August 28, 2015
DALLAS (SMU) — It’s been ten years since the levees broke, when the fleeing students of Tulane could do nothing but watch TV, horrified, as part of their beautiful New Orleans campus was submerged beneath the murky floodwaters of hurricane Katrina.
By the end of the day, it had dawned on all of them: They were refugees.
Today, SMU reflects on a time it stood up as an institution and pledged to a people in need, “You are not alone."
Even before the levees had failed, SMU offered assistance to Louisiana’s student evacuees.
Within two days of the hurricane making landfall, 150 Tulane students took SMU up on that promise of compassion, arriving on campus in the pre-dawn darkness August 31. In New Orleans, city police were abandoning search and rescue operations and thousands of evacuees forced to shelter in the Superdome were facing deplorable health and sanitation issues.
Temporary housing was prepared for the students at the Hughes-Trigg Student Center. Phones were made available so they could call home and reassure their parents they were safe..
Over the following year, many of the students discovered they’d done more than survive: They’d found another home.
SMU hosted 210 undergraduate, graduate and professional students from Tulane, Xavier, Loyola, Dillard, New Orleans and Southern universities over the course of the following year, as New Orleans slowly recovered from the hurricane’s destruction. The refugee students were able to resume their studies at SMU as tuition and fees were waived and dining halls were opened to them.
Though these students were encouraged to stay loyal to their home institutions, fourteen applied for regular admission at SMU at the end of the year. They wanted to continue their studies at the University that had provided them shelter when they needed it most.
As Mustangs reflect on that moment, a decade ago, when their college rose to the occasion, they mark it in different ways.
For some, it’s a time of quiet reflection. For others, it’s a time to call their friends and say, “Do you remember when?” One SMU alumna, Katherine E. Browne, recently published a book, Standing in the Need, which tracks an extended family of 150 refugees from St. Bernard Parish as they navigate the eight years following Katrina.
However Mustangs mark the day, many at the University recall friendships with Tulane students and faculty with affection.
SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls approximately 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools.