Live Chat with President Cowen – September 16, 2005

President Cowen: I want to welcome everyone back for our second live chat. Last week, over 1,500 people logged in to chat and submitted 1,879 questions. I was able to answer 69. So far, we’ve received more than 5,500 emails. So, clearly you have many, many questions and while we’re doing our best to answer them, we can’t possibly get to them all. I urge you to check our website since it is the official source of information and many of these questions are answered there. I also want to point you to a call center for questions dealing with tuition, transfer credits and related issues. The call center number is, toll-free, 866-502-7264, or in Texas, 713-888-5008. It is staffed Monday – Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. central. But let’s not waste any time….first question?

Tulane dad: Did Tulane carry business interruption insurance and if so, how much?

President Cowen: The university does have business interruption insurance and we anticipate it will cover some but not all of our losses as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

Mary: I’m having no success getting through to your call center. What am I supposed to do?

President Cowen: I suggest you continue to try the number because the call volume is decreasing. Please be patient. We will get to your call as soon as we can.

Wilson: Have you established any target dates for when students can return to campus to retrieve their stuff?

President Cowen: We posted a very important message on our website today which I recommend that all students read. When we have a specific date we will let you know. Until you get the okay from us you should not return to campus.

Kathy: Are you coordinating your cleanup efforts with the City of New Orleans and Entergy? Seems like things might go more quickly if everyone worked together.

President Cowen: Things are actually going very quickly in terms of clean-up on our campus and in the city. And our efforts are coordinated with those of Entergy and others.

TUmom: Will students with academic scholarships retain those, as planned, for the balance of their Tulane education?

President Cowen: If they stay enrolled for the fall term they will retain those scholarships.

tungsten: Tulane may be open in January, but what if nothing else is?

President Cowen: Based on what we know today we believe all the basic amenities we need will be available to us. As part of our strategy for reopening we are closely monitoring that the services and activities needed are available to everyone.

ash65: Where can prospective students send their applications? Can we still send them to the university?

President Cowen: You should send your applications to the Office of Undergraduate Admission, PO Box 91003C, Richmond, VA 23228-1003.

Joan: Does Tulane have an estimate of the Tulane staff (teachers, maintenance, office, etc.) that will be returning to Tulane by spring?

President Cowen: We anticipate that the vast majority of our faculty and staff will be returning for the spring and they continue to be on our payroll during this very difficult time.

Joan: If belongings are destroyed, can we be reimbursed for the loss?

President Cowen: As a first step, you need to file a claim with your own insurance company. In the event that you do not have sufficient coverage we are exploring ways and other avenues that you might be able to be reimbursed.

Rachal Green: I have been hearing rumors about HCA pulling the Tulane Hospital and Clinic out of New Orleans. If this is true what will happen to the employees of the medical school that were working in the hospital?

President Cowen: There’s absolutely no truth to the rumor that HCA is pulling out of the Hospital and Clinic in New Orleans. In fact, we inspected the hospital today – it looks good and we anticipate reopening it in the near future.

Rachal Green: How long will the university be paying its employees, and will we get advance notice of when they decide to discontinue the pay?

President Cowen: Every month we publish a policy statement on our web site about our payroll procedures. One of our goals is to ensure that our core faculty and staff continue to be paid during this very difficult time.

NancyF0623: My daughter is a freshman this year and has decided she wants to withdraw from Tulane. How does she do this?

President Cowen: I am sorry that your daughter has made this decision and we hope that she would reconsider and perhaps reapply for the spring. However, if she does want to withdraw she merely needs to send us a letter to Tulane University, Attn: Registrar, 1700 West Loop South, Suite 600, Houston, TX 77027.

eller: Could we have an update on the specifics of buildings on campus – especially dorms? The longer stuff sits there growing mold, the worse the damage will be.

