Live Chat with President Cowen – October 20, 2005

President Cowen: Good afternoon. It’s been a couple of weeks since our last live chat. I’ve been to New Orleans several times since then and I have been very impressed with the progress that’s been made on campus. I intend to return to New Orleans permanently by the end of next week. I hope you have been reading our postings on because we have updated information about campus visits and personal belongings. I will be in New York for a special program called Tulane Today on Saturday, October 29 at 10 a.m. Eastern time. We are also working to have the audio of that program available on the Internet so I hope you will join us for that. First question?

Ann: Can you give us an e-mail address or phone number for contacting the Financial Aid Office? Thanks.

President Cowen: The Financial Aid phone number is 713-212-1371 and that is in our Houston operations office. Or, you can e-mail at

Claudia: What provision is Tulane making for those students who lived off-campus before Katrina and whose place was damaged, and may be repaired by January 17?

President Cowen: We are exploring housing options for displaced off-campus students and anticipate having some options for you no later than November 11. In fact, we posted a notice to that effect today on our website.

TU Junior: What will orientation for the freshmen consist of? When will it take place?

President Cowen: Orientation is scheduled from Thursday, Jan. 12 through Sunday, Jan. 15. The content of the orientation will be very similar to what you would have gotten in the fall. However, on Thursday there will be a welcome back dinner for students and their families.

Carol S: First, I’d like to say that I am in awe of all that you and your team have accomplished so far. Here’s my question: my son is an Army ROTC scholarship student. As you know, Tulane very generously picks up the cost of room and board for these scholarship kids. I’d like to know if the same policy applies during the upcoming Lagniappe Semester. Will Tulane cover the cost of room and board for ROTC scholarship recipients?

President Cowen: If the Army ROTC picks up the tuition for the Lagniappe semester, we will cover the cost of room and board.

Ko: I plan to graduate this December. How should I apply for my degree? Does the school have the arrangements for the December graduation?

President Cowen: Please be sure you file an official application for degree which will give us all the information we need to order your diploma with proper name and degree. An online application will be posted on the registrar’s website early next week to facilitate this process. The only school that holds its commencement ceremony in December is the School of Social Work . That ceremony will be held on December 16 as scheduled. Social Work will announce the location very shortly. And as usual, December grads are invited back to participate in our university-wide ceremony to be held on May 13.

Michal: I am a senior at New Trier High School in Wilmette, Ill., and want to attend Tulane in the fall. Will the school be functioning at that time?

President Cowen: Absolutely, yes. The school actually will be open on Jan. 17, 2006. Make sure you get your application in early to beat the rush for what we think will be the most competitive class in the history of the university.

Tulanian: Sounds like things are moving forward and we’re all excited to come back. Please let those students know what to do who are mainly on scholarship but the host school is demanding full payment or no transcripts (they were waiving tuition originally). Thanks, see you in January!

President Cowen: My advice is for you to call or e-mail the Financial Aid numbers I gave earlier, which are 713-212-1371 or and explain your situation.

Beverly: Is all Internet access and cell phone (as well as land line) service now working on and around campus? If not, will it be functional come January? Thank you.

President Cowen: The vast majority of the land lines and cell phones are working in and around campus but there is some periodic interruption. However, we anticipate there will be no issues by January.

Jessi: If a student refuses to pay the Tulane tuition for first semester (I am attending UT and it seems absurd to pay $20,000 to attend a school that costs $3,600), will they not be allowed to attend second semester even if they agree to pay Tulane tuition for second semester?

President Cowen: You will not be able to attend Tulane in the spring semester. I advise that you withdraw from the institution and reapply for the spring and we will look at the appropriateness of the courses you took, the grades you received, and whether we can accept them at Tulane for the spring. In
addition, if you were scheduled to receive any Tulane financial aid, we will have to recalculate the aid and the basis of any merit-based aid you are eligible to receive.

Jessi: What percentage of students and what percentage of professors are you expecting to return for second semester?

President Cowen: We’re expecting all of our professors to return for second semester and have not heard of one case of a faculty member not coming back. We also expect that the vast majority of our students will return in the spring. In fact, less than 2 percent have officially withdrawn as of today.

