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 Cassandra Robertson and her son Jabarri, who had just started Xavier University in New Orleans as a freshman, look over his admissions paperwork. "I'm so glad to have him home," says Cassandra. "This has been a nerve-wracking experience." Jabarri will commute to Berkeley from his mother's home in San Francisco.(Bonnie Azab Powell photo)

Expelled by Katrina, dozens of students find space at Berkeley
Admissions, housing staffs burn the midnight oil to welcome the displaced

| 08 September 2005

Campus admissions and housing officials have been working overtime to find places for some of the university students displaced by Hurricane Katrina - many of whom have accepted Berkeley's invitation and already arrived on campus.

Late last week Chancellor Robert Birgeneau offered places at Berkeley for up to 50 undergraduate and graduate students unable to study at their home campuses this fall. In addition, Boalt Hall Dean Christopher Edley, with the support of the law school's faculty, staff, and alumni, offered 20 second- and third-year law students, primarily from Tulane and Loyola universities, a chance to continue their studies at Boalt for the fall.

On Tuesday, 36 of the 41 students who have accepted Birgeneau's invitation so far arrived on campus and got a three-hour orientation that covered everything from housing opportunities to how to use their Cal ID card.

Meanwhile, 13 of the 20 law students who will attend from Tulane and Loyola universities were registering for classes and meeting fellow Boalt Hall students whose job is to provide their new classmates with insiders' help in making the transition to Berkeley.

Chancellor Birgeneau, in welcoming the new undergraduates, told them how sorry he was for the losses they'd suffered and said he hoped that their home campuses would recover as quickly as possible. In the meantime, he said, the entire Cal community was determined "to make your transition as seamless as possible."

Vice Chancellor for Student Services Genaro Padilla also welcomed the new undergraduates, reassuring them that "we are going to spend a lot of time with you over the next few days. I want to encourage you, as I encourage all new students, to be a part of this community . and to be engaged in the world of ideas."

Following recommendations from the Association of American Universities, which is helping to coordinate the hurricane response for displaced students with universities across the country, eligible students will register at Berkeley on visiting status so that they remain students of their home institutions. This arrangement, said Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Gray prior to Tuesday's orientation, "will also ensure their access to Berkeley's academic and student-support services."

As visiting students they will be responsible to their home institutions for fees and tuition. Housing, books, and other expenses will be borne by the students, but an outpouring of help has been offered, and campus officials have noted that they will be flexible and accommodating of individual students' needs. "We will make this work for them," said Padilla. Campus housing officials said they would set up 16 temporary spaces in the Unit 1 housing complex; other spaces were being offered by students in other residence halls. "Our students have been incredible," said Housing and Dining Services' Nancy Jurich. "We got an e-mail from two roommates at Clark Kerr saying, 'Thank you for the opportunity to do this.'"

It is anticipated that the displaced students will return to their home campuses after the fall term if those campuses are ready to resume operations. Tulane University has already announced plans to reopen for its spring term.

Half of the undergraduates being welcomed are Bay Area residents, a few others are from elsewhere in California, and the remainder are from Louisiana and other states. Many of the law students also hail from the Bay Area, and all have a California connection to provide a support network.

The visiting undergraduates range from entering freshmen to seniors from a wide range of majors. The largest number of students are from Tulane, based in New Orleans, with others from Loyola, the University of New Orleans, and two historically black colleges, Xavier and Dillard universities.

With space for up to 50 students, admissions officials worked with the students to determine whether their needs and Berkeley were a good match; they also took into account the order in which inquiries were received. "Most importantly, we looked at what classes they need to take and where we had space," said Walter Robinson, director of undergraduate admissions. "We asked whether they could be here by today [Tuesday] or tomorrow, because we were concerned that if they couldn't, they would get too late a start."

For the students who were not offered a spot at Berkeley for the fall, admissions officials suggested other UC campuses, which have yet to begin classes, and California State University campuses that might better match their needs.

Finally, recognizing that as many as 70 current Berkeley students, as well as many faculty and staff members, may have family who have been directly affected by the hurricane, University Health Services has set up counseling help at the Tang Center for all who wish it. For information, visit www.uhs.berkeley.edu/home/news/supportforkatrina.shtml.