Tulane Students Rush to Make Up Classes
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
There's a Creole word, lagniappe, which means that little something extra that a friendly shopkeeper might give customers, like the baker who throws in an extra doughnut when you order a dozen. Well, even Hurricane Katrina hasn't put a damper on this old Louisiana tradition.
As NPR's Elaine Korry reports, this summer, students at Tulane University in New Orleans are getting their own taste of lagniappe.
ELAINE KORRY reporting:
Graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2006 are already over and normally Tulane would be pretty deserted by now. Instead, the campus is crawling with students. At a food court called the Pavilion, two pre-med majors are cramming for an exam in Organic Chemistry.
Mr. JESSIE RENY(ph) (Junior, Tulane University): Can you explain the ring flip for the cyclohexane? What exactly is that?
Mr. CARTHIC KORA(ph) (Junior, Tulane University): Yeah, well the ring flip is just a conformation change where all the equatorial bonds change to axial bonds in the chair conformation.
KORRY: Jessie Reny and Carthic Kora, both juniors, could've taken this course last fall, but Katrina got in the way. Even now, they don't feel prepared for the test. Kora says he's used to pulling all-nighters before an exam, but this time he couldn't.
Mr. KORA: It's a little bad because we have to take the test at 7:00 at night as opposed to the normal, you know, class time, so.
Mr. RENY: And we have class everyday, and, you know, and twice on Monday, so.
KORRY: They're enrolled in an extra term Tulane is calling lagniappe semester. There's a lot that's different, classes five days a week, often late into the evening. Even stranger, mid-terms after just three weeks. That's because lagniappe is a full eighteen-week semester crammed into seven weeks. Reny says it's taken some getting used to.
Mr. RENY: Yeah, it's a lot more studying. I mean, and, you know, it doesn't feel like we should be studying this much, because I usually take the first like two weeks of the semester off and then freak out and start studying a lot. So, now I had to actually start studying right from the beginning.
KORRY: It's a rough schedule, but these students don't really have a choice if they want to catch up with their studies. They barely moved into their dorms last fall when Katrina hit. Soon, most of the campus was under water.
Dr. SCOTT COWEN (Tulane University): And it was anywhere from a couple of inches to about five feet. And, of course, by that time we'd lost all communications. We didn't have access to water or to sewer and it was pretty dismal.
KORRY: Tulane President Scott Cowen recalls how he surveyed the storm damage by rowboat. It quickly became clear what he had to do.
Dr. COWEN: I made the decision that we would have to close and it's the first time our university has been closed since the Civil War.
KORRY: Tulane remained closed for four long months. A few students sat out the semester, but most scattered to some 600 universities across the country. But they paid tuition at Tulane and President Cowen wanted them back on track for their degrees. So, he came up with the idea of lagniappe semester, something extra to keep them from falling behind.
Lagniappe has helped traditional students stay current, especially with those hard to schedule required courses. But it's also helped non-traditional students, such as Tam Caddy(ph), a woman in her 40s who attends Tulane at night while holding down a job. Her Social Studies class is about to begin.
Ms. TAM CADDY (Tulane University student): There's a couple of us in here who are in the same situation. There are four of us who had the opportunity to graduate based on the lagniappe semester.
KORRY: The extra term has meant extra work for professors as well, yet by the end of June, when the semester ends, most students and faculty will be caught up, ready for a short summer break before their regular schedule resumes at Tulane this fall.
Elaine Korry, NPR News.
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