200511cover
We can try to avoid making choices by doing nothing, but even that is a decision.
– Gary Collins
THE
BULLETIN
Volume 73 | Issue 6
November 2005

Union Spotlight: Joseph A. Danna Center and Activities Office at Loyola University–New Orleans

With a campus that was spared much of the devastation suffered by the rest of New Orleans, and a student body that is either on leave or studying at host institutions, Loyola University–New Orleans is putting its otherwise vacant college union to good use during the Hurricane Katrina aftermath. Since shortly after the storm, it has been home to up to 700 National Guard members who are stationed in the city to aid in its recovery and clean-up.

Guard members from places as far flung as Texas, New Hampshire, and Utah are staying in the union, sleeping on cots in hallways and communal areas, cooking in its kitchens, relaxing in its recreation areas.

It’s a bittersweet pleasure for Chris Cameron, director of the Joseph A. Danna Center and Student Activities Office at Loyola, to watch his union play an increasingly larger and more important role in the community. While unions are typically considered the center of the campus community, Cameron said the Danna Center has “taken on a new, deeper meaning . . . serving as a center for the recovery and rebuilding of New Orleans.”

“It’s one of the more positive outcomes,” of the hurricane, he said. “It really speaks to the university’s commitment to the city of New Orleans.”

Cameron, who lives near the campus, said the floodwaters miraculously stopped just shy of the school’s borders.

“The university has zero water damage, in terms of floodwater,” although wind did blow the roofs off the law library and recreational sports complex buildings. Those are in the process of being replaced, he said.

Physical damage to the union building was limited to the basement, and was an indirect result of the storm. Water leakage was a problem before the hurricane, due to an imperfection in the building’s concrete foundation. A water pump is normally installed to remove the water before it becomes a problem. However, when the campus lost power for three days following the storm, water was allowed to infiltrate the basement and caused some minor damage.

Other losses suffered by the union were primarily caused by the power outage. Nine walk-in freezers, packed with food before the start of the semester, needed to be replaced.

“The freezers were off for three days. When someone says, ‘a smell that will knock you off your feet,’ let’s say it’s not just a metaphor anymore,” said Cameron.

None of the textbooks in the bookstore, housed in the union, were damaged, but organizing fall books and ordering more for spring has been a drawn-out process.

“The big thing has been freight service¬ —is the freight company delivering here? Are the roads open? What is their time schedule like?” said Cameron. “A lot of what we have to do is just dealing with day-to-day things you don’t normally think about.”

In addition to preparing the union building for spring semester when Loyola resumes classes, Cameron also is communicating with student leaders, scattered across the United States, about future programming. Discussions have focused on events to “jumpstart campus life,” and projects that will benefit the greater New Orleans community. “The New Orleans Identity Project” is an installation of art, photography, and writing proposed for the union, intended to provide a space for students to share their stories and pictures about the hurricane.

“It’s a way to begin to express feelings about what the past semester has been like. Hopefully, it will lead to people connecting and talking,” said Cameron.

LOYOLA UNIVERSITY–NEW ORLEANS
Urban, private, four-year, Catholic
UNDERGRADUATE
ENROLLMENT: 3,500
GRADUATE ENROLLMENT: 2,000

THE JOSEPH A. DANNA CENTER AND STUDENT ACTIVITIES OFFICE
DIRECTOR OR EQUIVALENT: Chris Cameron
SIZE: 114,000 sq. ft.
NUMBER OF FLOORS: 3
BUILT: 1964
TOTAL NUMBER OF STAFF, PRIOR TO HURRICANE
KATRINA: 5
NUMBER OF STAFF RETURNING TO WORK IN THE UNION
NOV. 28, 2005: 5