In an online poll conducted by the Tulane Hullabaloo, 26% of respondents expressed complete satisfaction with Tulane's Renewal Plan, whereas 41% considered it "horrific" and indicated that President Scott Cowen should be replaced.  The remaining respondents expressed varying degrees of uncertainty about the plan.
(Accessed March 20, 2007 — results vary with time.)

What Was, Is, and Could Be Again
Part One:  An Examination of the Renewal Plan and Its Disastrous Aftermath
March 9, 2007

In the months following Hurricane Katrina, Tulane's campus was a ghost town. No one walked to class, no one stumbled on Maple, no one was over-charged for a Quizno's sandwich. Students, faculty and staff had been scattered to every corner of this country. By all appearances, Tulane was dead.

In fact, Tulane was undergoing the most sweeping and widespread changes in her history. The generations-old system of administration was cast aside, financially-viable departments were eliminated, hundreds of faculty [many of them tenured] were let go (in the largest firing of its kind in the history of the United States) after devoting their lives to Tulane. This institution was changed from top to bottom, yet the individuals these new policies would most affect were completely left out of the decision making process.

Instead, University President Cowen and select, high-level members of his administration used the confusion and chaos following Katrina to usher in a series of reorganization they had long been prevented from achieving by the niceties of due process.

During the next few weeks I will endeavor to show the student body in a series of articles that this administration served its own agenda by effecting sweeping change without meaningful input from students or faculty, and that many violations of the Tulane University Faculty Handbook and the Association of American University Professors' guidelines occurred as well as a total bypassing of college constitutions.

I have heard some ask what the point is of such resistance to the administration's policies. They have argued that it was better to make these changes without the kind of messy publicity that accompanied Loyola's reforms, that some of the dead weight this university was carrying had to be sloughed off with quick and decisive action, and that the dangers of inaction after Katrina were far too great to risk.

But to think that the situation which faced this university after Aug. 29, 2005, was a blank check for the administration to radically alter the traditions and organization of this school is folly. There is no disaster great enough to rationalize the kind of injustices effected by the Renewal Plan — there is no excuse for the callous disregard of the will of both students and faculty that this administration flaunted.

Half of us now have no conception of what Tulane was like before Katrina. We have no allegiance to the colleges of old, nor any acquaintance with the traditions that are now dead. Yet, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and the absence of real, authentic community at Tulane is now glaring enough for anyone to realize. When I first visited Tulane's campus as a prospective student, I visited my college — Tulane College. Standing in the middle of Cudd Hall, I felt the community that I had been searching for in an intellectually rigorous university: Those were the students of my college walking in, that was my dean with the open door, there was my associate dean and my advisors.

Today, Cudd hall sits almost dark, with no students entering and no reason to go there. Today, there is only one college: it has 5,000 students, no faculty and no contact. The stale, contrived attempts of the administration to make us feel engaged are failing, and the reason for this is simple: We have thrown away what worked for so long.

But I am just one kid, writing a column for a newspaper most students belittle. I can't bend the ear of high-level administrators by myself, nor can I have any real effect on the policy made in the smoke-filled rooms of the Banana Mansion. But a lot of kids do have a shot. A lot of kids, making a lot of noise, can make a difference. As much as we may be perceived to eschew any political awareness and participation that distracts us from the fine vendors of Maple Street, we are actually concerned for the future value of our Tulane diplomas.

The biggest reason that the administration thought they could get away with the Renewal Plan is that they thought we wouldn't notice, that we wouldn't care enough to uncover the facts they've tried to hide. I hope, in the coming weeks, to arm students with these facts. I hope to illuminate what this administration has prayed would escape the notice of the student body.

And I hope that Tulane will respond with the fervor I know it to have.

Part Two:  Why What We Had As a Community Far Surpasses the Changes of Scott Cowen's Disastrous Renewal Plan
March 16, 2007

Production nights at the Hullabaloo are pretty crazy sometimes: Things get loud, people get tense, the ball the sports editor and I throw around sails wide left and smashes into somebody's laptop. Inevitably, I get told to shut up because I'm too loud, and so I walk around the office like some sullen kid and fiddle with things.