President Cowen: We have several hundred people on our campus right now who are making a building by building assessment of damage, securing those buildings and, very shortly, remediating them. We’re very mindful of the issue of mold and are taking the necessary steps to minimize such problems.

hadcock: What about part-time tuition paid to another institution when full fall semester tuition was paid to Tulane?

President Cowen: First of all, you would not be required to pay full-time tuition in the fall, simply a pro-rated amount which would be credited to your spring tuition bill.

freshmanparent: With little absolute information about New Orleans and its status for January 2006, would it be possible to extend the 9/27 deadline for withdrawal at least until we have more information?

President Cowen: We are considering that possibility and will make a decision soon. We want you to have the most recent information at your disposal before you would make a decision about withdrawal. I anticipate we will be announcing some very important information that will affect your decision. That information will be available early next week (week of September 19-23).

Tulane: Dr. Cowen, I was wondering if the university had any plans for housing students who lost their off-campus housing for this coming semester. My house was under at least 7 feet of water, and I doubt it will be inhabitable any time soon, if ever. I would imagine many others are in the same position. Thanks so much; can’t wait to get back despite everything! Roll Wave.

President Cowen: I love your attitude! And yes, we are making plans right now to see if we can provide off-campus housing to our students, faculty and staff who have been displaced because of Hurricane Katrina. I also want to reassure everyone that on-campus housing will also be available.

gogoberg: Will the courses taken at host schools be computed into the student’s GPA or will it be counted as Pass/Fail if a “C” or better is received? I don’t see how Tulane can compute the grade into the GPA since some students are attending different level schools. How can an “A” from Princeton or Cornell be the same as an “A” from a community college?

President Cowen: Courses will be recorded as either pass/no pass.

Mike: I’m taking just one course this fall. Do I still have to pay my full tuition?

President Cowen: No, you will pay a pro-rated amount and we will adjust your bill accordingly.

Debby: If business people and residents are being allowed back in the 70118 area, can Tulane employees get on campus?

President Cowen: No. I refer all Tulane students, faculty and staff to the message we posted on the website today at regarding returning to campus.

Hopeful: When we get back, will Tulane be able to assist faculty and staff to get housing other than what may be on the open market or available through FEMA?

President Cowen: We’re working right now on trying to identify housing for displaced faculty and staff. We would be coordinating that with FEMA and other agencies. Any housing provided would only be temporary.

Astrid: If a student was evacuated from Tulane, and is now studying at a University in Canada, will she be able to get some of her tuition back or credited? She’s paid tuition in Canada, and has paid tuition for the first semester at Tulane. What options does she have?

President Cowen: We will credit her spring bill for the tuition she paid in Canada.

Rick: Will all of the campus security be returning to guarantee the safety of the students

President Cowen: Yes. And I also believe that New Orleans is now one of the safest towns in America and will remain so for a long time. Having said that, we will continue having a full complement of public safety officers when you return to campus.

Neale McDevitt: We all understand that compared to the loss of life and loved ones suffered by so many in the wake of Katrina, the loss of a semester of school is fairly minimal, but can you comment on the importance, symbolically and in concrete terms, of getting your university operational again?

President Cowen: The Tulane community and its faculty, staff and students, were also victims of Hurricane Katrina. Many have been displaced, are without their possessions and do not have access to their homes including all of us working now in Houston, Texas. There have been tremendous sacrifices made by everyone as the result of this unprecedented tragedy. Tulane University is the largest private employer in Orleans Parish and in the state. It is imperative for the future of our city and state that Tulane University rebuild from this tragedy even stronger and healthier. We are a significant economic engine and our future and that of our city and state is dependent on our future. Therefore, symbolically and substantively the reemergence of Tulane is critical to everyone’s future in this region.

Ann: Do you have any idea when employees who have not yet been paid for August might get paid?

President Cowen: All employees who had automatic deposit were paid for August and we had the checks for those who were direct pays. You need to get in touch with us if you’re expecting your paycheck and have not received it. Please call us at 713-212-1300 to leave a message to Gary Johnson, payroll manager, with an address where your check can be sent.

