One HBCU Reaches Out

Howard University takes in students displaced by the Hurricane


    Linda Chastang, the senior vice president of the National Association for Equal Opportunity general council, could not have summed up sentiments at the Howard University Town Hall Meeting any better.


“A HBCU student is one of our students no matter where in attendance,” she said on Wednesday in a meeting that discussed ways to assist students affected by Hurricane Katrina.  “We’ve got a lot of folks that we’re going to take care of that are a part of the HBCU family.”


Howard President H. Patrick Swygert agreed by stating that the University is prepared to accept between 300-400 students from Xavier, Dillard, Southern University at New Orleans and other colleges affected by the hurricane.  So far, he estimates that 200 graduate and undergraduate students have transferred to the University.


“At first, just a few students inquired,” Swygert said.  “Now, many, many, many students are reaching out to the University.  We’re doing everything we can to accommodate students.  We’re not turning anyone away.”


Stating that the University will make a way when there is no way, Swygert urged the transfer students not to worry about tuition, financial aid, or housing.


“Get here, get situated, and we’ll work that out by and by,” he said.


According to Swygert, on-campus housing was 99.9 percent occupied prior to the hurricane.  Therefore, he had a resource directory complied that lists off-campus housing availabilities.  He is also encouraging current students to welcome transfer students into their living space, including dorms, until other arrangements can be made.


In addition to students recently arriving from the Gulf States, Swygert said the University would also do its best to assist current Howard students whose support system has been destroyed by the disaster.


“To our students from the GulfCoast states, if there’s anything we can do to help you, please let us know,” he said.  “We have people going down to the New Orleans area and  getting information and sending it back. Let us know how we can help you get information on your loved ones.”


Just as the damage done by Hurricane Katrina is immeasurable, so is the emotional distress weighing down its victims.  The HowardUniversityCounselingCenter realizes that many students have been traumatized and is therefore extending its hours to help those affected better cope with their losses.


“This whole process of healing, there’s nothing quick about it,” said Chief Psychologist and Director of Clinical Service Ayana Watkins-Northern.  “The process of healing starts with looking inside of you, putting a name on whatever it is that’s inside of you and understanding that whatever you feel, you’re not crazy.”


Several student organizations, clubs, sororities and fraternities are assisting in the effort to help hurricane victims.  Monetary donations as well as clothing and food drives are being conducted over the next few weeks by and book drives are being held for students who cannot afford to pay for texts due to frozen bank accounts.


“I’m happy to see over the past week so much greatness in our Bison community,” Swygert said.  “I expect that soon enough [the transfer students] will be returning, but

while they’re here, they’re Bison.”