Hurricane Ida’s impact forces closure of colleges, universities in Louisiana, Mississippi

Tulane will switch to online learning for a month because of damage to New Orleans.

Tulane University and many other institutions of higher education across Louisiana and Mississippi are closed because of the impacts of what is now Tropical Storm Ida, which hit New Orleans as a Category 4 storm on Sunday.

The storm has left millions across the southern U.S. without power and its continued ascent toward the Eastern Seaboard could impact other colleges and universities as a heavy rainmaker in the coming days. The crisis comes as institutions already wrestle with trying to contain COVID-19 spread and the delta variant on campuses.

The severity of Ida was captured in a release to students from Tulane President Michael Fitts: “Due to catastrophic transmission damage to the city power grid, all of Orleans Parish is currently without power. Other pieces of critical infrastructure, including services associated with Sewerage & Water Board and the supply chain and critical labor for the region, may be impacted for several weeks. Like all in the region, Tulane experienced a range of damage that requires repair. … We have decided to restructure the semester to allow for maximum in-person instructional time while also protecting the safety of our community.”

Fitts said the university, which weathered Category 3 Hurricane Zeta last year, has shut down the campus and canceled all classes through Sept. 12. Those will be rescheduled for the end of the fall semester. Tulane will have only online classes from Sept. 13 through Oct. 6 so that critical infrastructure fixes can be made throughout their city. Students will return in person on Oct. 11.

“This time working and learning virtually will allow us to prepare our campuses and ensure you will return to a safe, operational university and city,” Fitts wrote. “If the city’s return to normalcy is accelerated and circumstances permit, we may have the opportunity to bring our community back to campus sooner. More details will be shared in coming weeks, and future communications will address expectations for staff during this time.”

Other institutions across Louisiana were similarly affected but have forged different strategies moving forward:

President John Nicklow says the University of New Orleans will be remain closed through at least Monday. He says UNO will let students know two days before begins classes again, “but please rest assured that we will continue the semester as soon as possible.”

All students who remained on-campus through the storm are safe, say officials at Xavier University of Louisiana. But the impact of Ida was felt on campus. Classes have been halted through tomorrow, and when Xavier does return, it will be remote to start.

Louisiana State University will remain closed until Wednesday, according to President William Tate IV. “We’re asking you not to rush back to campus,” he wrote to the LSU community. “I know many of you are eager to check on the status of things, but please wait for us to give the all-clear once we’ve had the opportunity to make sure campus is safe for your return. My sincere thoughts and prayers are with those who have been impacted by this storm.”

Nicholls State University had canceled classes prior to the storm hitting Louisiana but has offered no further updates. It has already started a hurricane emergency fund to help students, faculty and staff.

Loyola University of New Orleans, which has shut down classes through Friday, and was arranging to get students and others on campus to be shuttled to safer locations as the university is planning to close residence halls on Friday.

Several community colleges remain closed in Mississippi. After closing its campus on Monday, Mississippi State University resumed classes on Tuesday but urged students “to make wise travel choices.”

Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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