JBarber1: Will the university continue to pay graduate stipends prior to re-opening? Thanks.

President Cowen: Currently, it is our plan to continue to pay graduate stipends as described in the payroll policy we posted on our web two weeks ago. We review this policy every month.

MaxHetzer ChE: When can graduate students come back to labs and continue their research, particularly in Boggs building?

President Cowen: Faculty, students and staff should not come back to campus until we explicitly tell them they can.

Elaine Smyth: Dear President Cowen, librarians, archivists, and researchers would love to have an update on the status of the archives and library collections at Tulane. We are worried about your wonderful collections!

President Cowen: Lance Query, dean of libraries, has made several trips to campus to make an assessment of the damage with our insurance company and others. And even though there has been some damage he seems more optimistic that the library may have been spared a catastrophic loss.

molly: I am attending Ohio State University for the fall quarter and taking 14 credit hours of class, but that only converts to 9.33 credit hours at Tulane. Will I have to pay full tuition or will it be prorated for being part-time?

President Cowen: It will be pro-rated for being part-time.

Andrea: Will the school be able to provide food service on campus, as before?

President Cowen: It is certainly our plan to have food service for everyone on campus. And I promise you it will be as good as it was in the past. 🙂

Andrea: If I withdraw from Tulane by Sept. 27 due to the uncertainty of returning to New Orleans, but choose to return in January for spring and reapply, will I be welcomed and be able to return in a timely manner?

President Cowen: First of all, I would hold off on withdrawing; additional information will be available early next week (week of September 19-23) that may influence your decision. Plus, I think there is a reasonable probability we will extend the deadline one more time so people can make informed decisions. If, however, you should wind up withdrawing and reapplying you would certainly be welcomed back on campus. We should note, however, that any credits you may have taken at another institution will be subject to our normal transfer credit rules and you would have to reapply for aid if you were receiving any.

Jon: Has Tulane considered limiting admissions for a year or two to maintain academic standards?

President Cowen: We do not believe we will have to limit admissions and we will not compromise, in any event, our high academic standards.

John: Do you know when our official transcripts will be available?

President Cowen: Transcripts will be available in about two weeks.

TLS 06: Have there been any decisions made on where graduation will be held? Will it be a unified ceremony, or are all the different schools on their own?

President Cowen: No definitive decisions have been made but there will be graduation with all the pomp and circumstance you would normally expect. And it will be unified.

TLS 06: What is being done to ensure that if the university is up and running in January, there will be enough housing in New Orleans for those of us who lived off campus?

President Cowen: Tulane University is right now in the process of developing a contingency plan to ensure we have enough off-campus housing of a temporary nature for our students, faculty and staff when they return in January.

Freshman parent: To what extent are Tulane’s losses covered by insurance?

President Cowen: There are two kinds of losses in the case of a catastrophic event like Katrina. One is property damage losses and we believe we have sufficient coverage for those. The other is business interruption losses resulting from the loss of revenue. Our business interruption insurance will cover some of these losses but not the vast majority of them.

Linda: There is a rumor that all Tulane records were lost or destroyed. True?

President Cowen: Absolutely false.

mom: First let me say what an outstanding job you and your team are doing!! I almost hesitate to ask my question, because it seems trivial in comparison to the needs of others, but here goes. Our son was to attend Tulane on a Deans Honors scholarship. He is taking classes at a state university which did charge tuition. Any plans to reimburse for that? Thank you.

President Cowen: We will credit his spring term bill for the tuition he paid to the state university.

Torbjorn Tornqvist: Will Tulane be hiring new faculty during this academic year, as planned?

President Cowen: When we re-open in January we will reassess our faculty hiring plans for ’06. I can guarantee you we will continually recruit faculty who we believe can meet the exceptionally high standards of the university.

