Gainesville duo returns to Tulane


Gainesville sisters Allison and Lindsay Schaefer were displaced from Tulane University by Hurricane Katrina at the end of August. The two packed their cars early Jan. 6 to return for the Spring semester at Tulane.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, January 12, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 11, 2006 at 8:57 p.m.
The infamous images in post-Katrina New Orleans revealed flooded streets and devastated homes, but the late August hurricane also took its toll on the ivory tower. Tulane University, which suffered about $200 million in property damages, shut down for the fall semester. Now five months later, Tulane is again opening its doors, and two Gainesville sisters returned this week to resume their studies in the still-struggling city.
When Lindsay and Allison Schaefer arrived at Tulane this week, they found an area of the city that they say looks remarkably good given Katrina's devastating power.
"We've heard people say Tulane is the shining star of New Orleans compared to everything else," said Lindsay, who graduated from Oak Hall School along with her sister.
Like many Tulane students, the Schaefer sisters spent last semester taking courses at other universities. Lindsay, a 19-year-old volleyball player, joined her teammates at Texas A&M for the semester. Allison, 21, ended up at Vanderbilt, where she lived with her cousin.
Tulane allowed displaced students to transfer course credits, but the grades they made while away won't be factored into students' grade-point averages. Lindsay said she resisted the temptation to goof off, though others weren't as studious.
"Some people said, 'We just have to pass.' " she recalls.
Both sisters evacuated New Orleans on Aug. 26, three days before Katrina made landfall along the central Gulf Coast. The Schaefers headed to a condominium in St. Augustine with six other schoolmates in tow. They stayed there for 11 days, "religiously" watching news coverage of the rescue efforts, Lindsay said.
"It's weird to see that stuff happening," she said. ". . . Everyone you know got out, but you see all these people that got stuck there."
Now back in New Orleans, Lindsay has moved into Allison's apartment. Allison said her apartment sustained some water damage, but her belongings were unharmed.
In the fall, Lindsay lived in a dorm, where she left most of her belongings when she evacuated. Tulane delivered all of her belongings to her home, a service the university provided for free to all dorm residents. The university has yet to calculate the total cost of the delivery operation, said Mike Strecker, a Tulane spokesman.
The storm took a heavy toll on Tulane's pocketbook, forcing the university to cut about $60 million from its budget, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. There also were layoffs. Strecker said Tuesday that 180 full-time faculty and 243 full-time staff lost their jobs amid restructuring.
"There were unfortunately some painful changes that had to be made," he said.
Tulane has cut six majors, five of which were in engineering. Lindsay's major, exercise and sports science, also was cut. Strecker said students already enrolled in these majors would be able to complete degrees in their major if they choose, but Lindsay says she's decided to change her major to biology.
Reached by phone Monday, Allison said Tulane students remain upbeat.
"Everyone has a positive outlook," she said. "Mardi Gras is going to be great."
Jack Stripling can be reached at 374-5064 or Jack.Stripling@ gvillesun.com.

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