Live Chat with President Cowen--December 16, 2005


President Cowen: Good afternoon. This is our final live chat of the year. It's hard to believe that we are fast approaching the end of 2005. I hope you are as excited as I am about the start of classes on January 17. It promises to be a great semester and already things are happening here at Tulane. The School of Social Work is holding its graduation tonight, the women's basketball team plays at home for the very first time this Sunday, and all of our employees will be back at work on Monday. But we still have a lot of work to do between now and then and I hope that you are getting answers to any questions you may have about the start of school, housing or the Renewal Plan. So let's begin.


Mo9: Some universities offer living communities where students speak a foreign language - Spanish or French, for example - while inside their residences. Considering Tulane's focus on Latin American affairs especially, do you think this is something Tulane might look into?

President Cowen: As part of our Renewal Plan we are going to put greater emphasis on residential colleges which are places to live and learn. It is conceivable in the future that those colleges could have a language theme.


Mo9: What are your plans for the buildings/areas being vacated by the engineering departments?

President Cowen: At this time we haven't developed a specific plan because phased out departments will still be here in the next 18 months. As we develop the new School of Science and Engineering we will make an assessment of what our space needs are.


Ggreen1: How much money will it take to save the engineering programs?

President Cowen: The decision, with respect to the engineering programs being phased out, was both strategic and a financial. It is not a question of how much money, at this stage, would save the school. In fact, we have already notified students applying for next year that the school will be changed and therefore the decision has been implemented and is final.


Ggreen1: Someone in the EECS department posted a message on the EECS website linking to Without even asking that it be taken down, all access to the website has been blocked. Why do you feel the need to censor us?

President Cowen: The content of material on the engineering website is under the control of the dean of the School of Engineering, not central administration. The dean requested that the information be removed from the School of Engineering's website.


Ggreen1: Tulane engineer A. Baldwin Wood invented the pumps that have kept New Orleans (mostly) dry for 90 years. Wouldn't it be great if Tulane engineers kept New Orleans dry for another 90 years by building new levees?

President Cowen: Keeping New Orleans dry and safe is an issue of national importance and will require the expertise of engineers throughout America, and the world, to ensure our future.


Mo9: Is Tulane planning on expanding its presence outside of New Orleans after this disaster, such as adding programs and facilities in Biloxi?

President Cowen: We already have a presence in Biloxi and I do anticipate over time we will create additional programs or a presence in other parts of the United States and perhaps the world. For example, we already have a new program we established a couple of years ago in Houston, Texas.


Katiewave: President Cowen, is the basketball game this weekend really free? Welcome back Green Wave!

President Cowen: Absolutely, yes. And it is the first sporting event to be held in New Orleans since the hurricane. I hope all New Orleanians have an opportunity to join us.


Katiewave: Will the basketball teams be playing in Fogelman Arena this year?

President Cowen: Yes, they will start playing in December and when you return in January they will be there for you.


Ers: Would you please explain to those of us whose children are directly affected by the cuts made in certain academic areas, how the education both in and out of the class will change for students?

President Cowen: I do not believe there will be any adverse impact on the education for those students and programs that are being either phased out or continuing. We are dedicated to making sure they continue to get the high-quality educational experience Tulane is known for.


Katiewave: Great job on solving the housing problem. I just found out today that I will be in modular housing. Where will these units be placed?

President Cowen: If you are a student, your modular housing will be behind the Reily Student Recreation Center where the Monk Simons building used to be.


Ers: After reading the "letter" sent to Congress by the Higher Education Associations, can you still really say that tuition will not dramatically increase?

President Cowen: Yes, we are committed to make sure that tuition increases in the future are in the same range of what they have been in recent years.


ENF: I am concerned that the university will lose out on a lot of annual donations from Newcomb alumnae upset regarding the elimination of Newcomb College. Can you tell us the percentage of Newcomb alumnae who donate on an annual basis, as compared to the percentage for the university as a whole?

President Cowen: I do not know the specific percentage at this time; however, we do know that Newcomb alumnae have been generous in the past. We also expect that they will continue to be in the future because we will find ways to continue to honor the name, the legacy and the tradition of Newcomb.


MBATulane: My daughter and I were in New Orleans last week and I noticed that the surrounding neighborhood on the downtown side of campus looked pretty uninhabitable. What kind of security will there be for students needing to go off-campus (i.e., grocery, pharmacy, bank, etc.)?

