On his grind

How this student entrepreneur went from food stamps to CEO 

Jude Collins sees every moment as an opportunity.

It is a calm, sunny Saturday afternoon in New Orleans when Jude Collins, 21, picks me up in his black Mercedes-Benz SUV.  All around us on Broadway Street, the Tulane student community is slowly waking up, hungover and lazy. But Jude is on a mission.

Jude is so productive that it’s as though time passes differently for him. Judging from the $100,000-company he runs, full Tulane business school courseload work he excels in, and family he takes care of, you would think Jude Collins had more than just 24 hours in each day.

“The early bird gets the worm,” he says in his gravelly Southern drawl. Like the leather interior of his car, Jude is looking immaculate—today he’s wearing a crisp Polo T-shirt, dark designer jeans, and squeaky-white Jordan sneakers. “I had to get on up out of the library ‘cause shit needs to be done right now. Man, you don’t even understand how platinum we about to go.” Read more of this post

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“It’s Miss Grace to you, shorty”

Longtime Bruff worker Miss Grace serves Tulane students their daily omelets—along with a side of prayer, encouragement and scolding

It is icy cold and scarcely past dawn when, with three loud thumps, the car doors slam shut, sending echoes reverberating across the empty McAlister drive.

In a few hours, this flawless-paved street lined with manicured trees and idyllic shrubs will be teeming with chaos—students and professors walking, running, biking past each other in a flurry—but for now, Grace Bridges, 64, along with her 40-year-old daughter and 24-year-old grandson, cherish the silence as they trudge toward the looming brick building in the middle of Tulane’s campus, readying for their day’s work ahead of serving food to Tulane students.

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Squatters: Living alternatively and redefining freedom

This was the lead story published in The Hullabaloo on January 22, 2011.

Some names have been kept anonymous to protect sources, as squatting is an illegal practice.


Aside from the occasional police visit and pooping in a bucket, Laura, a 23-year-old Tulane alumna, is living the dream.

Squatting in an abandoned house in the Eighth Ward, Laura and her four roommates spend their free time playing music or creating art, as well as foraging for usable metal, tires, tools and furniture in New Orleans junkyards to fix up their newfound home.

“It’s like constant camping,” Laura said.

“Most people may not associate freedom with forgoing electricity and running water, but that is exactly how Laura’s daily life makes her feel — free.

“It’s fun getting on without all the luxuries other people think they need,” Laura said, smiling. “Every day is an adventure, and everyone here is awesome. They are all the most thoughtful, generous and life-embracing people I’ve ever met.”

But a few blocks away, an empty lot with tall, singed grass bears a stark reminder of the dangers of living this way: A tragic fire killed eight squatters — all between 17 and 23 years old — in an abandoned warehouse on Dec. 28, while they were burned trash to keep warm amid freezing temperatures.

The fire thrust the largely underground world of New Orleans squatters into the spotlight, bringing new media and police attention to the network of dwellers in abandoned buildings. Read more of this post

Kathy Zeitoun leads panel discussion on prison abuse

This article was published in The Hullabaloo on October 29, 2010.

Four women who were either prison abuse victims or human rights activists led a panel discussion entitled “Human Rights of the Incarcerated” Tuesday night.

The Newcomb College Institute and Newcomb-Tulane College co-sponsored the event.

Kathy Zeitoun, the event’s keynote speaker, knows the atrocities committed within the New Orleans prison system all too well. As told in Dave Eggers’ book “Zeitoun,” Kathy’s Syrian husband Abdulrahman Zeitoun, wrongfully accused of terrorism charges and denied due process, spent five months in Louisiana jails following Hurricane Katrina.

“It was hard for him to be called Taliban, al-Qaeda,” Zeitoun said, recounting his treatment by prison guards, some of whom had just returned from serving in Iraq. “We worked so hard to build our reputations in this city, being Muslim… and after the storm we helped rebuild.”

Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with one of every 55 residents behind bars, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU of Louisiana receives approximatelty 80 complaints of prison abuses each month, mostly concerning “beatings from guards, inadequate medical care, squalid living conditions and being denied access to a lawyer,” according to their website. In New Orleans, city officials are currently looking to almost double prison capacities despite a budget crisis that is forcing public universities to severely cut programs.

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Louisiana cuts education funding

This story was published in The Hullabaloo on October 8, 2010.

Because of a unique mix of post-Katrina events, existing fiscal policy and political will, Louisiana may have to slash up to 73.5 percent of its portion of the budget allocated for healthcare and higher education spending between now and July 2011 to make up for expected losses.

As federal stimulus funding is set to run out in July 2011, many states are facing massive budget cuts across the board. At Louisiana State University, cuts of this magnitude translate into losses of $62 million for fiscal year 2011 – 2012, which could result in roughly 700 layoffs, the closure of seven of its 14 schools and the elimination of one-third of its degree programs.

“We do not know what lies ahead or what we will be asked to do next,” LSU Chancellor Michael Martin said, according to his website, LSUBudget Impact. “But we will continue to make the case to all constituents as forcibly as possible that these cuts would be destructive to the state’s flagship institution, catastrophic to the local economy and disastrous for the future education of the children of Louisiana.”

In a conference call with college journalists on Monday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that while he understood the severity of the Louisiana budget cuts, there is not much the federal government can do.

“I don’t know how much we could intervene with the state legislature,” Duncan said. “Many of these issues at the local level we can’t control at the federal level. But I will look at legal remedies.”

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Eight tons of crawfish and free music: Crawfest draws thousands


This article was published in The Hullabaloo on April 23, 2010.
An estimated crowd of 7,000 celebrated Tulane’s fourth annual Crawfest Saturday, consuming all 16,000 pounds of crawfish by 3 p.m. The musical performances continued until 9 p.m.

Featuring 10 local bands, 11 local art vendors, five food vendors and 10 non-profit stands, Crawfest attracted a larger crowd of non-Tulane affiliates this year than ever before.

The Crawfest Committee, an elected group within Undergraduate Student Government, spends from $130,000 – 150,000 to put on Crawfest each year.

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Mexican author Carlos Fuentes on Catholicism, marijuana, globalization, and love

FuentesThis article was published on April 16, 2010 in The Hullabaloo.

Mexican author Carlos Fuentes came to speak at Tulane April 12. As the fourth speaker in the English department’s annual Great Writers Series, sponsored by the Creative Writing Fund, Fuentes spoke to an estimated crowd of 1,000 at McAlister Auditorium.

Famous for his magic realism style, Fuentes is one of the most widely acclaimed writers in the Spanish-speaking world. He is also known as a prominent social commentator and an international diplomat for Mexico.

Fuentes’ speech touched on a variety of topics, from education to death to creative writing to social justice, all connected through his theme of alphabetical order. Read more of this post