The hbcu response to hurricane katrina perceptions among displaced new orleans college students
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THE HBCU RESPONSE TO HURRICANE KATRINA & PERCEPTIONS AMONG DISPLACED NEW ORLEANS COLLEGE STUDENTS. Mike F. Weaver, DrPH, MPH Public Health Consultant, Race, Place, and the Environment After Katrina: Looking Back to Look Forward Conference

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The hbcu response to hurricane katrina perceptions among displaced new orleans college students l.jpg


Mike F. Weaver, DrPH, MPH

Public Health Consultant,

Race, Place, and the Environment After Katrina:

Looking Back to Look Forward Conference

Dillard University, October 19, 2006

Introduction l.jpg

  • HBCU graduate

  • HBCU professor

  • HBCU research with Black males

  • HBCU students

    • Faculty-Student Interaction

    • Nurturing Environment

    • Personal and Professional Success

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HBCUs’ Background

  • North- Frederick Douglass and the Freedman’s Bureau

  • South- American Missionary Association

  • African Methodist Episcopalian independent schools

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B.T.Washington & W.E. B. DuBoisTrade versus Skill

  • 1895 Atlanta speech at Cotton Exposition

  • Influence of “Old South”

  • Influence of Industrialization

  • The Reconstruction Era

  • Impact of the Great Migration

  • Tuskegee and Hampton Institutes

  • The Tuskegee Study

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South Carolina- An example

  • History of S.C. HBCUs

  • No HBCU in western half of state

  • History of

    Bettis Academy

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HBCU Traditions

  • Higher graduation rates for Blacks

  • Professional school admissions

  • Black leadership

    • Government

    • Business/Corporations

    • Sports

    • Entertainment/Media

    • Military

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HBCUs- Our Sisters’ and Brothers’ Keeper

  • United Negro College Fund

  • Corporate Scholars, i.e. Gates, Mellon

  • Hurricanes Katrina & Rita (The 21st century’s Great Migration)

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HBCUs Respond to Katrina & Rita

  • Approximately 9,600 students at N.O. HBCUs (2,000 at Dillard, 4,100 at Xavier, and 3,500 at SUNO) were affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita

  • Of the 9,600, an estimated 2,842 displaced N.O. university students enrolled at HBCUs during the fall 2005 semester

  • The remaining students either took off the semester, or enrolled at predominantly white institutions

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HBCUs Respond to Katrina & Rita

  • 910 students enrolled at Southern University and A&M College

  • 600 students at Texas Southern University

  • 152 students at Jackson State University

  • 114 students at Howard University

  • 86 students at Grambling State University

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Research Methodology

  • Focus groups (19) for data collection

  • 83 students during Spring ’06 semester

  • On location at Dillard (Hilton Hotel) and Xavier Universities

  • Data analysis with Nvivo v2.1 software

  • Coded themes for content areas

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Displaced Students’ Experiences at visiting HBCUs

  • According to Content Areas

    • Students

    • Faculty

    • Administration

    • Community

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Displaced Students’ Experiences with Other Students

  • Student 1: “Like every Wednesday, they had a dress up Wednesday. Yeah, Pretty Wednesdays at Fisk. A lot of people dressed up, looking all nice and everything. It was good to see a lot of black people all together, looking real nice.” 

  • Student 2: “They had the Pretty Wednesday, too, at Southern. It was real different, the girls would wear shorts and stilettos. Sometimes, I kinda missed the point.”

  • Student 3: “Market Friday. I always think about Market Friday. All the students, they gathered and you can buy whatever. The Greeks would come out and they would do their thing. That was fun. Along with the whole hair thing, and Greek life and parties. When I think about Spelman, Market Friday is the first thing that comes to my mind.”

  • “When we came in, I don’t think they expected much from us. We were in class and we were answering all the questions. And the students looked at us like, ‘How dare all you students come in and answer all our questions. Don’t you know we’re Spelman?’ And we’re looking at them like, ‘Boo, we did this sophomore year!’”

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Displaced Students’ Experiences with Faculty

  • “I have always been an outstanding student. I put a lot of effort into my schoolwork. Howard is an elitist school, the Black middle class. I felt that I had to prove to them that my university was just as capable of producing top scholars. My professors were impressed with me. They always used me as an example to their class. They were proud of me to come into their class.”

  • “I had one teacher in particular. He was just like he just didn’t care, “That place is so out there. New Orleans got what they deserved.” This, that and the other. We had a few displaced students in our class. Probably about six or seven. He’d be like, “Black people, they don’t know how to swim. That’s why that water came in. They shoulda drowned.” Mr. Xxxxxxx and he was African-American. But he was a veteran, so something was really wrong with him, I really do believe. He was like, “Nobody’s gonna pass. Only way ya’ll are gonna pass is if Jesus comes down and write ya’lls’ grade in.” And it was crazy. Everyday was something new with him.”

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Displaced Students’ Experiences with Administration

  • “The administrators were real open. As soon as we got there, they were on me. They got us into our place. I fell in love with Tennessee State because of the way they did things. They were on time. Things got done there.”

