The lingering aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has inspired a new seminar class at UCSB that will look at community structures in New Orleans and Louisiana from a variety of academic perspectives.
Although the seminar has not yet been named and is still being organized, it will be offered for the first time Fall Quarter 2006 through the Black Studies Dept., said Aaron Jones, Associated Students student government advisor. Students in the seminar will look at the varied effects of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast regions.
According to organizers, topics will include the future of regional social policy, race and religion in the post-Civil Rights South, poverty, recovery efforts, community partnerships and an overall assessment of community needs.
The curriculum will include knowledge and viewpoints from several academic fields, Jones said. For example, one week the class might examine the effects on regional communities from a sociological perspective, while during the next it could look at the storm’s environmental impact. Guests and scholars from the impacted regions will also lend their insight into these matters.
Jones said the seminar addresses an ongoing social phenomenon. He said students who take the seminar will hopefully be able to critically analyze situations, such as the one in New Orleans, by looking at them holistically.
“It’s said that it will take New Orleans 10 to 15 years to rebuild and come back to where it was before Katrina, and that’s just New Orleans,” Jones said. “With this year’s hurricane season quickly approaching I think this may provide an excellent opportunity to ensure the devastation that occurred never occurs again.”
A.S. Associate Director for Community Affairs James To said the main inspiration for the seminar came from two teams of UCSB students who had gone to New Orleans over Winter and Spring Break. He said what the students had seen in New Orleans impacted them greatly, prompting them to do more.
“They asked a lot of questions we couldn’t answer about why wasn’t there more aid available, and why [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] and the government weren’t participating in a more organized manner to provide enough recovery aid,” To said.
Black Studies professor Clyde Woods, who will be teaching the seminar along with other faculty, said he thinks the course is a good idea, and that in addition to helping the communities with reconstruction, it will be a good opportunity to discuss issues such as racism and social policy.
“It’s really a critical moment in rethinking the failure of certain social policies and the need for innovation,” Woods said. “We also want to hear the voices coming from the region and how they understand what’s happening and the future.”
Woods said he hopes the seminar will get students to launch their own research projects in areas affected by Katrina. He said he recently met student volunteers who went to New Orleans.
“I went to their presentation in February and I was touched by their insights and efforts,” Woods said. “And then I went to New Orleans and I was really amazed because I met students from every part of the country who all wanted … to help, and that was really inspiring. It’s something to build on.”
Woods said there is work that still needs to be done.
“I think it’s really a tragedy,” Woods said. “I was there in March, and a lot of the city hadn’t been touched, and there really is no explanation for the slowness.”
Due to the current support for it from different academic departments, Jones said he believes the class will be successful.
“If there’s interest for it to continue, I think it will have relevance,” Jones said. “There’s always going to be disasters.”
To said the university’s expertise in different fields such as science and sociology will be helpful.
“It’s not any one of the single elements that impacted what happened in the community, it was a combination of all of them,” To said. “Hopefully, with the expertise of our professors we can provide a good foundation for our students who are planning to go back at the end of Summer and Fall Quarter.”