Handicapped: President Cowen, do you think Tulane will beat Miss. State tomorrow night? A score prediction? Roll Wave.

President Cowen: I predict a win. The score will be 63-0. And Tulanians all
over the world will smile for the only football team in America that is homeless. I will be there to cheer them on and to thank them for their efforts on behalf of everyone who has been affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Open Soon Please: Everyone seems very optimistic that the school will open in January, which would be great. However, will there be a deadline by which you will say for sure whether the school will reopen so we can make plans to stay at our host schools or attend somewhere else?

President Cowen: We will be open this Spring. The specific date will be announced very shortly.

Tulane Mom: How will our child be assured admission back to Tulane University if they take a semester off?

President Cowen: If they took a semester off they do not have to reapply, they are already a Tulane University student. We will send them registration instructions in late October or early November.

Concerned: How can we help around the country in welcoming Tulane students at our local universities?

President Cowen: Please adopt our students wherever they are and treat them as if they were one of your own children or friends. It would be desirable when you’re with them that you wear a Tulane hat or T-shirt and let them know that Tulanians exist all over the world. 🙂

Elise: Are the academic counselors able to be reached at the 800 number in Houston?

President Cowen: No, however, you should still call with your questions and we will make sure they get routed to the right person who can answer in due course.

Chat: What is your estimated number of freshmen planning on returning for the spring semester?

President Cowen: Based on what we know today, the vast majority of our freshmen will be returning this spring. We have been delighted at the outpouring of support from our students, including freshmen, and we anticipate a large percentage of all students returning to Tulane and New Orleans.

Elise: Last week in your chat you mentioned that first semester courses, i.e. chemistry, would be offered in the spring. Is the same true for upper level courses, i.e. organic chemistry?

President Cowen: I can’t answer the question for a specific course, however, we will be very flexible in scheduling courses for the spring given the conditions we faced this fall and the requirements that our students would have.

NewTU: President Cowen, you have addressed many questions concerning tuition, but one that still remains is this: can a student going to a school with a lower tuition just credit their paid fall tuition to the spring and pay the lower tuition amount for the fall, so that the TU student would not have to withdraw?

President Cowen: I believe we’ve answered this question with our FAQs on the website. However, if a student wants their transfer credits automatically counted at Tulane and wants to retain any tuition aid they may have been granted, they will be required to pay their fall bill. And any other tuition they paid will be credited to their spring account.

Liz H: I am a senior at Tulane, currently in New York. Is it possible to get involved with any admission receptions that will be held in this area?

President Cowen: Absolutely. Please call 1-800-873-9283 and let them know of your specific interest.

Tulane Mom: How will housing be assigned before January?

President Cowen: We anticipate it will be assigned in the normal way, beginning in November.

Elise: Is there a place where Tulane students can register what schools they are attending so that when Tulane sends recruiters to these schools they can ask for these students to help?

President Cowen: We are considering this idea and will see if we can facilitate this.

Jr: Hello. Thank you for this opportunity to communicate. Are e-mails to the deans working now? I have a research proposal due on October 1, and I need a letter of support for proposal submission from my dean. My previous e-mails have bounced.

President Cowen: We anticipate that our e-mail system will be operational next week (week of September 19-23). In the meantime, you can leave a message for your dean at 713-212-1300 letting them know how they can get in touch with you to coordinate the signatures you require.

Michael CBS: Will you be accepting exchange students in the spring?

President Cowen: Yes, we will.

brock: Does your Technology Services department have offsite backups? This is standard information services procedure, and prior to this incident I had been told such was the case. However, at this time I have not heard anything about where those backups might be or how to retrieve them.

President Cowen: We have backups of all files offsite and have retrieved them.

Virginia Mom: How do we let you know if for health reasons our son is not able to return (assuming a spring semester opening)? What is the date that we need to notify you by?

