Photo of light streaming through oak trees on the uptown campus
Survival to Renewal
Tulane University

Tulane Engineering Students:

Please accept my apologies for not writing to you earlier. As I am sure you understand, I have been quite busy since the announcement on Thursday of the actions taken by the Board of Tulane.

Let me begin by stating the obvious. I am deeply disappointed that the Board of Tulane has chosen to eliminate the departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Mechanical Engineering. Obviously I was not supportive of this decision and I can assure you that I argued very strenuously that these degree programs should be retained. President Cowen agreed that I presented a very strong case but he said that this is a strategic decision and that, in his view and that of the Board, the three affected engineering departments are far too small relative to their counterparts to effectively compete for national prominence. Having said that, I am afraid that these actions have been taken and there is no turning back. I believe that what we must now do is what is best for you, our students, and the faculty members who are being affected by the elimination of these three departments. And we must think about what we can do to ensure the brightest possible future for Engineering at Tulane University.

Let's begin with you, our students. The departments of Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering have not been eliminated; they will be merged into a new School of Science and Engineering as of July 1.

Thus students majoring in either of these disciplines will be able to complete their degrees at Tulane. The degree programs offered by the other three departments will not end until June 30, 2007, so all current juniors and seniors in those majors will also be able to complete their degrees at Tulane. We are currently working on a plan that will allow current sophomores majoring in programs that will be eliminated to complete their degrees at Tulane as well. Details will be sent to you on Monday.

Therefore the only students whose degree plans will be affected are current freshmen majoring in degree programs other than Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering. If they want to continue at Tulane, they will have to transfer to another major. Otherwise they will need to transfer to a university that offers that major. All freshmen who return to Tulane for spring semester will be given assistance in transferring to another university for their sophomore year if that is their choice. Assistance will be provided and details on that will also be sent out on Monday. Any student who has academic questions or concerns should contact Dean Martinez, Christi Longlois or their departmental academic advisor.

Now, about the faculty. They too were shocked by the news on Thursday and they are just coming to grips with what has happened. I have spoken to most of them, as have their respective Department Chairs, and on Thursday evening, President Cowen spoke with all of them through a conference call arrangement. The faculty members in CEE, EECS and ME will continue at Tulane through June 30, 2007. President Cowen, Provost Lefton and I have all offered our assistance in helping them secure positions elsewhere and I am certain that there will be many universities around the country eager to recruit such talented colleagues. In the meantime you know as well as I how much our faculty members care about you and I am confident that they will put as much of their time and effort into your education as they always have.

So what about the future of Engineering at Tulane University? President Cowen has offered me the new position of Dean of Science and Engineering and I have accepted. I have accepted this position for the following reasons. (1) I am intrigued by the new model that will be implemented at Tulane and would very much like to play a part in its implementation. (2) The new model will make it far easier for the sciences and engineering to work together, as well as and with medical scientists from downtown. (3) I will be in a position to make certain that our Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering programs will receive the necessary attention and investment to successfully make this transition. And (4) President Cowen has assured me that the School of Science and Engineering will be a powerful platform on which a newly defined Engineering presence can be built at Tulane University. On Friday morning President Cowen conducted a conference call with the School of Engineering Board of Advisors. During that conference call, he asked the Board to work with me over the next 18 months to develop a vision for the future of Engineering at Tulane University. I intend to begin that process immediately after the holidays.

While I am sure that this is not all of what you hoped to hear from me, I have tried to address all of the concerns that you have about your personal situation and about the future of your school. We've been through a lot this fall and I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to your return in January. We'll have our usual “Open Forum with the Dean” shortly after you return and we can talk about where we go from here. I'll spring for the pizza. By the way, the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) has just informed me that they have raised $10,000 to support our E-week activities this spring. So there's some good news to end my message on.

Very best to all of you,
Dean Altiero