Recently, I was directed to some old Jambalaya yearbooks that lie around in our office, going back to the late 1800s. So, as with everything, I pick them up. As I thumb through those yellowed pages, I can't help but get a sense of something that I don't get very often here at Tulane today, something that seems to elude the grasp of comprehension of some of our administrators.

Genuine community.

Those pages are filled with the old traditions that Scott Cowen's Renewal Plan has cast aside. The old colleges, each with a unique history and a vibrant culture, stand out to anyone who picks up one of those dusty annuals.

If anyone wants to get a real sense of what the Renewal Plan took away from us, I suggest you find some of these old yearbooks and carefully look at them. Because you'd find in there all the old colleges, and you'd see the marks of tradition that previously set this school apart.

The colleges of Newcomb, Tulane, engineering, architecture and business each had their own deans. Each had its own faculties. Each had its own advisers that worked with a small number of students.

Now the deans of this school reign over 5,218 undergraduates all lumped into one hyphenated horror: the Newcomb-Tulane college. The advisers now serve every student of every major and discipline. And the faculty members of Newcomb-Tulane?  There are none.

The old colleges also each had their own student committees, where students and faculty of the same school served side-by-side to address issues important to them. Each had its own student senate that gave us a forum of expression and contact with our own deans. Each had its own programming that brought speakers and events to campus that were especially significant to the students of that college.

Now those student committees are gone, and the efforts to emulate them are pitiful. The USG re-organization has made our representation so large and distant that students are numbers rather than faces. And the programming for Newcomb-Tulane College?  Non-existent.

Today, this administration is trying to wipe away the memories of daisy chains, Tulane senior dinners and separate graduation ceremonies on the different quads. The buildings that used to serve as the heart of these institutions — Cudd Hall, the Newcomb Dean's Residence — now are shadows of their former selves.

Cudd Hall was once the energetic epicenter of Tulane College, but now it lies in obscurity, passed every day by students with no idea of its former importance. The old Newcomb Dean's Residence, once a monument to the rich history and tradition of the one of the nation's foremost women's colleges, now houses the feeble Newcomb Institute, a meager bone thrown by Cowen to the Newcomb alumnae cheated of their school.

How are we supposed to feel any sense of real community with more than 5,000 students all thrown into one college?  How are we supposed to feel vested in a college that only exists on paper and has no authentic identity?

If you've ever heard President Cowen address this subject, he often says that after Katrina, we could have done nothing at all and never reopened the university. Sadly, however, whatever bathwater that this administration was throwing out had another casualty: the soul of Tulane.

Part Three:  What Was, Is, and Could Be Again
March 30, 2007

Since Katrina, a lot of eyes have been cast toward Tulane — high school parents, alumni and reporters, to name a few. Some look at Tulane and see hope, others look and see a once-great university struggling to stay alive in a crime-ridden city that's slowly destroying itself. I look, and I hope, but part of me questions. Not only the future of my city, but the current state of my university and the means used to get to where we now are.

One set of eyes cast upon us very quickly after the hurricane were those of the American Association of University Professors, an organization dedicated to protecting and promoting the rights of faculty in American academia; its guidelines are well-recognized as essential components of a successful institution.

At least 160 fired faculty members tends to draw this kind of attention.

In the wake of the actions taken by Tulane and other local universities, the AAUP has established a Special Committee on Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans Universities, its purpose being to investigate possible violations of the AAUP's guidelines, as well as violations of each school's own governing principles.

Tulane's legal position is that "the Faculty Handbook and Statement of Qualifications for Tenure and Promotion are merely guidelines set out by Tulane with no input from [faculty]. These guidelines can be changed by Tulane at any time, and do not create a contract" [1].

In the earlier case of fired professor Stephen Schwarz, Judge Max N. Tobias Jr., a Tulane adjunct faculty member [2] who presided over the lawsuit, ruled that the "Grievance procedure [as set forth in the] handbook is unilateral expression of company policy, and publishing of that policy does not evidence meeting of minds necessary for formation of enforceable contract; terms of such handbook are not bargained for, and any benefits conferred by it are mere gratuities" [1].

  1. Schwarz v. Administrators of the Tulane Educational Fund, 699 So.2d 895 (La.App. 4 Cir. 1997).

  2. Tulane Law School Catalog 1994-95, 1995-96, 1996-97, 1997-98.

In a Jan. 10 draft of this committee's report (not intended for release), four major violations by Tulane's administration of AAUP guidelines are outlined.