President Cowen: There will be a spring opening and you should simply call  713-212-1300 and leave a message for the registrar.

lanalou: What is the status of Elmwood Campus for this semester?

President Cowen: We anticipate the Elmwood Campus will be open in mid-October and we also start offering classes at that time.

Senior: It seems that it would be difficult to transfer grades. Are classes going to transfer as Pass/Fail?

President Cowen: Yes.

Donna: My son was interviewed at a radio station that is part of Hofstra. Does Tulane have a radio station?

President Cowen: Yes, but it is not operating at this time. It is WTUL-FM and it will be operating in January.

MC: If Tulane is in fact unable for whatever reason to open in January is action being taken to set up a satellite campus particularly for the law school?

President Cowen: Tulane will open up in the spring and we are not planning any other contingency.

Shuggi: Will Tulane in the future try to establish more thorough relations with the New Orleans community at large? There is a sense that Tulane never cared too much for the city in which it is located.

President Cowen: Tulane University has excellent relations with the city and the state. In fact, the city has called upon Tulane during this hurricane. President Bush mentioned it by name in his address last night (Sept. 15). And I have every reason to believe that Tulane University is considered one of the great assets of our city and state. We cherish the people of New Orleans.

Terry: Is there a list of universities that will remit tuition to Tulane?

President Cowen: You should check the individual website for the host institution where you are.

Chat: Insurance companies will not reimburse without proof of damage, how do I acquire this?

President Cowen: We are making an inventory of all possessions in every room on campus and will document any damage. We will make this information available to you in due course.

Harry: As it becomes available, is the air conditioning being turned on to help dry out buildings and students’ belongings in those buildings?

President Cowen: We have set up a number of generators throughout our campus so that we have air conditioning as part of our restoration process.

Henry: President Cowen, I think you have done a phenomenal job of handling this unimaginable catastrophe and keeping everyone well informed. As a freshman dad, I’d just like to ask you how you and your family are doing.

President Cowen: Thank you for asking, you’re the first person to do so. My wife broke her foot in the midst of the storm and is hobbling around on crutches. My dog, Gibson, is totally disoriented as a result of the changes that have gone on in her life. And I’m wearing the same yellow shirt that I left town with two weeks ago. Other than that, we’re doing well. Thank you for asking.

phi: When will President Cowen and staff anticipate returning to campus?

President Cowen: We want to get back to our campus as soon as possible and have targeted a date of no later than November 1. In fact, we are making periodic visits to campus right now to assess the situation first-hand.

Debby Berger: What is the condition of the streets surrounding Tulane and access from the airport?

President Cowen: The streets have now been cleared and access is good. However, there are regulations about entry into the city.

jjj: Should employees consider transferring out of United Health Care to a spouse’s provider?

President Cowen: There is no need to do that. United Health Care is still our provider and they have given us a six-month extension on our current contract. This extension means our health insurance rates will remain the same through mid-2006.

Mary MSW: Will every room on campus be inspected before we are allowed in?

President Cowen: Yes. As a matter of fact, that process is already started and we have inspected the vast majority of the rooms already.

Mary MSW: Tulane Rocks!!

President Cowen: I agree!

point: Our daughter is a freshman this year, loved participating in the Helluva Hullabaloo NOLA experience, and WILL be back next semester. Besides giving money, how can we actively help TU through this crisis in the immediate future?

President Cowen: We are now taking names of interested students who want to volunteer. Students should email and you will be contacted in the future.

Mindy: If courses will be only Pass/No Pass, what incentive do students have to do well?

President Cowen: Students should always strive to do the best work they can. Our students are among the best and brightest in the country and we would not expect any less from them. While the Tulane transcript will show work as Pass/No Pass the actual grade will appear on the record at the host school.

MissiNOLA: Will you have any volunteer opportunities in New Orleans for students this semester?

President Cowen: Students should email and you will be contacted in the future.

Chat: What is the situation with Tulane University Health Sciences Center?

