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University of Iowa News Release

Sept. 21, 2005

UI To Host Public Forum On Katrina Rhetoric, Lecture On New Orleans Future

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, many people are still trying to understand the scope of the disaster and find that the road to understanding is cluttered with misinformation. Two University of Iowa rhetoric professors have organized a public forum, "Gulf Coast Underwater: America Uncovered," to explore the rhetoric surrounding the tragedy and how to cut through to the truth.

The forum, from 1 to 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26, in the Richey Ballroom in the Iowa Memorial Union, is free and open to the public, and will feature presentations by several UI professors with ties to the Gulf area along with opportunities for discussion.

In conjunction with the forum, the UI Lecture Committee will host a free, public lecture by Craig Colten (right), author of the book "New Orleans: An Unnatural Metropolis," who will explain why the city fared so poorly when hit by Hurricane Katrina. Colten, a professor of geology at Louisiana State University who has written widely about New Orleans, will speak at 7:30 p.m. in the Richey Ballroom, IMU. "An Unnatural Metropolis," tells the story of New Orleans as a place that was ill-suited to become a major metropolitan area, and how, for centuries, humans have struggled to reshape it into a place that could support a major population. Since the post-Katrina flooding began, Colten has said that New Orleans should be restored, but that the lowest-lying parts of the city should be allowed to return to wetlands.

Bridget Harris Tsemo (left), assistant professor of rhetoric in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said she was moved to organize the public forum after a faculty meeting discussion about ways to go beyond individual personal contributions to the relief effort. She and fellow rhetoric professor Amy Carrillo-Rowe (right) also were concerned after hearing strongly voiced, but ultimately ill-informed opinions in the classroom and in the community, and thought people could benefit from an open discussion.

"We wanted to provide a forum to allow people to talk about all sides of the discussion before forming an opinion," Tsemo said. "Our speakers will address a host of issues many people haven't begun to think about and will paint a picture of a culture they describe as so different from our experience in the Midwest."

The event will begin with a welcome from UI Executive Vice President and Provost Michael Hogan, followed by a musical performance and personal stories from New Orleans native Howard Weinberg. Students who enrolled at the UI after their Gulf Coast universities closed for the fall semester have been invited as honored guests. Speakers and topics for the public forum include:

  • 1:25 p.m.: Barbara Eckstein, associate professor of English, "New Orleans and the American City of Sprawl"
  • 2:10 p.m.: Frank Durham, assistant professor of journalism and mass communication, "Knowing What Knowing Means: Understanding the Place of Journalism in the Katrina Response"
  • 3 p.m.: James Throgmorton, professor of urban and regional planning, "Rebuilding New Orleans after the Hurricane"
  • 4 p.m.: Richard Turner, associate professor of African American world studies "Follow the Second Line: New Orleans Musical Rituals"
  • 5 p.m.: "The Soul Patrol," New Orleans rescue workers Earl Barthe', Ricky Mathieu, Jaydell Beard and Mike Woods

Organized by the Department of Rhetoric in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the forum is co-sponsored by the Office of the Provost and the UI Lecture Committee. For more information or special accommodations to attend this event, please contact Tsemo, 319-335-0177, Representatives from the Red Cross will be available to collect any monetary donations from participants.

UI Executive Vice President and Provost Michael Hogan is coordinating UI efforts to support those affected by Hurricane Katrina. The most current information regarding UI relief efforts is available online,

(EDITORS: Colten will be available to speak with the media by phone on Thursday, Sept. 22 at 1:30 p.m. in the Michigan Room of the IMU.)

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011,; Program: Bridget Harris Tsemo, 319-335-0177,

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011,