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

Dear Tulane Students,

On Monday I met with the presidents of the Associated Student Body (ASB), the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) and the Graduate and Professional Student Association (GAPSA) regarding Tulane University's recently announced Renewal Plan. I wanted to share with you some of what was discussed.

The foremost question these student leaders asked was why the plan was announced now, with our student body still dispersed around the country and unable to give input. Unfortunately, there is no perfect time to announce a plan that encompasses such sweeping changes, so we felt it was most appropriate to announce the Renewal Plan as soon as it was completed and adopted by our Board of Administrators.

Given the complex challenges we have faced over the last three months and our determination to make our Renewal Plan as sound as possible, it was not feasible to complete the planning process any sooner. To delay the development and announcement of the plan would have jeopardized the future of the university academically and financially. Fortunately, the plan is focused on maintaining high academic standards while addressing current and future financial challenges.

Before announcing the plan, I mentioned in two prior messages in early November that we were working on a Renewal Plan which would be announced in December. Therefore, last week's announcement was intended to provide the students most directly affected by the eliminated majors the opportunity to withdraw from Tulane if they chose. We felt it was important that all students have a complete picture of Tulane, a wonderful but changed institution, before they decided to return.

While faculty representatives, as well as outside experts from some of the country's leading institutions were consulted during the plan's formulation, the extraordinary events of Hurricane Katrina created an environment in which we had limited interaction with any of the university constituencies. The circumstances required quick, decisive and informed decisions by those best able to address the issues facing the very survival and well being of the university. Normally, student input would be solicited when such changes are contemplated; yet, the unprecedented nature of the situation required a different approach. Having said this, there will be ample opportunities for student input in the implementation of these decisions.

Facing $200 million in property damages and projected annual deficits if we took no action, our first priority was to survive, to ensure that our facilities were ready for your return in January, and to maintain our academic standards and expectations.

If Katrina had never come our way, this plan would not have been necessary; but Katrina did come, and so we have made certain the changes it brought were strategic ones that will ultimately lead to a better, more focused and higher quality institution.

When you return to campus in January I and other university leaders will convene a number of meetings with the student body as well as further discussions with student government leaders. In this way we can brief you more fully on the strategic decisions we have made, their timing, their necessity, and how you can be involved in the implementation of these decisions. I look forward to working with you on the future success of our university.

President Cowen