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My Brother's Keeper
The victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita were in our minds and hearts as I sat down to write this.
Among the many campus discussions surrounding the disaster was an “Ethics at Noon” discussion on “Race, Rescue, and the Moral Purpose of Government” sponsored by Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. The participants posed some complicated questions, including “What exactly does it mean to be my brother’s keeper?” Why, they wondered, should all American taxpayers pay for a multi-billion dollar levee system to protect a city below sea level? (They posed that question as they sat virtually atop the Loma Prieta fault.)
One thing was clear: Santa Clara University wanted to help however it could. Like other state-owned, secular and religious institutions nationwide, SCU agreed that it was our moral responsibility to provide students from the hurricane-affected institutions the opportunity to continue their educations. We are temporarily hosting 44 undergraduates and three graduate students from institutions such as Loyola New Orleans and Tulane. Some of these students are Bay Area residents who hadn’t yet left California when Katrina struck. Others are Gulf Coast residents who had never been in California before and have lost virtually all their possessions.
SCU moved quickly to meet the various academic and financial needs of these students.University employees met them at the airport. We organized a special orientation and class registration session. We found on- and off-campus housing for all who needed it. We waived tuition and, in some cases, room and board. In addition to cash gifts (which, as of this writing, were in excess of $165,000), SCU alumni and donors provided numerous gift cards that were distributed before we shuttled the students to Target and Valley Fair Shopping Mall for shopping.
One visiting freshman said, “It’s so beautiful here. I love the mountains and the weather. I don’t know if I can go back to New Orleans after seeing this.” Which makes me wonder, how many hurricane-affected students in colleges nationwide are pondering whether to stay at their host schools rather than returning to the Gulf Coast? What would happen to hurricane-affected institutions if significant numbers of students failed to return?
Sometimes being your brother’s keeper is complicated.
Margaret Avritt, Acting Editor