Csuhar: I’m one of the Tulane students who are now attending schools in the Tampa Bay Area, which is now a potential target for Hurricane Wilma. (As I write, two of the colleges in the region have shut down.) If our surrogate universities are knocked off-line, what are we to do? It’d be very hard to switch to a third university halfway through the semester.

President Cowen: First, I am very sorry to hear of your circumstances. Second, I advise you to stay with the university you are attending and if something really unfortunate should happen to that institution, we will work with you to ease the transition back to Tulane University . As a double evacuee myself, I hope you do not have to go through another hurricane experience this year.

Jason: What’s the deal with the University Center?

President Cowen: The University Center came through the storm unscathed. It is standing tall as a beacon of hope for the future. We will resume work on the building later in the spring sometime.

Tusoph: President Cowen, quick question: if a student has decided not to attend classes for the fall and has deferred their paid tuition to the spring, they must pay for the Lagniappe semester, correct?

President Cowen: Correct, but it is at a discounted rate from what you would normally have to pay.

Jennifer: My roommate was on campus yesterday and was informed it was not safe for her to be there and given a shot. She was also told by a worker that Tulane would not be ready to reopen in January. We need reassurance that the school will open.

President Cowen: The school will absolutely open in January. And I would ignore anything a single worker would tell you. I myself have been on that campus every single week in the last several weeks and the progress is moving quite well. In addition, we provided guidance this past week about visitations to the campus which will start in November. You should adhere to the advice that we’ve provided. There are no environmental issues that are of concern to us on campus. We just don’t want students walking around and through buildings that are under construction. It is not safe.

Esther: My daughter was a freshman moving into Monroe Hall and will not be returning to Tulane for the spring semester. I am unable to make the trip to the campus to retrieve her belongings on either November 4 or 5 due to financial and other circumstances. Can you tell me how we can arrange to have her belongings shipped back to our home address in New Jersey?

President Cowen: You need to have a friend or designee come to campus to arrange with the Dallas Moving & Storage Company to have your materials shipped to you. I am sorry that you will not be with us in the spring. You will be missed, and I wish you success wherever you may go.

Susies: I have not booked an airfare for my daughter to go back down in January. Will the first day back for the kids be January 12?

President Cowen: If your daughter’s a first year student, the residence halls will open Jan. 12. If you’re an upper classman living on campus, your residence hall will open on Saturday, Jan. 14. If you live off-campus, you should be there at the start of classes, which is Jan. 17.

Miles: When will a schedule of classes be posted so that students can prepare for the registration process?

President Cowen: Courses for Spring 2006 and the Lagniappe session are being finalized this week. Both schedules will be posted early next week.

Emerald: I am very proud of the way you and Tulane are stepping up to help the city of New Orleans through Mayor Nagin’s Bring New Orleans Back committee. What is the benefit to Tulane of your work for the city?

President Cowen: The faster we can rebuild New Orleans , the better Tulane University will be because it will be an even stronger and more vibrant community than it was before the hurricane. As the largest employer in New Orleans, we have an obligation to ensure the future of our city and by doing that, Tulane’s recovery will be even faster and stronger.

RMF: When will students be able to pick classes for Spring Semester?

President Cowen: Priority registration will begin Nov. 9 and run through Nov. 18.

RMF: When can students begin to arrive for spring semester?

President Cowen: I would refer you to an answer I just gave: first year students can move into the dorms on January 12, upperclassmen on Jan. 14, and classes begin on Jan. 17.

Joan: Are cell phones working in the area? If so, which providers?

President Cowen: Cell phones are working and, to the best of my knowledge, all providers.

Joan: What hospitals are open and is 911 operating? Are ambulances and paramedics working?

President Cowen: 911 is operating, and ambulances and paramedics are available, including our own TEMS (Tulane Emergency Medical Services) unit. Virtually all the hospitals in the area have reopened and those that have not will probably be open by January. There is a list on our website of hospitals that
are open, as well as restaurants and bars.

Joan: The LA EPA has commented on concerns regarding soil contamination (E-coli, lead, arsenic, etc.). Has any testing been done on campus and what were the results?

President Cowen: We have an industrial hygienist on our campus who is continuing doing environmental testing of the soil and the conditions in the buildings, and approves our reentry in them after restoration.