President Cowen: First, the city is extremely safe right now. There has been very little crime since the storm. The full complement of our Public Safety Office is here, and we have supplemented that with off-duty security as well.


Wilma: I am a Tulane employee. Where can I park?

President Cowen: Law Road, Engineering Road and at the Diboll complex.


Ers: Have there been significant changes in the re-enrollment numbers as people realized Tulane would be changing?

President Cowen: No, there have been no significant changes.


Nancy Chicago: December 15 was the final withdrawal date. Did student enrollment decline?

President Cowen: Not significantly at all.


Katiewave: What will happen to the Boggs building now that engineering has been downsized?

President Cowen: It will continue to be used for engineering and likewise will probably have some science departments in the future.


Libra: Is the campus open? Are any buildings off limits?

President Cowen: The campus is open. Construction still continues on a few buildings; however, everything will be open and available before you arrive.


Katiewave: Will Xavier and Dillard students be allowed to use the library as well?

President Cowen: Yes.


MBATulane: I wrote a letter about changing my daughter's room assignment back in October. My daughter and two of her friends also requested the room change so they could share a suite. When might we hear about housing assignments?

President Cowen: All housing assignments will have been mailed out by the end of the day today, so you should hear next week.


MBATulane: If students are living on campus and they go to study at a friend’s house on a cruise ship,  (1) can they use the shuttles to get there and back, and (2) if they have a Bruff Commons meal plan, can they eat on the ships?

President Cowen: The answer to (1) is yes. The answer to (2) is that you will have to pay if you eat at the dining facilities on the ship if you are not living there.


Lily: What are you expecting the Newcomb Task Force to do? How can I get involved?

President Cowen: The Newcomb/Tulane Task Force is charged with giving us recommendations about how we can maintain the Newcomb spirit, traditions, legacy, and impact well into the future. Likewise, they will advise us on how we can use the Newcomb endowment to serve their purposes given the new collegiate structure. To be involved, send an e-mail to


Ers: How have the recovery and repair efforts progressed, and will the campus actually be ready for January 14?

President Cowen: The recovery and repair efforts have progressed on schedule. And we will absolutely be ready by the opening of classes in January.


Debbie: With the Superdome closed, where will graduation be?

President Cowen: Graduation will be on campus, starting a new tradition that we're very excited about for the future.


70 Awesome: Will there be a Parents Weekend this spring? Are any hotels available?

President Cowen: Yes, there will be a Parents Weekend and it will probably occur at the same time we do Homecoming. I am sure there will be ample hotel rooms available.


Justin: I’m a senior. Will Tulane be the same place I’ve known for the last four years?

President Cowen: Absolutely! It will feel and look very similar to what it did. And, in fact, it will probably look better.


Chicago Parent: Our freshman is still waitlisted for one class and may have to rearrange her schedule to a time slot with unfilled seats. When will non-Tulanian students be offered spots in "unfilled" classes?

President Cowen: On January 2 non-Tulanian students will be offered spots in unfilled classes on a space-available basis.


Pissed Off: If we were already committed to Tulane before the new plan was put in place, will we get a full refund?

President Cowen: The withdrawal date was December 15 and if you submitted your paperwork for withdrawal before that date you will get a full refund.


Sl: We would like to know the total number of freshman withdrawals received as of yesterday's deadline.

President Cowen: 209 out of 1700.


Rick: Should I bring my parents with me to orientation?

President Cowen: Sure, we would love to see them. There will be a full program for parents during orientation and I promise you it will not be disrupted by a hurricane! :-)


The Awesome Mr Z: What is the status of the library?

President Cowen: The library will be fully available for students in January, except for the basement.


The Awesome Mr Z: Will the Hullabaloo and WTUL be operational in January?

President Cowen: We certainly hope so. In fact, the radio station just went on the air today. Likewise, the Hullabaloo has been publishing all semester online.


TU: Why are students on the boat required to participate in a meal plan? Will there be any cooking facilities? I ask specifically for grad students, who are being forced to purchase a very expensive meal plan.

President Cowen: There are no cooking facilities in any of the cabins. However, you must be on the meal plan, as that was the only way we could provide dining service to the students. The meal plan on the ship is actually a little less expensive than the normal meal plan and includes breakfast and dinner.


The Awesome Mr Z: Will you continue to publish the Tulanian?

President Cowen: Yes, as a matter of fact, the next issue is in press right now and will be devoted to the entire Tulane story since Hurricane Katrina.


