We Need Help

My name is Drew Ward. I am a senior in Tulane College (or rather WAS a senior in Tulane College). I was told a few days ago that Tulane College no longer exists. Also, even though my major, linguistics, is still listed, no classes are being offered. This is just one example of what is going on with the university.

So far, we have a president and board that has not once been faulted for their absolute failure to prepare for a hurricane (even though they had an almost identical storm, Ivan, which nearly hit a year earlier). They left their students out in the cold to fend for themselves, then finally contacted them to make sure they knew they'd need to pay tuition even though they were receiving no services. And, after convincing most of the students to return, forego transfer options, and register for classes, they decided to announce that half of our degrees will no longer be offered.

Tulane's president and his puppet board of directors have used this hurricane to accomplish their goal of abandoning academics in lieu of government and corporate research money. Students have been denied any control over their university's governance and have been systematically denied the opportunity to pursue the education they sought and paid for.

The Tulane board, and especially Scott Cowen have proved through their actions that their own interests far exceed those of the school's students. A good example of this would be Cowen's recent decision to slash the offerings of the university's School of Engineering, leaving only bio-medical engineering (which provides feeder students for the med school), and chemical engineering — a department which focuses on polymers and plastics and research into fields which might benefit companies like, say, Rubbermaid (of which Cowen is a director).

The fact is that Tulane has totally lost their focus. They have long since quit caring about what either their students or alumni want or what their community needs. It is time that those at the true core of Tulane retake their university and demand a complete restructuring of the university board to put control back where it should be: 1/3 students, 1/3 educators, and 1/3 alumni.

We need help from every area we can get it. We need to work to organize the Tulane community into a common voice that can challenge the tyranny of the Cowen administration.

Will you please assist in organizing or planning a common platform and a communications network for taking back our school?

I hope we can look forward to your support.

Drew Ward
Email received 12/11/2005

Your letter saddened me, and it came in the midst of my preparations for returning to New Orleans to try to recover documents, research papers, etc. from my home in Lakeview, which was completely destroyed in the flood that followed Katrina.

I am aware of the dire situation of many Tulane students. Recent reports indicate that 230 faculty have been terminated: 180 at the medical school and 50 on the Uptown campus. The terminations apparently include 26 fully-tenured professors. As you know, the Graduate School will no longer exist as an administrative entity, Newcomb and Tulane Colleges have been merged into a single undergraduate entity, and the student-run newspaper, the Tulane Hullabaloo, is being supplanted by a new newspaper, the New Wave, which is characteristically upbeat about all these changes.

I don't think Tulane has really lost its focus. It's true face was simply revealed after having its mask torn off by hurricane winds. What I see is top administrators maintaining their positions by cannibalizing those below them — a form of academic Darwinism.

My sympathies are with you and the other students, but I am uncertain as to what role I might take, even assuming I could muster the required time. In any event, I plan to return to my current address in Shreveport on December 20th, by which time you may have clarified your ideas as to how to proceed.

One thing should be obvious. What you propose is essentially a student initiative that must be led and orchestrated by students in order to have credibility. Students are the life blood that flows through the university corpus and as such can affect the shape of that body. What I can offer is primarily encouragement and advice. You and your fellow students must bear the responsibility for the heavy lifting. As you implied, a major task will be the creation of a forum where students can exchange information and where emerging leaders can float their ideas. For starters, you might explore the interactive blogging sites offered by Google and Yahoo. You will also have to learn how to acquire and maintain lists of email addresses. In this regard, imitating successful sites may save you from having to reinvent the wheel.

With best wishes.

Carl Bernofsky

[Note:  According to Inside Higher Ed, of the 230 faculty members who are being terminated, 65 are tenured (6).]
  1. "Nola Local Breaking News; Tulane announces layoffs," December 8, 2005 (source: http://www.nola.com/weblogs/...).

  2. John Pope, "Tulane to lay off hundreds; Academic, sports programs to be cut," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, December 9, 2005 (source: http://www.nola.com/news/...).

  3. Michael Janofsky, Lean Tulane to Reopen Its Campus Next Month," The New York Times, December 9, 2005 (source: http://www.nytimes.com/...).

  4. Lois Romano, "After Katrina, A Leaner Tulane," The Washington Post, December 9, 2005, p. A01 (source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/...).

  5. Jeffrey Selingo, "Tulane U. to Lay Off 233 Professors and Eliminate 14 Doctoral Programs," The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 9, 2005 (source: http://www.chronicle.com/...).   See also: Roland Allen, "Tulane Reorganizes/Loyola Raises Funds," (Excerpts from The Chronicle of Higher Education), December 9, 2005 (source: http://rolandallen.com/archives/000860.html).

  6. David Epstein, "Professors Left Behind by 'Bold Renewal'," Inside Higher Ed, December 12, 2005 (http://insidehighered.com/news/2005/12/12/tulane), accessed 12/26/05.  See also: David Epstein, "Did Katrina Blow Away Layoff Guidelines?" Inside Higher Ed, February 1, 2006 (http://insidehighered.com/news/2006/02/01/tulane), accessed 02/20/06.