University of Virginia’s Inaugural Symposium on Race and Society to Focus on Hurricane Katrina

Oct. 30, 2006 -- The University of Virginia will host the inaugural Symposium on Race and Society from Nov. 2 through 4, focusing on topics related to the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina. The symposium will explore race in the context of the 2005 disaster through eight academic areas: business; education; law, government and politics; health and public policy; architecture and urban planning; engineering; media; and arts and sciences.

The conference, “In Katrina’s Wake: Racial Implications of the New Orleans Disaster,” is organized by the Office of Diversity and Equity, with support from the University Faculty Senate and the General Faculty Council, and will be held at the Darden School of Business.

The symposium’s lead organizer, William B. Harvey, vice president and chief officer for diversity and equity, hopes the event will provide a greater understanding of the complexities of the disaster and will help develop ideas for addressing racial and socioeconomic inequalities in the nation.
“This event demonstrates that, as one of America’s leading institutions of higher education, the University of Virginia recognizes its responsibility to facilitate discussion and analyses of important social issues,” Harvey said. “This gathering provides an opportunity for scholars and concerned individuals from across the nation to examine the impact of the nation’s most destructive natural disaster — and the social disaster that followed.”

The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina last year claimed more than 1,800 lives and left behind an estimated $75 billion worth in damage. The hurricane’s impact has affected the social, educational and political infrastructures of New Orleans, among other areas on the Gulf Coast.
Key speakers include U. Va. professor of history Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors; Liz Reyes, an award-winning anchor-reporter for ABC News in New Orleans who participated in round-the-clock coverage of the disaster; Christina Melton, a U.Va. alumna who filmed the documentary, “Washing Away,” on Hurricane Katrina for Louisiana Public Television; and the Honorable Judge Peter Beer, a New Orleans native who earned degrees from Tulane University and U.Va, and is a senior judge on the United States District Court. Beer, a member of the National Council of State and Federal Judges, has been on the court since 1979 and is former president of the New Orleans City Council.
Scholars from U.Va. and other universities will take part in concurrent panel discussions on Friday and Saturday. Some of the topics they will discuss include: “Leaving No Child Behind in the Wake of Katrina,” “Righting an Unrightable Wrong: Confronting Poverty Through Truth and Reconciliation in New Orleans,” “The Possible Role of Discrimination in the Helping Response after Hurricane Katrina” and “Drowning Without a Hurricane: Race and Class After Katrina.”

Former U.Va. student Catherine S. Neale and other students will talk about their community service project in New Orleans, and a group of U.Va. doctors will share their experiences participating in a post-Katrina health relief clinic. Selected papers will be published in a special edition of the Journal on Race and Policy.

For information on the conference fee and schedule, see, or contact Daisy L. Lovelace at (434) 243-2185 or