OPINION | Tulane student evacuation during Hurricane Ida shows privilege, ignorance

Anna Dixon, Senior Staff Columnist

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Tulane students’ privilege was evident on social media during the Hurricane Ida evacuation as they fled to destinations around the country. (Gabe Darley)

Tulane University students’ social media posts of themselves partying in other cities juxtaposed with news footage showing Hurricane Ida’s destruction of New Orleans exemplifies the student body’s half-hearted relationship with the city. This is not the first time that Tulane students exhibited a disingenuous relationship with the New Orleans community, as they did when college parties continued while the city grappled with COVID-19. 

While students claim to love New Orleans and consider themselves members of this community, they were quick to flaunt their evacuation by showing their partying on social media, some going so far as including captions along the lines of “Hurrication.” The posts were not due to malice, however, just blatant disregard for other people’s experiences. They were ignorant. 

These types of social media posts neglect the fact that being able to evacuate a natural disaster is a privilege. Only those that are financially able and hold jobs that allow them to be absent for work are able to evacuate. The median income of a Tulane student’s family far exceeds that of the average family in New Orleans. Yet, many Tulane students used their means to evacuate and ignore an ongoing crisis  rather than to help those less fortunate. 

As climate change continues to increase the intensity of natural disasters, it must be recognized that not all people face equal threats by these storms. Following natural disasters, white communities tend to see an increase in wealth due to reinvestment and aid, while communities of color tend to see a decrease in overall wealth.

Following the storm, Tulane students took to social media once again, but this time to advocate for donations to charities helping with the recovery effort. The Instagram account, @TU_Ida_Relief, raised over $15,000 in less than 24 hours. This onslaught of support reignites the question of whether monetary donations are as important as the donation of time. 

Messages of love for the city were abundant, and they were most likely well-intended. The Tulane student body relishes in the culture of New Orleans and the offerings of the city, but the disconnect between the two continues. 

The social media posts, both of partying during the storm and of promoting support after it, can be explained by the facade that social media promotes. The true intentions of any post can never be known, as social media is never truly reflective of one’s values. One may post flaunting parties simply to prove to high school friends that they are having fun at college. One may promote donations to genuinely do what they can or just to join the bandwagon of the posts beforehand. 

However, the gap between the New Orleans community and the Tulane student body will never be bridged if Tulane students continue to exercise and ignorantly showcase their privilege while being ignorant of others’ experiences. Tulane students cannot continue to be fair weather fans of New Orleans if they wish to truly be members of the community.

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