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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

$13,000 for New Orleans Trip

The Undergraduate Student Senate recently approved a $13,320 trip to New Orleans in order to assist in the rebuilding of 200,000 homes that were destroyed by 2005 Hurricane Katrina, according to the Senate.

Juana Matias, Senate President, said, “The main objective of this trip is community service […][Students] will gut houses and rebuild them.” The trip will also serve as an educational trip to raise awareness about the suffering of the residents of New Orleans.

Last January, 50 students traveled to the Gentilly area of New Orleans, a mostly middle-class neighborhood, and the 9th Ward, a much poorer area hit hard by the flooding. The trip was organized by the African Students Union with aid from the United for African Growth club to “show solidarity with the people of New Orleans.”

The philosophical aim of these trips “[is] to contribute in addressing serious human and societal problems as well as expanding student learning opportunities from the classrooms to surrounding areas.”

Using the last trip as an example, the ASU and UAG, as well as other student clubs, centers and groups, requested this large sum of money to send 40 students to New Orleans from Jan. 12 to 19.

Though ambitions for this trip are heartfelt and genuine, problems arise when one looks at how the funding for it was passed. The motion was passed in a 6-2 vote, as only 16 of 30 Senators were present and eight abstained, meaning at least eight Senators are going on the trip.

The reason so few Senators were present, Matias said, was that “many Senators were absent from this vote because of our prolonged meetings that run into the 4 p.m. class session.”

When asked why the New Orleans resolution, an extremely expensive proposal, was the day’s last vote, Matias said, “What you propose is that I should have foretold that our meeting was going to run long. I don’t think that is plausible.”

The trip’s extremely high costs are, in large part, based on airfare for 40 students, which amounts to $10,500; bus rentals that total $3,000; lodging, at a cost of $1,470; and food costs estimated at $1,800.

Some students may think that a humanitarian effort to provide food and other necessities to people living on the streets or in run down housing in the poor areas of Boston and surrounding towns would be a more useful and economical use of students’ money. Matias responded to such an idea by saying that New Orleans was left in “devastating circumstances that need a devastating amount of attention.”

“I don’t think it is credible to compare New Orleans situation to the Boston area,” she said. “There is a substantial amount of difference between the two. […] I think it is truly inconsistent and inappropriate to compare New Orleans’ needs and the condition to that of Boston communities that, from what I know, aren’t at a critical level as those in New Orleans.”

Out of state volunteers clean up houses in the Lakeview section of New Orleans, Louisiana.