  • “I’m from Chicago and I went home after the hurricane. I called a bunch of schools. I called Wilberforce and they said, ‘Just come down. You don’t need a transcript.’ I went down there and they waived my room and board. I’m a UNCF student anyway and my tuition was going to be covered no matter where I went. I really didn’t have to pay anything.”

  • “I went in there and I was put out by security. For registration here at Tuskegee, there are lines. I just walked in, straight in. I don’t wanna say that I felt like I had power, but at that point, I was just fed up. Nobody wanted to help us. I had deans, like Dean Xxxxxxx, he was one of the biggest helps we had. He even found us money. He even took time out of his Friday evenings and came to our campus meetings. He helped us.”

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Displaced Students’ Experiences with the Community

  • “I didn’t like it. It was a train. It was a train horn. I don’t know where this train was. Every time I go to sleep, the train would blow the horn and it just would not stop. And University Homes was right across the street from the dorm. The children is yelling and I hear the Mamas cussing them out.”

  • “We actually saw a little Chinese man getting mugged. That’s not even funny. I’ve been in New Orleans for four years, all over New Orleans and I’ve never seen an act of violence like that. They were actually fighting cause he wouldn’t let the money go. It was 12 o’clock in the afternoon. Broad daylight. That was the kicker. It was outside the parking lot.”

  • “Being that D.C. and New Orleans constantly fight for the ranking of murder capitol of the world, I did not feel safe. At that time during the fall, there were constant signs posted on campus about Spanish men killing Black women to get into gangs. Young Spanish boys and they were telling us to be careful. About two blocks up from the dorms from Howard was the Spanish neighborhood, so you had to be careful.”

  • “I went to Tyler, Texas and it’s kinda known as being prejudice, but not as bad as some places. I could never go anywhere by myself. It was not safe. They gave the finger and unnecessary stuff like that. I went out in a group. I was scared. You not supposed to go out anywhere by yourself because you Black. Period.”

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Recommendations for HBCUs

  • For their Students- “One, try and find some type of venue to get all those students together so I can get them communicating and talking, and building bridges with one another. Specifically, if they would’ve brought, and I know it may seem like you’re going out your way, all students that are now transient students from other institutions who are displaced from Hurricane Katrina. Like, come to a meeting and we gonna sit and we gonna talk.”

  • For their Faculty- “That professor at Spelman didn’t try to force us to talk about anything, but we knew if we needed anything, we could go to her. So it was having that relationship with her like, “I didn’t go through what you went through, but I want you to know that I’m here. And I’m willing to help you.” She was even saying that if we needed recommendations for grad school, law school, personal statement help, anything. She was being real about it.”

  • For their Administration- “At FAMU, as soon as they started accepting the NOU students, they set up a one-stop shop where they had all the offices in one building and only the victims could come in. They made a big circle and by the time you’re done, you were pretty much good to go. At least, they made an effort to put us in one section, instead of running us around the campus which we were not familiar with.”

  • For their Community- “I would do all I could. I would try to find grants and stuff. I like helping people. I wouldn’t be this far if I didn’t have help. It’s not like I was a troubled youth, but people helped me throughout my life. That’s why I’m here. You know they say, “It takes a community.” I had a good community and I just want to help people.”

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Future Role of HBCUs

  • Adhere to Sisters’ and Brothers’ Keeper Philosophy

  • Emergency Preparedness

  • Academic Readiness & Graduate Study

  • Continue Tradition of Producing Proud African American Leaders

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N.O. HBCUs as of Fall’06

  • 1,100 students enrolled at Dillard University

  • 3,013 students enrolled at Xavier University

  • 2,456 students enrolled at Southern University at New Orleans

  • 6,569 students compared to 9,600


References l.jpg

  • Weaver, M. (2006). The Roots Cried Out: Hurricane Katrina One Year Later, Real Life Lessons from Young Adults in New Orleans and South Africa.

    Online at []

  • Bauerlein, M. (2004/2005). Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois: The Origins of a Bitter Intellectual Battle. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 46, 106-114. 

  • Black College Graduation rates Remain Low, but Modest Progress Begins to Show. (2005/2006). The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 50, 88-96.

  • Chollette, S. & Bannister, N. (2006). Katrina-Damaged Colleges Determined to Overcome. The Black Collegian, 36:2, 18-22.

  • Generals, D. (2000). Booker T. Washington and Progressive Education: An Experimentalist Approach to Curriculum Development and Reform. The Journal of Negro Education, 693, 215-234.

  • Hurricane Katrina’s Devastating Effect on African-American Higher Education. (2005). The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 49, 56-63.

  • Marable, M. (1986). W.E.B. Du Bois Black Radical Democrat. Boston, MA. Twayne.

  • McFeely, W. (1991). Frederick Douglass. New York, NY. Norton.

  • Sernett, M. (1997). Bound for the Promised Land: African Americans Religion and the Great Migration.

  • Taylor, K. (2005). Mary S. Peake and Charlotte L. Forten: Black Teachers During the Civil War and Reconstruction. The Journal of Negro Education, 74:2, 124-137.