The Awesome Mr Z: How many cruise ships are there? How many rooms are on the ships?

President Cowen: There is one cruise ship and room for approximately 1,100 people in about 475 cabins.


Deizneuf: How will you incorporate student input into the Renewal Plan?

President Cowen: There will be plenty of opportunity for students to participate in the details of how we implement certain parts of the plan. For example, Newcomb and Tulane Colleges are now actively soliciting input from the students.


Deizneuf: Will there be a Wave Goodbye this year? When?

President Cowen: Of course there will be a Wave Goodbye. It will probably follow graduation on May 13. And, in fact, we're also going to have a Wave Hello.


Fred: What athletics are being dropped for 2006?

President Cowen: For the remainder of this year, no athletic teams will be dropped. The changes take effect in the fall of 2006.


Rex Anderson: What is the status of the Wall Residential College?

President Cowen: The Wall Residential College will be available for its students when you come back to campus in January. The professor-in-residence is waiting to welcome you home.


Dave-EMBA: As a resident of uptown and professional student, when can we expect the recreation center to return to normal operating hours?

President Cowen: January 6 is the re-opening of the Reily Student Recreation Center to the public.


Rex Anderson: When will they lift the curfew?

President Cowen: We're checking on that right now. We hope it will be soon, but I can tell you it's not being heavily enforced even now.


Tuforever: How can Tulane and its students be agents for positive change in the new New Orleans?

President Cowen: You can volunteer in the community to help in the recovery efforts. We will be organizing multiple venues for that participation.


Accounting Student: How is the Turchin Stadium faring, and will baseball games be held there next semester?

President Cowen: The baseball games next semester will be Zephyr Field.


Ris: I paid Tulane for the fall semester. For a transferring engineering student, would it be possible to receive a transcript from Tulane that includes the credits from my visiting semester in another institute?

President Cowen: If you visited another institution in the fall and you're coming back for the spring, the courses you took in the fall will also appear on your Tulane transcript. These credits will stay on your transcript whether you stay or transfer someplace else.


Accounting Student: Approximately how many Xavier and Dillard students will be on Tulane's campus next semester?

President Cowen: There will probably be very few Xavier and Dillard students taking Tulane classes. However, it's difficult to predict right now how many will be using our facilities such as the library and recreation buildings.


Lucy Bogan: I am enrolled in an interdisciplinary doctoral program that only two others are taking too. I am almost halfway through. Will I be grandfathered in and able to finish my degree?

President Cowen: Without knowing the details of the specific program you're in, it is difficult to answer your question. However, on general principle, you will continue to retain stipend until either the program is completely phased out or you finish your degree.


Crazy Famous Dave: I just found out I got straight A’s at my host school! So is pass/fail still how it's gotta be?

President Cowen: Yes. But nice try!


Geena: Is the MLA in the UC going to be offered anymore? I haven't seen this addressed anywhere.

President Cowen: Yes, there's no change in that program.


J: President Cowen, please speak to the issue of “non-poaching” agreements for Tulane engineering students in discontinued majors. It seems only fair that these students be allowed to spend a second term or matriculate at their host schools, if those schools offer the appropriate major (I do not ask this on my own son’s behalf, as he attends a LAC without engineering).

President Cowen: First, we're putting no prohibition on first-year engineering students entering into another institution and would help facilitate that if possible. Second-year engineering students now have a pathway in which to complete a Tulane University degree and hopefully they will remain at the university.


Clare: When should we register for the Lagniappe semester?

President Cowen: You can register right now online. The process has been open since mid-November. In fact, 3,300 students have already registered for it.


Katiewave: President Cowen, are the rumors about advisors being eliminated and using an entire computer-based advising system true?

President Cowen: There is no basis to this rumor. Advisors are not being eliminated.


Ris: What kind of help is there for spring transferring engineering students?

President Cowen: If you are a first-year engineering student, we have set up separate provisions to provide you assistance which you can find on the engineering website. All other engineering students will be obtaining their Tulane University degree.


Wesley: The primary purpose of the university is academics. Why did Tulane eliminate academic programs rather than sports programs?

President Cowen: The decision with respect to the sports programs is unrelated to the academic programs. We kept the sports programs because it was the best course of action for the university financially and to maintain spirit in the city and among our students. If we had eliminated the sports program altogether it would have had no impact on our other decisions.


Wesley: Why was student input not requested before making such sweeping changes in the structure of the university?

