Dillard President: Thanks for the help after campus electrical failures

Incoming Dillard University President Rochelle Ford, right, joins the room in starting a second line with the Pin Stripe Brass Band inside Lawless Memorial Chapel for Ford’s investiture ceremony on Friday, January 27, 2023 in New Orleans. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate) STAFF PHOTO BY CHRIS GRANGER

In January, a group of Louisiana leaders met with representatives of the White House Office of Public Engagement to discuss the Biden administration’s initiative, Communities in Action: Building a Better Louisiana.

Little did I know at the time that I would soon be reaching out to them for support after our campus was hit twice within one week with debilitating electrical equipment failures.

On Feb. 19, a small animal shorted out the main electrical circuit. JEI, our high voltage contractors, restored power. On Feb. 26, three of the backup vault’s fuses blew.

Entergy New Orleans’ CEO answered my plea and sent crews, who worked alongside our engineers and electricians.

The outpouring of community support was amazing. Loyola University welcomed our students into their library. Dillard and Loyola’s Sodexo teams joined forces to deliver breakfast to the Hilton Riverside, where students were housed.

As word of our dilemma spread, assistance began to pour in. U.S. Rep. Troy Carter and Dr. Dertra Trent of the White House initiative advocated for review of our facilities equipment upgrade request, which is pending with the Department of Education.

The UNCF gave the university $50,000 for emergency response funding, and alumni continue to send donations.

Dillard University, the state’s oldest HBCU, remains woefully underfunded. This, coupled with ongoing costs related to hurricane recovery, rising insurance premiums and high deductibles, led to extreme deferred maintenance before I began as president seven months ago.

We need federal, state, and local funding for campus infrastructure. Please consider collaborating with us to advocate for investment in Dillard. In return, we will stand as your partner and work to advance healthier, safer and more innovative communities.

Although I’ve only been in this city a short while, the actions of this past week have made me proud to call New Orleans home.


president, Dillard University

New Orleans