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The Tulane and Loyola law schools have more in common than being neighbors on St. Charles Street in the Uptown neighborhood of New Orleans. Seemingly everyone at both schools is fed up with the sympathetic inquiries about their well-being when they tell people they live in New Orleans. “There is a perception that the school and city are devastated and it is not,” said Elizabeth Nowicki, who left Washington and Lee University School of Law in August to teach corporate law at Tulane University Law School. “When it becomes clear I voluntarily left Richmond for Tulane, people give me a sympathetic, poor-you look, and ask, ‘Oh, how are things there?’ To say I find it infuriating is only half of it,” Nowicki said. “It’s really sad because it scares off a lot of students.” The damage to New Orleans from the collapse of the levee system caused by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 was immense but not uniform, said faculty, administrators and students. Low-lying neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth Ward were devastated and remain so, but sections of the city vital to commerce are fully functioning, they say. “I know there are prospective students around the country who are not applying here because of the perception this is a ruined city,” said Lawrence Ponoroff, dean of Tulane University Law School. “People think we are living in rubble, but our campus, where our students and faculty live, where tourists and visitors go, look like they did before Katrina. If people are not coming here because of the perception the city is devastated, that is harming the city.” Brian Bromberger, dean of the Loyola University New Orleans School of Law, said, “I don’t mind people having sympathy because 60% of the city is not running, but you have to separate the problems of the city with life at the university.” Hurricane Katrina struck at about the time classes were starting at the two law schools. Most of Loyola’s students attended a satellite school set up at the University of Houston. Tulane students were admitted as visitors to 29 different schools nationwide. By the following spring semester both schools were back to nearly normal � except for how they were perceived. Both law schools report that by many measures � the number of students applying, their LSAT scores undergraduate grade-point averages and faculty hires � they are doing as well or better than before the hurricane. They believe all those measures would be better still if not for the perception they are still struggling to recover. “It’s just aggravating,” said Tulane’s Ponoroff. “If we get students here to visit, the yield from those who see the city is astronomical. When we survey the students who have declined who did not visit, the overwhelming reason is concern about living in New Orleans.” Robert Verchick, chair of the environmental law program at Loyola, echoed Ponoroff. “It’s been challenging for all the universities here to maintain the size of the student bodies because a lot of potential students are not sure about the state of the city,” said Verchick. “Once we get them here we get a positive reaction, in part because they see the area around the campus is back to normal and in part because of the excitement of rebuilding a city. The same goes for bringing faculty and staff.” The Pizza Hut index Galen Hair will graduate from Tulane Law this year. Through his work with the Student Hurricane Network, which brings law students to the Gulf Coast to work with attorneys assisting rebuilding, he knows firsthand that some areas remain in dire straits, but others only need the nation to know they are back in business. “I think the city has done a phenomenal job. The area around Tulane has definitely recovered and the areas that were recovering more slowly have made great progress,” Hair said. “I won’t tell you everything is back to normal, because they are not, but you notice it in the little things. Pizza Hut won’t deliver at night before 6 or after 10 because, they say, the demand isn’t there.” Nowicki would not concede even that. “We still have Bourbon Street, we still have these restaurants, we still have more nightlife than you can imagine,” she said. “There is nothing hurricane-related that affects my life. Period.”

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