Friday, September 5, 2008

The State of the Levees

As most of you know, Gustav left New Orleans in relatively good shape, despite some flooding, compared to Katrina. Nevertheless, the 2008 Hurricane Season is not over and a large hurricane could very well be disastrous for New Orleans. To learn more about the state of the levees and their potential to withstand future storms, listen to NPR's story, Can New Orleans Weather Another Storm?

Upcoming Fundraising Events

September 11, 2008
: Burrito Bar (with PILF) at the College of Law, during Peer's Pub

September 20, 2008: Car Wash Fundraiser, 10 AM until 3 PM (approximately), at Advance Auto Parts (corner of Main & Vine, Urbana) Advance Auto Parts is in front of the Schnucks in Urbana.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Football Fundraiser Dates

2008 Fall Football Game Bead Toss

September 06, 2008: University of Illinois v. Eastern Illinois University

September 13, 2008: University of Illinois v. Louisiana-Lafayette

October 11, 2008: University of Illinois v. Minnesota

October 18, 2008: University of Illinois v. Indiana

November 1, 2008: University of Illinois v. Iowa

For more information, email:

Friday, July 25, 2008

Oil spill cleanup near NOLA - 7/23/08

An oil spill covered the Mississippi River near New Orleans when an accident occurred on Wednesday.

Look on for up to date information. People are stocking up on bottled water because there's a chance that tap water may not be safe to drink yet.

My contact in New Orleans has informed me that a group of volunteers at the Healthy Soil Project ( has been working to help with the cleanup on their turf (no pun intended). This is a group that has been working on getting toxins out of the soil near the levees over the last year. If you want to help, they are accepting donations of respirators, tyvek suits, joy brand dish soap, and hair mats (if you want to mail any of these items, please contact the email address above), as well as donations of money.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Who Are the People in Your Network? (Part II)

So after a long absence I'm back with a new post. I hope that everyone's having a good summer so far. A long time ago I posted an interview with Miranda Soucie and promised others. Well here I am making good on my promise. Meet Conor O'Brien, incoming Vice President of the SHN, who was kind enough to answer my questions.

Q: Where are you from?

A: I'm from Brecksville, Ohio, but I consider Chicago home. I went to undergrad in the city and lived on the North Side for several years while working in the western suburbs.

Q: What year (in law school) are you?

A: Since finals are over, I have the distinct privilege of being a 2L (second year law student).

Q: What did you do in New Orleans last December?

A: Last Winter break in New Orleans I did physical labor with the Lower 9th Ward Community Village. We gutted damaged homes, removed debris, re-roofed the local community center and built a temporary kitchen structure to serve meals to members of the community still living in the Lower 9th Ward.

Q: What do you anticipate will be your biggest challenge as Vice President of Illinois Chapter of the Student Hurricane Network?

A: Funding. We were one of the largest groups of law students to help with SHN [in New Orleans] over the past year and the largest ever from the College of Law, but this was a banner year in terms of grants from the university and fund raising. We will need a great fund raising effort and some more help from the university to reach the Executive Board's goal of 2 trips to New Orleans.

Q: What prompted you to run for Vice President of SHN?

A: I decided to run for VP because I have a background in fundraising and logistics from my previous career in marketing and finance. Given this background, I figured I could help to make this year's SHN trip the most successful yet. I had a great experience on last year's trip and really wanted to be a part of the team that helps organize such an important effort. It's amazing how much work there is to be done for this area almost 3 years following the storm and the breach of the levees.

Q: How did you first hear about SHN at the College of Law and what interested you in participating?

A: I actually heard about the Student Hurricane Network the summer before I came to Champaign from one of my friends who attends law school at the University of Iowa . It sounded like a very worthwhile cause and I was excited to find that University of Illinois had a Student Hurricane Network Chapter where I could participate.

