in Louisiana for two years and says the devastation of the hurricane hit her when she saw the waterline on the freeway, considered high ground, and the many abandoned cars still covered with mud.

The situation in New Orleans, Kendra says, is “too deep for tears. There was a dream in every house.”

Kendra reports that the crisis spurred by Katrina has fostered a sense of unity and cooperative spirit among the administrations of schools in New Orleans. Jealousy and competition have largely given way to communication and cooperation, as all of the institutions wrestle with unprecedented problems.

In “Wanted: The Retention of Female Graduate Students,” Veronica Mendoza looks into Stanford University’s new maternity policy. The university provides six weeks of paid leave for female graduate students, while maintaining their full-time student status. The university, which is following MIT’s lead in implementing the policy, hopes its efforts to retain female graduate students will ultimately boost the number of female faculty. Some students have questioned why the paid leave is only six weeks instead of the 12 weeks given to California’s state employees. Others wonder why there are no provisions for male graduate students. However, the policy seems to be a positive, if long overdue, step towards an academy that accommodates young families.

Hilary Hurd Anyaso

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