UC Berkeley News


Students Danny Furuyama, Jessica Cheng, Ruth Chang, Sunniya Basravi, and Rebecca Pollack gathered nearly $1,000 for Red Cross relief efforts during their Sproul Plaza stint last week. (Cathy Cockrell photo)

Berkeley rallies in Katrina's wake
Campus community acts to donate relief funds, support affected staff and displaced students, and offer its varied expertise

| 14 September 2005

In the two weeks since Hurricane Katrina battered the Gulf Coast, the Berkeley campus has been mobilizing its resources to support ravaged communities, displaced students, and those most affected here at home. The outpouring of goodwill and professional concern has come from student organizations, human- resources and mental-health staff, faculty experts in many fields, alumni groups, and many other corners of the Cal community. Here is a broad, though necessarily incomplete, overview of campus efforts to date:

Charity donations

It pays to rename the MHCRC

At last week's CITRIS-sponsored town-hall meeting, campus faculty announced the launch of a new national forum for faculty and researchers around the country to discuss disaster-related organizational, engineering, economic, and policy issues. But its tentative title - the Multi-Hazard Catastrophic Reduction Center - doesn't quite roll off the tongue.

Hence, Professor of Civil Engineering Robert Bea is offering a $100 cash award for the best name - even if it doesn't end up being the official title. The selected name will capture the center's interest in every manner of disaster, from flood to pandemic; Bea says those evaluating suggestions will be especially alert to any name that forms a good acronym.

E-mail suggestions promptly to Bea et al. at Chrc123@gmail.co. The contest deadline is 5 p.m., Monday, Sept. 19. The winner will be announced in a future issue of the Berkeleyan.
At the Sept. 3 home football match-up with Sacramento State, fans donated $25,000 for the Red Cross, gathered in cardboard boxes passed through the stands. Student groups are collecting donations dollar-by-crumpled-dollar in rubber tubs on Sproul Plaza.

At the campus Visitors' Center, student tour guides anted up $600 for a co-worker with family on the Gulf Coast.

Student organizations are banding together to plan a series of fundraisers under the banner "Cal Katrina Relief"; offer a student-run DeCal course to help displaced visiting students adjust to life at Berkeley and share their experiences; and prepare for an Alternative Spring Break, during which students would travel to affected areas to help with relief efforts.

Alumni clubs in Southern California are raising funds for Katrina disaster-relief efforts. Spearheaded by Elizabeth San-bourn '77, the effort has garnered support from alumni, as well as from the Alumni Scholarship Association.

Paid leave for volunteers

Chancellor Birgeneau has approved the granting of paid administrative leave to campus staff who wish to volunteer through official relief agencies such as FEMA and the American Red Cross. (For details, see https://mossberg.berkeley.edu/CALmessages/display_message.asp?d=9/8/2005&s=103).

Support group for campus employees

University Health Services has started a weekly support group for staff and faculty affected by Katrina and its aftermath; it meets on Wednesdays, noon to 1:15 p.m., in 5053 Valley Life Sciences. "The main focus is on people who have direct concerns for family and friends along the Gulf Coast, but it's also open to others who need to talk," says Kathleen Handron, manager of CARE Services at Tang. "We have people who have been through other community disasters, like the Oakland Hills fire and the Loma Prieta earthquake; they know what it's like to lose their home, and the kinds of pictures we're seeing reopen old wounds."

UHS is also offering written handouts on coping with traumatic stress and helping colleagues who have been affected by the disaster (see uhs.berkeley.edu/home/news/supportforkatrina.shtml).

Memorial event

Victims of the Katrina disaster will be honored during the annual campuswide memorial ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 15, at noon, west of California Hall.

