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The decision by the two law schools in New Orleans to call back their students to the hurricane-ravaged city for next semester is raising strong doubts about their ability to start over in just three months. Tulane University Law School and Loyola University New Orleans School of Law recently announced that they expect students to return to their campuses in January. Tulane said that it will not grant visitor status next semester to students who are attending other schools this semester because of Hurricane Katrina. Such status enables students to take classes at other schools and transfer credits back to their original schools. Loyola said that students who do not want to return to New Orleans in the spring should consider withdrawing, but it also will consider requests to attend other schools next semester on a case-by-case basis. Unrealistic expectations? While the schools maintain that it is essential to their viability for enrollees to come back to New Orleans, students and others argue that such a decision is premature and perhaps unrealistic. “It’s not just about going to school there. We have to live there,” said Aaron Tesfai, a second-year Tulane student visiting the University of Southern California Law School this semester. But Tulane law school Dean Lawrence Ponoroff said that he is confident that the school and the city will be ready for students to return on Jan. 9, 2006. “We’ve been uprooted, and I think it’s critically important that we get back on our campus,” he said. Both law school campuses received some damage but nothing like the destruction wrought on many other properties. Both schools also set up satellite operations in Houston, which they later had to evacuate because of Hurricane Rita. Offers of help After Katrina struck, at least 165 law schools across the country offered to accept students from New Orleans as visitors struck, most doing so tuition-free. Sarah Levee, a second-year student at Loyola New Orleans, is attending Loyola University Chicago School of Law this semester. The schools are separate institutions. Levee wants to stay in Chicago next semester and work as an intern there next summer. She would like to return to New Orleans for her third year. But whether Loyola New Orleans will allow her to do that is uncertain. Levee fled New Orleans the day before Katrina hit. She took just an overnight bag and her Yorkshire terrier, Millie. “I would like to settle for a year and, you know, get a bed,” she said. Levee is sharing an apartment with two other students displaced by the hurricane. She is sleeping on a mattress on the apartment floor. Turning away students who want to stay next semester will be difficult, said Loyola Chicago law school Dean David Yellen. “I know from meeting with students that some of them never want to set foot in New Orleans again,” he said, adding that he understands the concerns of the New Orleans schools. Loyola New Orleans law school Dean Brian Bromberger said that he expects the housing surrounding his school to be habitable for students returning in January.

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