Transfer students at LSU remember Katrina

BATON ROUGE, La. — Andre Jones was studying jazz for his degree at the University of New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina made landfall.

He switched to a classical music class when he was displaced to Louisiana State University and struggled adjusting to the transition. After he decided he wanted to stay at LSU, he changed his major to kinesiology.

“Once I finally got my life in some kind of order, I didn’t want to leave it,” he said.

Jones, now a kinesiology senior, is one of the many students who came to LSU after Hurricane Katrina. He was one week into his freshman year at UNO when the storm hit on Aug. 29, 2005. Jones never imagined graduating with a kinesiology degree from LSU.

“The teachers said we were going to have class the following week,” he said. “That night I was watching the TV in my dorm, and it was a category three storm.”

When he woke up the next morning, the storm was a category four. By the time it reached category five, Jones said he realized he had to evacuate.

After fleeing town, he registered as a visiting student at LSU and was admitted to classes along with 2,700 other students displaced by the storm.

Jones moved to Baton Rouge where he shared an apartment with four other men. He called the cramped corner of the living room his bedroom.

Robert Doolos, University registrar, said initially 3,832 students applied for enrollment immediately following Katrina but only 2,700 were enrolled by the 14th day of class.

Doolos said the University accepted students on good faith, and 99 percent of the students had no records with them when they came to register.

The majority of displaced students came from UNO, but many were from Tulane and Loyola, Doolos said. The LSU Board of Supervisors voted to enroll any displaced students from a four-year college, he said.

Unlike most displaced students, Jones decided to continue his education at LSU rather than return to UNO.

Of 2,700 displaced students to LSU, 804 formally resigned from the University, and 223 ended the semester with all F’s or both W’s and F’s, Doolos said.

Only 223 displaced students enrolled the following semester as transfer students, Doolos said.

Courtney Robottom, LSU human ecology senior, was a sophomore at Xavier University when Katrina hit. She had just finished cheerleading tryouts when Xavier ordered a mandatory evacuation.

After staying with a friend for a week in Nashville, Tenn., Robottom returned home. She registered at LSU on Sept. 4, 2005.

“I remember standing in line for hours waiting to speak to a counselor,” Robottom said.

She registered in any available classes pertaining to her degree.

The hardest part about coming to LSU was getting used to the size of campus, Robottom said. But once she adjusted to LSU’s schedule, she didn’t want to leave.

In fall 2005, Robottom ended up living in a residence hall with a student who didn’t have a roommate, she said.

Steve Waller, director of Residential Life, said ResLife housed about 215 displaced students in two Pentagon halls that had been closed for construction and made other arrangements for several students.

He said ResLife was able to house more than 400 displaced students during the fall semester.

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