The Jesuit priests have a deep commitment to social justice and human rights activities. I have had a great experience with the Jesuits throughout my education and wanted to maintain some of their ideals even though U of I is a secular institution. My experiences while enrolled in St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, OH and Loyola University of Chicago really established the importance of promoting the welfare of others.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Extreme Makeover goes to New Orleans

If you're hooked on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, be sure to watch the season finale on May 18th, when it will focus on rebuilding in New Orleans as an end to their 50 state campaign. Two big projects were completed within the week that this was filmed. One home being built is for a family who jumped in to support each other and their community immediately following Hurricane Katrina. The second project is to rebuild a New Orleans church. Additional information can be found at the following website:

It has been almost three years, but there is still a lot that can be done. If you like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, or if you want to see more examples of the great efforts that are put forth to help New Orleans and honor its heroes, be sure to watch on May 18th at 7:00 PM on ABC.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Housing Now: Public Housing Post Katrina

The Newshour has a story on rebuilding in Katrina. As most of us saw when we were there in December, housing has evolved in to a controversial issue in New Orleans after Katrina. The News Hour reexamined the issue of public housing on today's broadcast. Tracy Washington, a local attorney, with whom some of our students worked, is quoted. You can listen or watch it online. This was their third story in an ongoing series.

Friday, March 28, 2008

March Madness

The NY Times has this story in today's online edition about D.J. Augustin, a Katrina evacuee who is playing basketball for the University of Texas at Austin. I'm not a March Madness fan and didn't know who he was, but the story's title, A City Left Behind, but Still Inspired, caught my eye. Think about this, Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005 and since then he's only been back 4 times! It seems like he still has strong connections with New Orleans, but sadly it's no longer his home.

I'm out here in Illinois for the next 3 years or so, by choice and could return home (Massachusetts) whenever I want to, but it'd be another thing altogether not to have a home to go back to, and to have to adjust to a new one. It seems like he's not only done that, but is thriving at it. I'm impressed.

Here's a quote from the story: “D. J.’s story is one of inspiration and demonstrates the power of the human spirit,” New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said through a spokesman. “Our citizens, whether living here or elsewhere, continue to demonstrate their strength and perseverance.”

Note: the photo above is from D.J. Augustin's athlete profile on the University of Texas's Athletic Department's website.

It's News To Me!

It's a little ironic considering that I'm blogging on here and I wasn't aware of this, but as the title says it's news to me. It's not really a secret, just something I hadn't thought about and if you're like me, you might not have either. So what is it? goes:

Each week the Student Hurricane Network sends out a newsletter containing udates about SHN events, news and information about the Gulf Coast Region, and ways to get involved in the organization.

Moral of the story is you get more email (kidding), no, this is a really good way to keep on what's going on in New Orleans and the lingering effects of Katrina. I know, I know you're probably thinking more email, and weekly to boot? If you don't want to sign up for the newsletter, remember the Student Hurricane Network website is
It links to the blogs of other law schools and read what their experiences have been.

We'll be adding pics here soon, so watch for that.

Trivia: how many stories does Google News return about "Hurricane Katrina"?
Answer (as of today March 28, 2008): 12,858

Note: I tried signing up for the newsletter and got an error message, so it might not work for you, (but you can check still check out the other schools' blogs), hopefully the error I got isn't an ongoing issue. If you've signed up, recently leave a comment and tell me what I did wrong.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Who Are the People in Your Network?

No. Not phone network, Illinois Student Hurricane Network. Remember the Sesame Street song, Who are the People in Your Neighborhood? Substitute "network" for neighborhood as you read along and check the blog for periodic interviews with the students that make up the SHN chapter at the College of Law. Why? Well, because I hope you'll be inspired by them and think about joining us in the future. These guys and girls are a great resource, if you want to learn more.

Miranda Soucie is not only next year's President of the SHN at Illinois, she was also the director of the College of Law's recent production of Eve Ensler's Vagina Monolgues. Here's a Q & A with Miranda about SHN and the Vagina Monologues and here's what she had to say:

Q: So, you were involved in the Vagina Monologues, how did that overlap with the Student Hurricane Network?
A: Um, the international focus of the Vagina Monologues and V-Day for 2008 is the women of New Orleans. So when I first started looking into doing the Vagina Monologues, and I found out about all the stuff that they are planning to do in New Orleans: donating to women's organizations in that area, [and] empowering women, I decided it was a great idea to get the Student Hurricane Network involved here in the Vagina Monologues.

