Tulane’s mess

To give you an idea of how the flood is altering the very fabric of New Orleans – and as a reminder to any of you who may think everything is just fine down there now – Tulane announced yesterday a sweeping recovery plan that “strengthens and focuses the university”s academic mission while strategically addressing its current and future operations in the post-Katrina era.”

The highlights (or lowlights):

- The School of Medicine (in New Orleans since 1834) won”t be back in the city until next fall, at which time 180 faculty members will be laid off and the school will focus more on research (and less on primary care). Tulane will produce fewer doctors for Louisiana going forward. I imagine the same will be true of the LSU med school, which has its main campus in New Orleans.

- The Athletics department will field teams only in football, baseball, basketball (men and women), volleyball, cross country and women”s track. Golf, soccer, swimming & diving and tennis will be eliminated. Tulane with seek an NCAA exemption to allow it to keep competing as a Division I school with fewer than the required programs.

- Tulane will “focus” its programs “in areas where it has attained, or has the potential to achieve, world-class excellence.” In other words, it”ll cut degree programs it doesn”t see promise in, and expects to lay off 50 professors in those areas.

Tulane calls the plan “Survival to Renewal”, and it”s just that. All of New Orleans is having to examine how it goes on and gets by in the post-Katrina world. And as Tulane is showing, in a lot of cases, “renewal” will mean “smaller”.

And I believe Tulane is making its decisions carefully and is doing all it can to remain a positive force in New Orleans. What the university outlined yesterday is what an institution that is heavily invested and cares a great deal about New Orleans is being forced to do.

Just think what choices the schools, businesses and individuals who don”t care this much – or just can”t bear the costs and efforts – will be forced to make.

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