President Cowen: We’ve made assessment of all the buildings at the Health Science Center and believe we can remediate any damage sustained and reopen those facilities on the same time schedule as the uptown campus.

SM Fenton: Does attending another school this semester prevent a senior from being Phi Beta Kappa?

President Cowen: No.

uptownres: Are city officials pressuring Tulane to reopen before it is safe because of Tulane’s economic importance to the city?

President Cowen: Absolutely not. The city has worked very cooperatively with us and we will only open when it is safe and conditions warrant it. We believe this will be in January.

Diwya: Could you clarify number 4 on the online tuition questions? My child is going to a state school on scholarship paid by the state and we have already paid the fall tuition to Tulane. Will Tulane credit this fall tuition to the spring semester?

President Cowen: In this particular case we believe we’ll have to look at it on an individual basis because we have to know the nature of the scholarship, the amount paid out of pocket and the other costs of attendance.

Kathie: Can you describe, in general, the appearance of campus? Have most of the extremely old trees been uprooted?

President Cowen: We’re making an assessment right now of not only our buildings but our landscape. We have lost some trees but I want to assure you there are some left. The campus retains its charm and we believe that it will have the same feeling minus some trees that it had before.

M. Blair: Why has Tulane frozen my student loan money?

President Cowen: We have not; we have just not been able to disperse it yet and we will as soon as we have our records up and running. This is our highest priority.

Dan: Were you aware that the only bird that remained for the hurricane was the pelican? Go RIPTIDE!

President Cowen: I was not aware of this. However, this is a point that I will mention many times in the future.

David Zyman: “Not planning any other contingency”? Isn’t that a little bold, Dr. Cowen?

President Cowen: Yes, you’re probably right. In fact, every day we think about all the possibilities that could occur and have plans in place if we had to go in a different direction. However, right now we are very confident that the plan to reopen in January is realistic. I wrote a message on the website on Wednesday (Sept. 14) that described why I’m so confident that we will reopen in January. If you have not read it, please do so.

cori: Is cellular phone service currently operating in the New Orleans area?

President Cowen: Sporadically. We’re all finding it difficult to use the cell service on a reliable basis.

Concerned Parent: Is it possible for you to receive federal aid?

President Cowen: As a result of Hurricane Katrina there is a possibility we may receive federal aid, along with all other institutions affected by this hurricane.

tgirldad: Are you scheduled to appear on TV again? I think your reassuring words would be good for students, parents, faculty and staff to hear directly.

President Cowen: Yes, I will be on the NBC Nightly News tomorrow night (Sept. 16) and do get asked periodically to appear. I try to do as many of these as I can to assure all of you of our presence and our optimism.

Alan P.: The hotline is terrific. As a parent of a freshman, it was very important to me to speak with a human being. The Freeman professor who clarified my tuition question was informed and very reassuring.

President Cowen: Thank you. I think that many people, once they hear the answers to their questions from another human being, are satisfied that we are doing the right things. It is the absence of information and the inability to actually interact with someone that occasionally leads to frustration and even anger. We are making every effort to increase the amount of interaction we have with you so we can resolve issues together.

Concerned Parent: Will a transcript of this chat be posted?

President Cowen: Yes, it should be available Monday evening (Sept. 19) and will be on the website.

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

President Cowen: First, I would like to thank LiveWorld for donating this technology. This was an incredible offer of generosity and assistance when we so much needed it. It’s just one of many expressions of hope that we have had since this tragedy.

Hurricane Katrina affected the lives of so many faculty, students and staff.

And everyone is doing the best they can to cope with their individual problems, to remain hopeful and to bring us back as a community as soon as possible. I have never been prouder than I am now to be president of Tulane
University and to represent all of you during this historic moment in our history. I want to thank you all for your patience, for your good will and for your trust. As I have said before, we will come out of this a stronger, wiser and even greater institution.

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

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