The first violation cited was the administration's "refusal to provide any but the most generic evidence with respect to the declared state of financial exigency." Financial exigency was declared by the Board of Administrators on Dec. 8, 2005; this allowed the administration to take action not allowed under normal circumstances, though it was certainly not a blank check without restrictions.

The AAUP, in addition to questioning the administration's refusal to provide concrete evidence, also questions whether the right steps were followed in the process of declaring financial exigency. The faculty participation required for such a declaration came in the form of Cowen's meetings with the President's Faculty Advisory Council, yet the report quotes one member of the committee as saying, "We were basically told this is the way it would be." Additionally, during a time when he was throwing college constitutions out the window, Scott Cowen insisted on continuing the pre-Katrina secrecy.

With regard to the faculty terminations stemming from such a state of exigency, AAUP recommendations specify faculty participation. In describing a Dec. 7, 2005, meeting of the Board of Administrators that took place in order to develop criteria for firing faculty, the draft states "The available evidence indicates that no faculty body was consulted in the development of these criteria." Additionally, in the case of the Medical School, chairs who were asked to submit lists of recommended cuts noted "there was no necessary connection between the lists the chairs had been invited to submit earlier and those that were returned to them."

The report's findings about Tulane's "financial exigency" are encapsulated thus: "The Tulane administration appears to have used the declaration of financial exigency to cover decisions which ... do not provide any obvious relief from financially exigent circumstances." In fact, faculty members felt they were being weeded out based on their previous relationship with the administration. The report states that the Tulane faculty's current relationship with the administration is one of "pervasive mistrust."

The report also mentions Tulane's failure to relocate tenured faulty members. This violation, as with others mentioned in this article, was an egregious violation not only of AAUP guidelines but of the university's own stated policy in its Faculty Handbook. The faculty handbook's importance is stated clearly by none other than Scott Cowen himself, in a letter addressed to the AAUP dated April 17, 2006: "The Handbook, approved by Tulane's faculty, has guided our actions during this unprecedented chapter of our history ... [f]or us to deviate from our Handbook would be to undermine the very document approved by Tulane faculty." Despite his keen analysis that to deviate from a document undermines that document, we see that Scott Cowen was portraying his administration as aware of and compliant with the procedures of the Handbook.

Yet, in a letter dated May 10, 2006, ex-provost Lester Lefton states, "I note that the Faculty Handbook does not require the University to attempt to place faculty terminated by reason of financial exigency in other available positions," according to the Faculty Tenure, Freedom and Responsibility Committee's report on the Department of Mechanical Engineering. This is directly contrary to Article V, Section 2 of the Handbook, which states, "Before terminating an appointment because of the abandonment of a program or department of instruction, the institution shall make every effort to place affected faculty members in other suitable positions."

The administration's stated commitment to its own governing principles was clearly not as great as President Cowen would like us to think. His own provost was operating without knowledge of the Handbook, and perhaps in spite of it.

The report's third listed violation is the complete disregard for the separate college's autonomy, asserting each's "right to determine its own organization." Obviously, the Newcomb-Tulane "College" was the result of the complete dissolution of the five former colleges.

The fourth violation deals with the administration's failure to distinguish between tenured and non-tenured faculty in its terminations. Fifty-nine tenured faculty were fired, and the only differences in their treatment as compared to non-tenured faculty were in their termination notices and severance pay. This is particularly disturbing because a lack of respect for the tenure system makes attracting quality professors nearly impossible. No one wants to devote an academic career without some semblance of job security.

Many may ask, "Who cares? What can the AAUP possibly do to us?" The answer to this question is censure. At this summer's meeting of the association, if Tulane does not take immediate and decisive action to correct its transgressions, we will be censured. We will stay censured until we correct those transgressions. We will lose grants. We will lose money. We will lose respect.

The list of AAUP-censured universities is a litany of small town no-names and community colleges. "Tulane" would stick out like a sore thumb.

I hope we do not add our name to that list. I hope actions will be taken by the administration to avoid censure.

