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Katrina Symposium: March 31, 2006

"Confronting Katrina: How Should We Respond?"

To all Carleton students, faculty and staff:

We invite you to participate in "Confronting Katrina: How Should We Respond?," an all-campus day of education, discussion, and reflection in response to the devastation experienced along the Gulf Coast during Hurricane Katrina, to be held on Friday, March 31, 2006.

View the complete schedule of events.

John Barry has argued that paying attention to things when they are under stress can teach us much about their character. Hurricane Katrina has put America under stress; every day, we are learning more about the character of our community--particularly the culturally, ecologically and socially unique Gulf Coast region. There is almost no opportunity at Carleton for a broad community conversation focused on a single topic, except perhaps in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. A thoughtful and reflective community conversation offers a chance for a very different kind of learning. At the January faculty meeting the faculty voted to cancel classes on March 31 to allow time, energy, and focus for this community event. This followed a frank discussion about the seriousness and significance of this action.

Therefore the first Friday of Spring Term, will be an all-campus day of learning, discussion, and reflection in which students, faculty, and staff (wherever possible) are expected and encouraged to participate.


Some of the issues that we will address include:

  • What caused the devastation of Katrina?

  • Was it a natural disaster or a human one?

  • Could science, or better engineering, have averted the devastation?

  • What are the environmental causes and consequences of the disaster?

  • Who's to blame?

  • How do we understand-and respond to-the political and institutional failures in the wake of Katrina?

  • What role did the media play in shaping the political and institutional response?

  • What is our collective responsibility?

  • How did factors of race and class play into the disaster?

  • How do we rebuild New Orleans and other Gulf Coast communities impacted by Katrina?

Katrina Day Events

The events on March 31 will begin with a convocation by Margaret Simms ('67), Vice President for Governance and Economic Analysis at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington D.C. and a nationally recognized expert on minority business development.

This will be followed by a series of panels, student presentations, small-group discussions, and performances in venues around campus.

The day will also celebrate the rich culture of the region and New Orleans by including music, art, and foods of the area.

The day will conclude with a discussion led by President Oden to consider how we should respond to human suffering wrought by such disasters, as well as a reflection time led by Chaplain Carolyn Fure-Slocum.

Related Events

A number of events and activities are also planned that will complement the symposium and deepen our discussions.

  • Groups led by Doug Mork, Program Coordinator for PERC, will read and discuss portions of "How Race is Lived in America" and "Class Matters".

  • During the first week of spring term, there will also be showings of several films, including "Fatal Flood", whichtells the story of the Mississippi flood that devastated the same region in 1927.

  • The group of Carleton students who went to Biloxi, Mississippi, to assist with relief in the wake of the hurricane will report on their experiences and reflections.

We Invite Your Participation

By cancelling classes the College is providing space for the community to collectively participate in "Confronting Katrina" on March 31. We all have a responsibility to take advantage of this moment. If you have suggestions for topics or participants that you think should be included in the symposium, please contact Kim Smith, Associate Professor of Political Science, who is leading the planning for this event, at More detailed information and a schedule of the day will be forthcoming in the weeks ahead.

Scott Bierman
Dean of the College

C. J. Griffiths
CSA President