Nancy: How long do we have to wait to enter Rosen? It has been since the city has opened and Tulane has also scheduled visits for people who lived in other residence halls. What is the university plan for Rosen House and its residents?

President Cowen: Rosen House will not be open this spring and we’re making alternative plans for those who live in Rosen. We are also developing a plan for Rosen residents to retrieve their belongings.

Joan: I have seen reports and articles regarding increased termite infestations and rodents in New Orleans. What is Tulane doing about this?

President Cowen: I have not seen these reports or articles and we certainly have not detected any increased termites or rodents on our campus or in our neighborhood.

Joan: What is the condition of the cafeterias? Will they all be operating and will you be using bottled water?

President Cowen: All the cafeterias will be open in January. The water is safe to drink now, but you are always free to buy bottled water.

Chat: Hello, President Cowen. How long do you think it will be before Tulane reaches its pre-Katrina enrollment of 13,000+ students?

President Cowen: The most important priority Tulane has as an institution is to continue to maintain its exceptionally high academic standards, and this is more important than the size of the institution itself. At this time we are considering strategically reducing the size of our institution to make it even more competitive and higher quality. Therefore, it is not one of our aspirations to have an enrollment of 13,000 students.

Joan: What security measures will be in place on campus in January? Any changes from previous?

President Cowen: First, the Tulane campus and our neighborhood are as safe as they have ever been before the storm. We will continue to have a full complement of public safety officers and are prepared to supplement that with additional safety officers if we need to. However, right now and for the foreseeable future, New Orleans, especially the uptown area, is extremely safe.

Missing NOLA: President Cowen, I cannot wait to get back to Tulane and New Orleans. I never thought I would miss it so much! My question is when will classes for the spring and Lagniappe semesters be posted?

President Cowen: Next week. And I can’t wait to see you also!

Joan: With the addition of Dillard and Xavier students, what impact will this have on Tulane students (e.g. class size, course availability, dorm availability)?

President Cowen: It will have no impact on your class size, class availability or dorm availability. Dillard faculty will be teaching Dillard students and any Dillard students who want to take our classes will do so on a space available basis. We’re very proud and pleased with this unprecedented partnership between Tulane/Dillard/Xavier/Loyola and believe it serves as a model of cooperation in our city and around the nation.

Chris: What percentage of your faculty, staff and students need housing because theirs was destroyed?

President Cowen: We’re doing a survey to determine that percentage and the final results are not yet in. But we anticipate making plans for all those who were displaced.

Jenel 2009: I am a freshman and was in Monroe Hall. I know my belongings have been packed and relocated to the Reily Center. My question is if I come down to Tulane on the specified dates for dorm halls, do I have to take all of my belongings, or can I just take what I need and leave the rest for next semester?

President Cowen: Just take what you need and leave the rest for next semester. What you leave we’ll put back in your room for your arrival in January with a mint on your pillow.

MICHAEL: Will all colleges at Tulane graduate together, or will there be separate times for the different schools? Will tickets for graduation be limited to parents, or can seniors invite guests also?

President Cowen: All schools and colleges will graduate in one unified ceremony and we anticipate that you will be able to get tickets for parents and a limited number of guests.

Mary Beth: My son would like to do a semester abroad for spring. He is a junior in the Freeman School. How would he arrange that?

President Cowen: Contact Mary is the director of the Center for International Studies.

George: Mr. President, there is some news on residential halls on the Tulane website except Rosen House. What is going on with Rosen? How bad was the looting there? Is the university doing anything to protect personal belongings in Rosen House? When will Rosen House be ready to re-open?

President Cowen: Rosen House will not open this spring and we’re making alternative housing plans for its residents. The belongings for Rosen House are being packed up and we will provide information at a later date about how you can retrieve them. There was some looting of the building, but we do not know the extent of it at this time.

Mary Beth: I was told that grades from other institutions were not going to be accepted. Is this true and why not?

President Cowen: This is true. More than 5,000 students are attending over 500 institutions around the country. These range from Ivy League schools to community colleges. Each of these institutions uses a different method of evaluating students and determining grades. It would be unfair to our students and almost logistically impossible to determine a grade that would be appropriate for the Tulane GPA based on these diverse experiences. However, students will have the transcript from their host institution with grades that they can use for applications to graduate or professional schools in the future.