Assistance to displaced students

On Friday, the campus announced the creation of the Katrina Relief Fund (https://colt.berkeley.edu/urelgift/katrina_fund.html), to benefit the displaced students - 50 undergraduates and some 90 students in law and other graduate programs - studying at Berkeley temporarily until their home institutions recover. Donations to the fund will help pay for everything from food to housewares, emergency travel, and phone bills for the visiting students. Campus staff are also working with local businesses interested in donating money or in-kind contributions for these students.

Housing staff have arranged to house displaced students in residence halls and local rentals. There is still a need for individual private-entrance rooms with bathrooms or studio apartments; those who can help should contact Becky White at Cal Rentals (bwhite@berkeley.edu), putting "Katrina Housing Offer" in the subject line).

International House is providing room and board for a student from Louisiana who will be studying at Boalt Hall this semester. It hopes to accommodate a few more students in financial need, tapping its financial-aid program and donations from supporters.

The Cal Student Orientation (CalSO) office, which moved quickly to provide a special orientation session for displaced undergraduate students, is currently matching counselors with individual students to work together throughout the semester on issues that may arise. The California Alumni Association is setting up a program so that alumni can serve as virtual mentors, and University Health Services plans to start a mentoring program as well.

Inquiries about programs for displaced students should be e-mailed to undergradhelp@berkeley.edu.

Faculty expertise

Berkeley faculty members with relevant expertise are acting quickly to help victims and emergency-relief agencies and to provide insight and perspective on the disaster.

Last Thursday, the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) held a town-hall meeting to mobilize campus researchers in the New Orleans rebuilding effort.

Professor of Civil Engineering Robert Bea, former chief of offshore civil engineering for Shell Oil, summarized the situation along the Gulf Coast and his proposal to "put feet on the ground" in New Orleans to assess the situation and learn lessons for the future.

"We need to go to ground zero to gather data and preserve the things that can get trashed or lost (in the recovery effort)," Bea says. "CITRIS can help to preserve and analyze this data." (See sidebar at right for details of his attempt to name the new effort.)

Bea will focus on offshore issues, such as oil platforms, and plans to send two engineering grad students later this month to conduct interviews and observations; Berkeley alums will help with logistical support for this research.

Professor Ray Seed, a geotechnical engineer, is spearheading an effort to assess the levee and flood walls. He plans to apply what he learns to California's levees in the San Joaquin delta, which are vulnerable to earthquakes. (If they go, he says, most of Southern California will lose its water supply for months or even years.)

Karlene Roberts, a professor of organizational behavior in the Haas School of Business, is heading an effort to identify organizational breakdowns in the catastrophe, with particular attention to failures and lack of coordination at all levels - family, neighborhood, emergency services, state, local, and federal.

Jack Moehle, professor of structural engineering and director of the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center, is emphasizing the need to steer federal disaster-preparedness efforts to California's earthquake-prone areas as well as the hurricane areas of the Southeast. He and architecture professor Mary Comerio, an internationally recognized authority on post-disaster reconstruction issues, are looking at disaster preparedness and recovery on the Gulf Coast, as well as implications for the San Francisco Bay Area.

Rafael Herrera, director of admissions at the School of Social Welfare and a Red Cross volunteer, is heading up an effort to place grad students with mental-health training at the local Red Cross chapter, where volunteers are fielding calls from displaced persons and assisting local residents who are hosting refugees. "We hope to have a cadre of 12 to 14 graduate students trained by Friday," he says.

Public-information officers in the Office of Public Affairs have compiled a comprehensive and frequently updated list of campus experts willing to provide perspective for the news media (see www.berkeley.edu/news/extras/hurricane/experts.html), and have worked to connect these experts with local and national print and broadcast journalists. As of Monday, Berkeley faculty have been quoted in more than 100 articles pertaining to Katrina and its aftermath, and have appeared on a number of radio and television shows. Meanwhile, the Government Relations staff in Public Affairs have been facilitating contact between campus experts and state and federal officials, to alert government of pressing issues raised by Katrina, offer advice on solutions, and seek funding to help avoid future disasters.