But I question whether it will happen.
Copyright 2007, Hullabaloo

Part Four:  What Was, Is, and Could Be Again
April 20, 2007

As the past articles of this series have shown, Scott Cowen's Renewal Plan is an ill-conceived scheme that has bypassed college constitutions, faculty governance laws and national guidelines in its vain attempt to re-invent Tulane as a "university of tomorrow."

If we are the university of tomorrow, then today must be the day before the end of the world.

Traditions have been cast aside, communities have been torn asunder and men and women who had made Tulane their lives' work have been callously shown the door.

Many may call this a necessary evil. Many may say that Katrina called for desperate measures. Many may call these changes necessary for a university that must have been hemorrhaging money.

But were all the changes financially-smart decisions? Did the massive shuffling of positions and titles and office space following the creation of the Newcomb-Tulane "College" really save money? This series has already shown that this restructuring was not in the best interest of the students with regard to our sense of community (or lack thereof), but what would it say about the Renewal Plan if its changes were financially unsound as well?

According to a report of the Faculty Tenure, Freedom and Responsibility Committee (FTFR) on the discontinuance of the Department of Mechanical Engineering (DME), the Renewal Plan might very well be: "the Mechanical Engineering Department was eliminated despite its positive contribution to the financial well-being of the University ... its eliminations served to worsen rather than resolve any condition of financial exigency that may have existed."

Attachments in the report clearly show a department in good financial health. The DME consistently surpassed financial targets set by the Dean of Engineering — in fact, it was engineering's strongest department in this regard. The Tulane Board of Administrators suggests that these goals may have been unsound. In the three years of surplus/deficit breakdown, the fact, however, that departmental goals were missed the vast majority of the time undermines this. The persistent presence of deficits shows the ambition of the goals set — these were not placed at a level easily attainable so as to guarantee positive numbers.

There are many other indicators of the health of the DME's numbers. From July 2001 to July 2005 its endowment consistently grew. The number of students majoring in mechanical engineering had grown each year from 2002 to 2003. Finally, in the same time span, the amount of tuition revenue also increased significantly each year.

These numbers show a department that not only contributed to the financial health of the school, but was clearly on the path to larger and larger revenues. In short, a department that was not only making money, but making more money every year, was eliminated by an administration that claimed its action was helping to alleviate a state of financial exigency.

The Board in its response points out a number of pertinent facts in refutation of the FTFR's report. The Board correctly asserts that "the law on point does not limit faculty terminations based on financial exigency to financially troubled units." The Board also maintains that the Faculty Handbook, our university administration's chief governing document, does not contain provisions for the administration to place professors fired for reasons of exigency in other suitable positions. At first glance, Article V, Section 2 certainly seems to (as the FTFR holds), but the interpretation of this section is open for debate with both sides making valid points.

The bylaws of Tulane can be debated until everyone is blue in the face. But there is a more fundamental issue at stake here. The administration, while questioning but not outright denying the financial viability of the DME, also maintains its decision was "part of a larger strategic plan" with multiple considerations taken into account, "many of which are identified in [our] statement to the FTFR."

This may be the case, but our board, our president, our university owes our faculty members, our parents — and most importantly, us — something more. How did a financially healthy program diminish our board's perception of the future safety of our education? How did the wonderful traditions of Newcomb undermine our president's vision for the "Tulane of tomorrow?" How did our university stand to lose prestige if the five colleges were continued? As students, as members of this community — as paying customers, if nothing else — we deserve the whole truth. Only in the vaguest of terms do the officers of the administration reveal the criteria for keeping programs or discarding them.

We deserve to know every inch and every facet of the decision-making process behind the Renewal Plan. It is our university that has been transformed, our professors who have been fired and our home that has been redefined in the name of progress. We have a right to know these things.

I only hope this right is recognized.
Copyright 2007, Hullabaloo
On June 12, 2007, AAUP issued a press release in which it censured Tulane and three other New Orleans area universities (see PDF).  The previous month, AAUP released the final report of its Special Committee (see PDF), which determined that Tulane's severe cuts to faculty and academic programs were not attributed to financial exigency.

From: Tulane Hullabaloo.  Comments in framed sidebars are those of Tulanelink.  Tommy Slattery is views editor and a sophomore in the Newcomb-Tulane College.  He can be reached for comment at  The Tulane Hullabaloo is a student-run newspaper at Tulane University.  Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C. § 107 for a non-profit educational purpose.