University of Pittsburgh
September 6, 2005

Continuing Efforts in Response to Hurricane Katrina

Contact:  412-624-4147

As has already been reported, colleges and universities eager to help the Gulf Coast institutions affected by Hurricane Katrina have been actively exchanging ideas over the course of the past several days, directly and through their professional associations. In the case of the University of Pittsburgh, a key link has been the Association of American Universities, which has been the source of a great deal of very useful information. However, as was indicated in last week's update, an important piece of context – the expressed wishes of the affected colleges and universities themselves – had been missing from those planning efforts.

On Friday evening, a general expression of thanks and request for continued assistance was issued by the Gulf Coast presidents, through the AAU and several other higher education associations. According to that statement, those presidents are "particularly grateful for the outpouring of support from colleague presidents and institutions, and find it difficult to express their thanks for all the efforts to care for and house the students impacted by the hurricane." That statement goes on to note that "[w]hile their immediate needs include very basic items like phone service, power, and dry office space, each of these presidents is concerned about the long term financial impact Katrina will have on their institution." As a reflection of that latter concern, the presidents urged colleague institutions to: admit their students on a visiting basis, so that they remain students of the home institution; not charge tuition, if the student already has paid tuition to that home institution; charge the home institution's rate of tuition and remit that amount to the home institution, if the student has not already paid tuition to the home institution; and assess appropriate fees for such items as room and board.

To a considerable extent, these requests mesh with the general plan that already had been put in place here at Pitt. By the end of last week, we were involved in the informational stages of the process of admitting, as guest students, undergraduate and graduate students from colleges and universities closed in the aftermath of the hurricane. These students are being admitted, on a space-available basis, to courses that actually began last week. Our focus, as previously noted, is on Pennsylvania residents. This is both consistent with the concept of rationally spreading opportunities to help across the national higher education community and, in the case of students from the region, also may help minimize the practical challenges of finding short-term housing.

By yesterday afternoon, about a dozen undergraduate students from institutions affected by the hurricane had been registered for fall semester classes. Some affected graduate and professional students also have enrolled for the semester. However, because those admissions are not made centrally, we are less sure of their total number. Since the semester already had begun in most colleges and universities, we assume that these guest students already have been billed and most will have made tuition payments to their home institutions. Therefore, we intend to waive our own tuition charges for the current semester. On a related and positive note, both Tulane and Loyola of New Orleans have announced that they plan to open for the spring term.

In terms of the broader regional response to this disaster, the Pittsburgh Hurricane Initiative is moving forward in ways that should make a real difference. That effort is being led by Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato and Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy – with Mark Cherna, the Director of the County's Department of Human Services, having chief operational responsibility.Representatives of the University – particularly from the Office of Community and Governmental Relations and the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor – have been involved at every stage of the planning, as have representatives from the UPMC health system. It is our current understanding that up to 300 people will be transported to Pittsburgh in the next few days, with similar-size groups of evacuees to follow in later days.

The University has offered institutional support of various types for what we anticipate will be a long process. In addition, our Faculty Staff Volunteer Pool is organizing to provide opportunities for interested members of the faculty and staff to personally support this regional initiative through their own investments of time. Also, the Pittsburgh Foundation is accepting donations to two recently created emergency relief funds: The Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund – Pittsburgh will provide support for the short and longer-term needs of families and individuals who relocate permanently or temporarily to Pittsburgh and the Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund – Gulf Coast will be used to support the immediate and longer-term needs of individuals and families in the Gulf Coast region, in partnership with community foundations located in that stricken area.

The University's own fundraising partnership – also involving the Pittsburgh Steelers, KDKA Television, Clear Channel Radio and the American Red Cross – launched its campaign last weekend in connection with our home football game against Notre Dame. The efforts continued with an "autograph evening" featuring both Steelers players and University athletes at Heinz Field last evening. This particular effort will end with the Steelers opening game next weekend.

Mark A. Nordenberg


September 7, 2005

September 2, 2005

University Responds to Hurricane Katrina

Over the course of recent days, all of us have been shocked and saddened by the destructive impact of Hurricane Katrina on so many thousands of people in this country's Gulf Coast region. To what must be our shared distress, transmitted images of the resulting suffering have left most of us with a clear sense that the devastation is even worse than we had first feared.

Structuring effective and appropriate responses to a disaster of this magnitude and at such a distance is difficult. However, our University has been attempting to be of help on a number of different fronts.

We can, most naturally, be of help in providing temporary support to students and faculty from affected colleges and universities. To this point, for reasons we all understand, those institutions have not been able to share their own sense of what types of support might be most helpful. However, even as we have been assessing our own resources, we have been actively exchanging information and ideas with members of the Association of American Universities. And knowing that displaced students are under very real time pressures to find educational alternatives for the current semester, we have moved forward to try to meet their needs.

More specifically, to the extent that space is available, we are offering guest student status to Pennsylvania residents (and, in some limited cases, to nonresident students) who are undergraduate or graduate students at colleges and universities closed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. We already are beginning to receive and process these special applications and expect some of these students to enroll at the beginning of next week. If a given student is not able to commute, we will try to assist that student in finding appropriate housing nearby – though no campus housing is available. We also will offer guest scholar status to faculty from affected universities who wish to use our libraries.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, with the active participation of members of our health sciences faculty, is fully engaged in providing a wide variety of specialized assistance to the victims of this disaster. Along with the Pittsburgh Steelers, KDKA Television, and Clear Channel Radio, we have entered into a fundraising partnership with the American Red Cross. Those efforts will include a series of events, beginning with our home football game against Notre Dame this Saturday and concluding with the Steelers' opening game against the Tennessee Titans the following weekend.

The University also is a part of a consortium of organizations and governmental agencies working to craft a regional response. That group is moving forward with its efforts and expects to issue initial information regarding its plans in the very near future.

Mark A. Nordenberg


September 2, 2005