Rachel: Will there be an extensive cleaning of the rooms prior to move in? Can I service-wave stuff that I saw wrong in my dorm so it will be on file to be fixed when I return in spring?

President Cowen: There will be a thorough cleaning and you’ll have to wait until you return in the spring to call service-wave.

Newcomb05: President Cowen, will you be at the Tulane vs. Navy game? 🙂

President Cowen: I will not be at the game because I will be on the Tulane campus in New Orleans doing information sessions and welcoming our students back. But I’m counting on you to bring a victory home. Roll Wave!

Deb: Will there be people around to assist with starting the car if that becomes necessary or should we contact AAA?

President Cowen: We anticipate that Tulane Public Safety will be able to assist you if your car is on campus, you have a key, or it’s in a very close location to campus.

Ers: Will updated billing for the fall semester be available shortly so that we know exactly what we owe?

President Cowen: Yes, we will be mailing them on Oct. 29.

Ers: Has the Department of Education decided what they are doing with the Stafford loans that were sent to Tulane for the fall semester?

President Cowen: The Department of Education made its determination today regarding Title 4 funds and information about their decision will be disseminated shortly.

Ers: I would like to confirm information that I received from the call center—all students will be checking into the dorms starting Jan. 12?

President Cowen: First-year students will check in Jan. 12, upperclassmen on Jan. 14.

Ers: Has there been any progress with the bracelets that one student wanted to create to support Tulane?

President Cowen: In fact, I received my bracelet today and will be giving 16 bracelets to the other Bring Back New Orleans commissioners on Monday. The bracelet is inscribed with Roll Wave on one side and Save NOLA on the other. Each bracelet is $4 and the proceeds go to Tulane University and the
Red Cross. They can be ordered online at This young man has already raised over $3,000. We’re very appreciative of his effort and commitment for our institution.

Wilson: Is it possible to register for both the spring and Lagniappe terms at the same time?

President Cowen: Yes.

Nancy: Please give us more information about retrieving students’ belongings. If their possessions remain in the cartons they were mailed in, can they be mailed home from campus or will we need to rent cars to transport these large cartons elsewhere to mail them? What are alternate days for picking up belongings? Also, where can we currently find this information on the Tulane website? Thank you.

President Cowen: The packages or cartons can be mailed or picked up and we will have alternative dates in December where people can come to campus and get their belongings. I would also refer you once again to the website. Click on “Students” where there is specific guidance about retrieving your belongings.

Kathy: What is the percentage of faculty that is returning this spring?

President Cowen: We anticipate all of our faculty returning in the spring and do not know of a single case of one who is not.

James: President Cowen, I see there are ongoing efforts to repair the campus to working order for the spring semester. What is the status of new construction like the University Center project and Doris Hall?

President Cowen: We will resume construction on the University Center in January, and Doris will begin later in the year.

Etta: Not only did the call center give the Nov. 12 and 13 dates as move-in days, but it’s also on your website. Are you sure about the upper class move-in date because I already booked a hotel?

President Cowen: The move-in date for freshmen is Jan. 12, for upperclassmen Jan. 14. You may be confusing move-in dates versus the dates you can retrieve your belongings on campus, which is in November, including Nov. 12 and 13.

International Student: How are the effects of the hurricane likely to affect my year there in terms of courses, the university environment and places I’d want to go outside the university? By the way, great job with all you’re doing.

President Cowen: We will be offering a full array of courses in the spring and Lagniappe semesters to include those that would normally be offered in the fall. Therefore, you should be able to find the courses you need to continue your progress at the university. I think you will be very pleased by the condition of the campus when you see it, and the many restaurants and other amenities of interest to students will probably also be open.

Chris Gromek: Has Tulane been getting the same amount of applicants this year as they have previously?

President Cowen: As of last week, applications for next fall are up by about 50 percent over last year at the same time.

Chat: Dr. Cowen, the only time you have sounded discouraged in your announcements has been following meetings with government agencies. Would it help for parents to contact Congressmen or other people from federal agencies to express concern and a need for urgent action?

President Cowen: Absolutely. And you are correct to sense that I have been frustrated and less than pleased with the response thus far by our federal government.

