When Sheena Wilson heard a rumor that DillardUniversity students heading back to New Orleans for the spring semester were going to be housed in a cruise line ship, she scoffed at the idea.
”It better not be Carnival,” said Michelle Nealy while attending a class with Wilson. “That’s the cheapest cruise line.”
Nealy and a few surrounding students shared a laugh, but to Wilson this was not a laughing matter.
With a straight face, Wilson, 21, said that it was still only a rumor.
”We are aggressively looking for several housing arrangements,” said Freddye Hill, DillardUniversity‘s vice president of campus life. “One (housing possibility) is a cruise ship, not owned by Carnival, apartment complexes and hotels.”
Hill added that the university might be acquiring a cruise ship as housing because it can house several people in one place, she said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
Wilson, a native of Washington, DC, said that she knew that two university buildings were destroyed when Hurricane Katrina’s waters breached an old levy system causing floodwaters to fill New Orleans, a bowl- shaped city that sits below sea level.
An all-male dormitory and the Humanities building were included, as structures deemed unusable on the historically black university’s campus, she said. However, Wilson is uncertain if that was the extent of the damage.
She also said that the first floor of every residential hall have been “completely gutted out, there’s only concrete and pillars.” Most of the dormitories except for the upper classman’s apartment-style buildings are three floors, Wilson said, adding that she visited the historically black university a couple of weeks ago to help a friend survey the damage of her rented apartment.
Wilson left New Orleans in August after staying only a week and a half. She escaped the hurricane and began attending HowardUniversity in Washington, DC, along with a number of other students who were displaced by the Category four hurricanes, which hit New Orleans August 29.
Since then, she knew that staying at Howard to finish her degree in mass communications was not an option. Once Dillard reached suitable operating conditions, she would head back to the place she now considers her second home.
The spring semester is Wilson‘s last semester at the self-described private, faith-based liberal arts institution. She is expected to graduate in May of 2006.
Wilson said she chose to attend Dillard three years ago, instead of HowardUniversity, because she lived most of her life just three blocks from the historically black university located in Northwest DC.
While at Howard, she said, “I go to school and I come home. If I were at Dillard, I’d probably be hanging out with friends.”
Dillard is scheduled to reopen January 17.
Wilson said that the possibility of living in a cruise ship -even temporarily – is unsettling.
”It’s just reminiscent of slavery. (The conditions) may be a little better than slavery, but if you have however many students coming back to Dillard and living on a ship; it really reminds me of the ‘Middle Passage’,” she said, referring to the historic three-part voyage ending and starting in Europe that involved the African slave trade. “In New Orleans they are known for docking ships there with slaves. And I know that my campus was actually a plantation,” Wilson said. “Just the roots of New Orleans and being on a ship- It doesn’t sit well with me.”