What comes to mind when I mention the end of August? Is it the beginning of a new school year? Is it those first few carefree lectures before tons of reading and homework kicked in? Is it the times you could party all night long because the dreaded test wasn’t glaring up at you from that annoying pink syllabus? [1]
Or is it the thought that Hurricane Katrina, one of the five most devastating storms to ever hit the United States, wiped out half the Gulf Coast and could result in upwards of 10,000 deaths. Suddenly, losing my ID and getting a 1.0 on a pop quiz don’t seem so terrible.
The tragedy of such an event never seems to hit close to home, unless we’re the ones with family members missing or have loved ones perish. But many students and faculty on campus have personal ties to the states touched by Katrina, even though we’re hundreds of miles away. So, in times like these, everyone looks for ways to reach out and help – it should be the same here at MSU.
The MSU College of Law has offered to take in 25 students from Tulane and Loyola universities. Those students will be placed in emergency housing with law school faculty and will be able to continue their studies at MSU until they pass the bar exam or until their schools reopen.
Similarly, the College of Human Medicine is working with the Association of American Medical Colleges, offering aid to place medical students displaced by the hurricane.
According to the university Web site, undergraduate students are being evaluated on a case-by-case basis and accepted once the university can meet their individual needs.
“The Academic Assembly unanimously passed a bill on Sept. 6 urging the university to take in as many tuition-free refugees of the hurricane as possible,” said Bob Murphy, chairman of the ASMSU Academic Assembly. “They’ve pretty much accepted everyone that’s applied.”
[2]A few smaller groups within the university have also risen up and found ways to help those in need – ways that actually encourage the participation of the 45,000 students, faculty and staff on MSU’s campus.
The Lyman Briggs School of Science Student Advisory Council has decided to collect monetary donations in the cafeteria and lobbies of Holmes Hall. Student volunteers also collected money donations during the first two home football games while others donated blood to the Red Cross.
“There have been very many creative efforts coming from the students directly,” said Murphy. But it’s pitiful that the majority of students have no ideas what these so-called ‘creative efforts’ are and what individual students can do to help.”
Because despite the fact that as adult members of society, we have a responsibility to help those in need even without the university’s lead, how many students actually know about the many relief efforts going on across campus? How many students are actually contributing and doing something to aid those in need? How many students have actually been informed about the ways they can make a difference?
“I’m a part of Change for Change and we did something earlier this year,” said human biology sophomore Kashif Syed. “But the university needs to get the word out because nobody seems to really know what programs are out there.”
If MSU is where we are during this time of national turmoil, MSU has the responsibility to provide ways for its students to get involved in the relief efforts. This university is not just an institution passing on knowledge but a place for its students to learn the values of communication, community and service.
Nobody denies it’s tremendous that MSU is accepting displaced students from various universities in the New Orleans area, but what can we, the students, do to help them and others in need?
Some residence hall managers have organized donation programs but every hall should provide a venue for its residents to donate to those affected by Katrina.
“We’re asking people to drop off hygiene products, non-perishable food items and new clothing,” said Brad Ledingham, the Mason-Abbott/Snyder-Phillips complex director. “We’re also figuring out ways to distribute what we’ve collected to people that have been relocated in the Lansing area.”
It’s not that students living in other complexes don’t want to help. It’s just difficult for individual students to organize relief efforts; many of us just don’t know what to do. Programs would be much more effective if the school took more initiative. Residence halls could provide ways for students to offer assistance at a university level.
“I only heard about a few ways for students to get involved through an e-mail,” said no-preference freshman Caleigh Ferguson. “The university could definitely do more, like put up fliers to help students become more aware.”
In a web-posted letter to all students, you said, “as a university, our global mission and land-grant roots accompany our heartfelt call to action in support of relief efforts.” But what are the actual relief efforts? Generic terms like “relief efforts” can’t just be thrown out and not followed up.
And if there are many university-sponsored programs providing aid to the victims of Katrina, why don’t the majority of students know about them? This is a school of 45,000 people; that’s more than four times the number of projected bodies to be found by the end of the clean-up effort.
Imagine the possibilities if only you, L.A., did something more to organize your students. Imagine the number of people MSU could help, MSU could aid, MSU could save.
“It doesn’t seem like the school’s too concerned about raising much money to help those in need,” finance senior Mike Abraham said. “Maybe they’re trying, but it’s just not good enough.”
Leadership D. Prived

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