Campus community steps up Katrina relief efforts

Growing numbers of University community members are offering their time and creativity to Hurricane Katrina relief initiatives, including Princeton's commitment to help Dillard University recover from the storm's destruction.

Students, faculty and staff members have raised funds and volunteered for various relief efforts in the weeks following the hurricane. They continue to plan benefit events on campus and service trips to the Gulf Coast region, while welcoming visiting students and faculty members who have been displaced from their own institutions affected by Katrina.

Earlier this month, Princeton announced a partnership with Brown University to aid Dillard, a historically black university with nearly 2,000 students, after its campus was devastated by flooding. Princeton and Brown will designate personnel and provide resources to support Dillard's rebuilding efforts in vital areas such as physical planning, facilities, libraries, academic offerings, campus life, human resources, computing and development.

Director of Public Affairs Karen Jezierny, who is coordinating Princeton's participation in the project, said she began receiving suggestions and offers of assistance immediately after the Sept. 13 announcement.

"Our community members have been remarkably creative and very responsive to the idea of partnering with Dillard. The level of thoughtfulness, generosity and energy demonstrated by our colleagues has been tremendous," Jezierny said.

Many offices across campus offered support for helping Dillard re-open in the near term and for long-term planning efforts to fully restore Dillard's infrastructure and operations, which may take years.

Suggested contributions have included: an effort to collect books by staff members in the history department; expertise in preserving damaged manuscripts and other materials from staff members in the library and art museum; donations of surplus furniture and computers and assistance in negotiating contracts from the purchasing department; counseling and mental health care support from University Health Services; fund raising at sporting events and equipment donations from athletics; and technical and strategic assistance from the development, facilities, risk management, communications and information technology offices.

In addition to establishing the institutional partnership with Brown and Dillard, Princeton has reached out to individuals from other colleges and universities affected by the tragedy.

Currently, 10 visiting scholars from a variety of disciplines have been accepted under special programs to provide funding, offices and housing assistance for faculty members from Gulf Coast institutions.

Though the programs originally were intended for 10 visiting appointments, the University is still receiving inquiries from scholars and will try to accommodate as many as possible, said Dean of the Faculty David Dobkin.

"What has been most wonderful is the response of our academic units. Many have reached out with their own resources to help colleagues, expanding beyond what we imagined when Provost Christopher Eisgruber and I designed the programs," Dobkin said. "There also have been faculty members willing to house visitors in their own homes. Virtually all faculty members who do visit will be made to feel like members of the Princeton community, not only in the large sense but within their academic discipline."

Among other contributions by faculty and staff members, music department chair Scott Burnham is working with the Jazz Foundation of America to locate displaced musicians for possible temporary residency at Princeton. In addition, eight Princeton employees already are in the Gulf Coast or are making arrangements to go under the University's new Humanitarian Relief Effort Policy, which provides two weeks of paid leave for volunteers.

Following several campus benefit concerts in September, the Office of Religious Life is organizing "Songs of Support: A Community Concert for Hurricane Relief," which is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, in the University Chapel. The concert will feature the Chapel Choir, Gospel Ensemble, Glee Club and several student a cappella groups, as well as choirs from Princeton High School, Westminster Choir College and the American Boychoir School. On Sunday, Oct. 9, a benefit jazz concert titled "From the American Songbook" is set for 3 p.m. in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, as part of the Princeton University Concerts series.

Students are contributing in various ways, including helping the assimilation of visiting students who have temporarily enrolled at Princeton because their schools have been shuttered by the hurricane. Under a plan announced Sept. 2, Princeton has enrolled 23 visiting undergraduates and five graduate students, waiving tuition and providing housing and financial aid.

Students are also organizing fund-raisers, initiating campus discussions about the tragedy and planning service trips to the Gulf Coast with groups such as the Student Volunteers Council, Black Student Union and Center for Jewish Life.

Through benefit concerts and donation drives around campus, the Coordinated Undergraduate Fund for Hurricane Katrina Relief has raised more than $11,000. Its goal is to raise $24,000 for donations to relief organizations such as the American Red Cross and to school districts in the affected areas.