Q: And you are also the President of the Student Hurricane Network? Is that correct?
A: Yes, I'm the incoming President.

Q: What are some of your plans or goals for SHN next year?
A: Well, currently we've been doing one trip [to New Orleans] a year. Last semester I believe we had 38 almost 40 people go on the trip. The trips are getting kind of large, so one of my main goals is to do two trips. Whether that be two during winter break or one during spring break, we're still working on. Also, we're planning on doing a lot more fund raising, involving football games and the like. So I'd be looking out for a lot more fund raising to be happening.

Q: And, just overall what was your experience with the Vagina Monologues? Being the director?
A: It was crazy. It was a lot. It was a huge time commitment, but overall the ladies were wonderful, the community was pretty receptive to the event and I think it's something we can definitely build on and do again in the future.

Q: As an alum of this past trip, what did you do in New Orleans?

A: I worked for the assistant of Bill Quigley, who is a member of the Loyola [University] law clinic. He does a lot of public interest work and we did a lot with the public housing while we were there. We worked with the protesters who were arrested. Spent a lot of time in court and I got a few instances to go along to some of their clients and deliver groceries and meet some people. It was pretty neat.

Q: What initially attracted you to participate in SHN?
A: I have a lot of friends that live in that area and I've always spent a lot of time down there. I just think it's terrible what's happened to that area.

Where Were you on V-Day?

The torch has been passed, so I'm picking it up and posting about my reaction to the Vagina Monologues. I saw the March 7th show (there was one the following night as well). I have to say that it was great seeing the talents of fellow classmates. The sensitivity, humor, candor and realness of the performances was amazing.

Not having seen the monologues before, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, yet I was curious as to what would unfold. I'm really glad that I went. Of course, a show called the Vagina Monologues, is going to be told from a female perspective, but rather than alienating males, such as myself, it invites us to really hear the voices of the women embodied in the monologues. One of the most striking aspects of the performances is the realization that each of these women is as the different as the names for the vaginas that are revealed to the audience. I was happy to see the diversity of the women reflected not only in the experiences related in their monologues, but also in the cast. It reinforced the theme that these monologues are not just one woman's story or one social or racial group's but it is everywoman's story, which is to say it is a human story.

Did you go to V-Day? What did you think?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Passing the Torch

We had a meeting yesterday and officially determined who would be leading the U of I SHN next year. I have to admit, being President was exhausting...and I'm glad to be passing the torch on to the next generation. But, beyond my anticipation of a slacker 3L year, I'm really thrilled about the new leadership and all the potential they have to continue to grow SHN.

All of the 2008-2009 board members have proven to be amazingly dedicated volunteers and I think they have a great combo of enthusiasm, unique skills, and connections within the law school (and beyond) to do great things! I wish them all the best in helping SHN help law students make a difference on the gulf coast!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Vagina Monologues!

This year's V-day Campaign is spotlighting the women of New Orleans. V-day and the Vagina Monologues are celebrating their 10th anniversary in New Orleans this year. For us at U of I SHN, this all is fortuitous timing.

Miranda, next year's SHN president and a former theatre teacher, decided she wanted to be the local organizer of V-day and the Vagina Monologues. She put together a FABULOUS, all-law student cast, and I am honored to get to read the spotlight monologue about New Orleans, entitled "The Wetlands". At first I was reluctant to say "vagina" outloud, but then again...that's what The Vagina Monologues is all about. Why should we be ashamed to say it?

My monologue declares that New Orleans is the vagina of America, and goes into a list of ways that we want and use her (NOLA) when we want, but then mistreat her when we're sick of her. Its so true. My hope is that one day NOLA, women, and all others that have been "used" by society will be seen for what they/we are -- unique, nuanced, special, and worthy of our respect.

If you're in Champaign-Urbana, come see the show March 7 & 8 at 8pm, at the IMC in Urbana!