At the beginning of this semester, schools from across the nation opened their doors to displaced students from New Orleans universities like Tulane, Loyola, Xavier, and Dillard. Swarthmore was one of these colleges; according to Dean of Admissions Jim Bock ’90, Swarthmore was ready to “provide housing as well as classes for up to fifteen students.” Two of these spots were taken by Nikhil Sharma ’09 of Tulane and Glenavin White ’07 of Loyola.
Sharma was originally accepted at Swarthmore, but chose Tulane, which offered him a generous scholarship. After a semester on Swarthmore’s campus, Nikhil has come to enjoy his friends and classes here, and wished to stay on at Swarthmore rather than returning to Tulane in the spring.
Unfortunately for Nikhil and his friends, when Swarthmore accepted Nikhil, says Bock “we agreed to take him as a visiting student on a semester-by-semester basis.” It was understood from the beginning that if Tulane reopened after a semester, Nikhil would have to return home. He cannot apply as a transfer student in the spring because Swarthmore does not allow transfer applications for the spring semester.
Bock recently attended a national meeting of admissions representatives where he learned that “most of our peer schools are doing the same thing. We all agreed that we don’t want to poach students from other institutions… if this happened to us, we would want our students to come back.” If every school allowed its visiting students to stay, Tulane and the other institutions would effectively lose the Class of ’09.
Rachel Shorey ’06 expresses the feelings of many students. “The problem is that that is a very procedural answer and Nikhil isn’t a procedure, he’s a person who has made great friends in this dorm and on this campus… I understand [this decision] was made out of respect for the needs of Tulane, but I do think it’s a really sad situation, and I’ll definitely miss Nikhil.”
While a group of students originally circulated a petition in support of Nikhil remaining at Swarthmore, now that the college’s decision has been fully explained, that effort has been dropped. Instead, says Shorey, “students are focusing their energies on writing a great letter to put in his file if he decides to apply next year as a transfer student, planning some fun events for the end of the year to say goodbye, and reminding him how welcome he’ll be if he decides to return some day.”
Nikhil is “more than welcome” to apply as a transfer student for next fall, says Bock, and if he does “the process for him will be the same as the process for anyone else,” with one crucial difference. “His recommendations could be from Swarthmore faculty.”