Relief effort a reflection on U.S.

When and if UM discusses the amount of funds that will go toward replanting our lost trees, perhaps it would be in our best interest to donate those funds toward the victims of Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast states. These victims are in need of food, water and shelter more than our campus is of trees.

As thousands of people along the Gulf Coast, mostly low-income African Americans, await the slow-to-arrive aid from the government, our University is cleaning up its own mess. With power returned and debris to clean, our campus may not rest until its natural beauty is restored. We should conserve money from the clean-up process and sacrifice time and energy to help the victims who need it most.

With criticism coming from race-equality activists over the slowness to get help for the poor and disenfranchised of the Gulf-Coast region, we at our luxurious, private institution were helped immediately with our relatively minor needs.

Hurricane Katrina caused damage to the Miami/Coral Gables area in its own right. As the security guards around campus make sure students do not enter the roped-off “disaster areas” and the crisis worsens in the Gulf Coast, our problems seem trivial.

Is our private school campus of mostly middle-to-high income families an example that the rich get help before the poor? With such speed that the Coral Gables area was provided help, one would think a catastrophic disaster in a larger area would receive help even quicker. This has not been the case for those in Louisiana and the surrounding ravaged areas.

As one of many African-American men pleads, “Take care of us, we need you [CNN],” we live like kings and queens. I lost air-conditioning for one night in the apartment area during the hurricane. Many students living off-campus lost electricity for days. Other on-campus students, blinded from the outside, partied all night in Clubs Hecht, Stanford, Pearson, Mahoney and Eaton.

The royal treatment that UM on-campus residents received during and after Hurricane Katrina as opposed to the struggle for help in the Gulf Coast is an example of the disorganized priorities that our country and government have. The government officials speaking out to the hurricane victims seem as expressionless and stone-cold as when attempting to convince our country that our occupation in Iraq is for a greater good.

On Sept. 1, President Shalala announced that UM is trying to accommodate many students displaced by Hurricane Katrina by enrolling them in available classes. This is a noble gesture, and it shows that we are more concerned about the well-being of students’ education than the iconic banyan tree.

Like President Shalala, there are many good souls doing their part for the relief effort in what is the second year of devastating hurricanes across many states. As Hurricane Katrina barreled past south Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico, where was the help for those who could not evacuate? There was time. Two-and-a-half days to be exact. Ask the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

If lack of money and man-power was an issue, perhaps we now realize we have over extended ourselves in the folly of war in the Middle East while we still have much to take care of at home. According to the New York Times (9/3), when asked, “Do we have enough National Guard troops?” President Bush responded, “Of course we do.” We should all feel so convinced.

Sam Rega can be contacted at