TJ: Hi! I am taking classes at Indiana University-Bloomington now and I am planning to go back to Tulane for spring semester. I did not pay my tuition to both colleges yet. I have received email from IU that I have to pay the tuition to them. Should I pay to Tulane or Indiana? I’m confused!

President Cowen: You should pay your Indiana University tuition and then you will be credited for that tuition against your Tulane charges for this year, including the fall. I refer you to our tuition policy which is on for further explanation. Under no circumstances will you have to pay more for the fall than you would have had you attended Tulane University.

ZZ: Will financial aid be available to students who need financial assistance due to Hurricane Katrina changing their financial circumstances?

President Cowen: Tulane University will reassess need-based aid as a result of circumstances that you may now be facing. Contact the Financial Aid office for further information, 713-212-1371 or I would recommend that you e-mail rather than call.

NY Mom: Suppose a student wants to stay at their visiting school for the spring semester because they have finally settled in, but wants to return to Tulane in the fall. Is that possible?

President Cowen: You should withdraw from Tulane University and reapply as a transfer student for next fall. You also have to apply to the school where you are and be accepted.

CindyG-03: I’m Cindy Greenberg from Roslyn – Newcomb ’03 and hopefully Tulane Law ’08 or ’09. I just wanted to know, how is Gibson, and is she looking forward to returning home?

President Cowen: Gibson misses New Orleans and the campus. She, like most of our displaced animals, has been disoriented ever since leaving the campus. I’m pleased to tell you that we’re all moving back October 31 and Gibson personally told me that she can’t wait until that day. By the way, for those of you who don’t know this, Gibson is my four-year-old golden retriever.

Anne: Today’s update said that all employees must report to work by Dec. 19. What about the Health Sciences employees? That hospital does not look like it will be finished any time soon. The other buildings look bad, too.

President Cowen: Health Sciences employees work for Tulane University and therefore are subject to all the same notifications as anyone else at the University.

TJ: How can I notify Tulane that I will be attending TU starting in the spring semester?

President Cowen: Register for classes and let your college advisor know. We are expecting you back, assuming you are already a Tulane student, of course.

Kathy_C: What condition do you think the city of New Orleans will be in by January ’06?

President Cowen: All of the basic services will be operational, and many of the restaurants and stores and other establishments will be reopened. There will continue to be a lot of construction and road work being done and there will still be the presence of debris on the side of the road. New Orleans will be a work in progress with a very bright future.

Chat: Are you still planning to contact individuals next week if their belongings were damaged?

President Cowen: Yes.

Mom-Mari: Honestly, how “normal” will life be at Tulane in January? Are you opening for financial reasons, or do you truly believe it is for the best interests of the students?

President Cowen: Tulane University will be fully operational in January and will be able to serve a very important role in the lives of our faculty, staff, students and our community. I would go so far as to say that Tulane University will be the best institution in the country for students who want to get a first-rate
education and make a difference in peoples’ lives. There is no other better laboratory than New Orleans or Tulane.

Jake: How is your wife’s broken bone healing?

President Cowen: Thank you for asking. It has actually been very slow to heal so she is still wearing her boot and has to make use of a crutch. In all honesty, we have not seen one another in over three weeks and if all goes well we may have a few hours this weekend.

Andrea: You recently sent out an e-mail that asked for increased contributions to the school but at the same time I am hearing that things are great. These two issues don’t seem to connect.

President Cowen: Tulane has been making great progress in its recovery, but not without equally great sacrifices and financial costs. As I mentioned in that message, it will cost us tens of millions of dollars that will not be covered by insurance or any other sources to fully restore the institution. Contributions
are necessary so we can continue to be financially strong. I would also add that we have earned the right to your contributions because no institutions and its people have worked harder and longer in the last seven weeks to restore the university.

Tulane: Thanks for another great chat! Do you have any parting words for us?

President Cowen: Once again, I’d like to thank LiveWorld for their generosity in providing this outlet for me to communicate with all Tulanians across the country. We are eagerly looking forward to reopening in January and those of us in Houston will be moving back to our campus and to our homes in the next 10 days. Just as you miss Tulane and the city, we all have a greater affection and longing for what we took for granted before. I’m counting the days until we reopen and I can welcome each and every one of you again to Tulane University, one of the greatest places in the world.

Thank you for attending this Tulane community chat. Please continue to monitor for the latest information and join us again for our next chat.

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