President Cowen: I hope you will look through my Tulane Talk that I sent to everyone this morning. It specifically addresses this question. Likewise, I sent an email to all Tulane students on Wednesday also commenting on this topic.


John: If we were first-year students and decided not to return, will our enrollment deposits be refunded?

President Cowen: Your deposits were non-refundable and will not be returned. This is our normal policy.


Gene: What effect will the downsizing of the medical school faculty have on class size and program for the School of Medicine?

President Cowen: The class size will be maintained at the current level and we believe the educational excellence that has been the hallmark of our school of medicine will continue.


Justin Mikowski: Have you issued a statement to the Society of Tulane Engineers, and what is their position on the ending of the engineering programs at Tulane?

President Cowen: The dean of the School of Engineering sent an e-mail to the Society of Tulane Engineers and likewise I have talked to the advisory board of the School of Engineering, which includes the leadership of the Society of Tulane Engineers. They were saddened by the decision, but understood the basis for our decision and the Renewal Plan.


Concerned PHD: Why weren't engineering students given more notice since we were the most affected?

President Cowen: Engineering students were notified as soon as you possibly could be once decisions were finalized. It was impossible to notify you earlier because we had not finished our plan process, nor had the plan been approved by the board.


Erika: If I’m majoring in media arts and minoring in exercise science, will I be able to graduate if I’m supposed to graduate December 2007?

President Cowen: Yes. It will require that you sequence your courses in a certain way. I encourage you to contact your advisor as soon as possible.


ChrisNC91: How will graduations work with the two new schools, in light of the expressed intent to preserve the Paul Tulane and Newcomb legacies?

President Cowen: In the future there will be a single undergraduate baccalaureate ceremony. This will allow all undergraduates to be together on this special day.


Freshman Father: First, we want to recognize all the work you and your team have done. We came back to New Orleans last weekend to retrieve our daughter's things and were impressed with the amount of work being done. My question - what is the state of the technology on campus? Is your computer network up? Will students have access from dorms?

President Cowen: Yes. Our information technology system is now operating on campus. In fact, I'm using it at this moment, and have been using it since the beginning of November.


EECSnomore: Where can I find last week's chat posted?

President Cowen: On the website,


Jackie Hendershott: Will there be 50-year reunions in May or June 2006?

President Cowen: We are working on it.


Missinola: Why is the Renewal Plan necessary after charging tuition with the majority of the students returning?

President Cowen: The university will have lost about $180 million of revenue this year, even with the tuition policy that we have. In addition to loss of tuition from some students, we will also have a loss in clinical income, research funding, and state funding. The Renewal Plan was necessary to ensure that losses were not realized in the future and that we would continue to offer an outstanding academic experience at the university.


ValJo: When can we start shipping packages to school?

President Cowen: You can start shipping packages in mid-January but we encourage you to bring as much as you can when you return in January.


Senior Mom: Are there any events planned for parents on the weekend of January 17?

President Cowen: There are events planned for the parents during the orientation and if you are here on January 16, you are welcome to join us for the concert.


K Cernak: What is the construction status of the University Center (UC)? When do you plan for it to open?

President Cowen: Work has resumed on the University Center and it will be completed by the end of 2006.


Scoobyhed: Will Tulane be releasing any kind of financial figures to the public to corroborate the amount of money we will be saving by the cuts that are being made, and details of how much money was spent on cleanup?

President Cowen: Eventually all of our numbers will be public because we publish financial statements. Furthermore, I've already disclosed in several places what our projected losses are for this year, as well as for the future, and the fact that the Renewal Plan should address future losses.


Tulane moderator: Thank you for this great chat. Unfortunately, we are almost out of time. Do you have any parting words for us?

President Cowen: First of all, I would like to thank LiveWorld for donating their services to us ever since Hurricane Katrina. This has proven to be a very valuable way to communicate with Tulanians. It would not have been possible without the generosity of LiveWorld. I also want to tell you how excited we are about you returning to campus in January. We have worked non-stop ever since the storm to restore the campus physically and spiritually back to the place that we all love so dearly. However, Tulane is not the same without its faculty, staff, and students walking the grounds, taking classes, and providing spirit for all of us. My wish for the New Year is that Tulane University continue the excellence for which it has always been known and that the future be brighter than the past.

That concludes today's live chat. I look forward to answering your questions again in the new year.


A production of LiveWorld, Inc. Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.

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