Live Chat with President Cowen – September 9, 2005

A total of 1,553 visitors joined Scott Cowen for the first Tulane University live chat on Friday, September 9. They posed a total of 1,879 questions and President Cowen was able to answer 69 in the one-hour format.

President Cowen: Good afternoon. This is the first time that we have been able to interact in a live setting since August 28. Of course, I wish we could talk personally in New Orleans but obviously that’s not possible. Many of you have requested more two-way communication and this is a means to facilitate that. I want to thank LiveWorld for generously donating this technology that will hopefully bring us closer as a community during this tragedy. We will hold live interactive chats every Friday afternoon at 5 pm central time, so please mark your calendars. Either I will participate or we may designate a senior administrative official to address specific topic areas.

Since I know there will be many questions today about our tuition policy I want to talk about that first. The day after I arrived in Houston , we announced a plan for students to enroll as visiting students at schools around the country for the fall semester only. You are still a Tulane student. We knew there would be hundreds of different scenarios relating to each student but we felt it was important to provide a way for you to continue your studies uninterrupted.

There are many, many questions and on Monday we will begin to outline answers for you. We extended the deadline for withdrawal two weeks, to
September 27, to prevent any student from feeling pressured into making a hasty decision about their plans. In the meantime, please visit the website regularly for updates and information.

Having said that, first question?

Arthur Lustig: What attempts are being made to find temporary housing for the many faculty members who have families after our return to Tulane?

President Cowen: This is a topic we have been discussing for the last two days and is a high priority issue for our faculty when they return to campus. I anticipate giving some specific guidance over the next couple of weeks. Please be assured it is on our list as a priority.

Baltimore Tulane Mom: If students are going to school part time, will some tuition be refunded, or held for summer classes or future Tulane tuition?

President Cowen: If students are going part-time we will make some adjustment to tuition as appropriate, based on circumstances of the individual student. If funds are due they will be credited to tuition for a future semester.

Corey: I was not enrolled for this fall semester prior to Katrina, but I would love to transfer back for the spring semester. Is this possible?

President Cowen: Yes, we would love to have you at the university.

Shaina: If I am a current high school senior still wanting to apply to Tulane for Fall 2006, where can I go now to get my application?

President Cowen: You can either call 1-800-873-9283 or go to

Howard: President Cowen, although the campus may be ready for spring occupancy, the rest of the city may not be. How do we insure that our children will be safe both on and off the campus if the city has health concerns and is still basically uninhabitable?

President Cowen: I can assure you that we will not reopen our campus this spring until we can assure the safety of our students, on or off campus. This is an issue of utmost importance to us and one we will closely monitor.

Jurij Oracz: My son left all of his clothes books and computer behind in his dorm room and also his car in the garage. When will we be able to retrieve his belongings?

President Cowen: I cannot give you a definitive answer at this time because entry into the city is really under the control of the National Guard. However, as soon as they allow reentry into the city we will make sure our students are aware of it.

Rachal Green: Are employees who were getting paid biweekly continuing to get paid biweekly?

President Cowen: Yes. Employees should be monitoring the website

Mark Sylaj: Brown said they will waive my tuition for the fall, do I still have to pay Tulane?

President Cowen: Next week we will be issuing a list of frequently asked questions about all the scenarios covering tuition. Please look for that FAQ for an answer to your question.

Salmon: What is your address in Houston ?

President Cowen: Our address in Houston is 1700 West Loop South, Suite 600, Houston , TX 77027 .

Mo9: Is “Promise and Distinction” still active at this time? Can I donate to the rebuilding fund through it?

President Cowen: Yes and yes. We need your help more than ever and I would refer you to our website,, for information on how you can make a donation to the university at this time.

divaangel: It is good to know that Tulane will be back in the spring. Thank you for providing a forum for discussion so quickly. My question relates to staff and working during this time. Are there any plans to require us to move to Houston if we can do our jobs from away?

President Cowen: That will depend on the needs of your supervisor. You should make sure your supervisor knows your whereabouts. You should register on our website, and your supervisor will give you specific instructions as to what your duties should be during this time period.

nice2talk2u: How do you intend to assist faculty in staying at other institutions for the duration, to continue their research? Can you do contact on their behalf, perhaps sending generic letters? Thank you.

President Cowen: The AAU has contacted all its member institutions to see where they have availability to allow our faculty to reside during this period of time. As soon as the AAU completes this inventory we will publish it on our website. In the meantime, faculty should register on our website and ensure that their dean knows where they are and how they can be contacted.

Stuart: Have you considered the issue where a student attends a lower-priced school?

President Cowen: That is a topic we’re talking about right now and will be answered on our FAQ, published next week.

Oh Sixer: The difference between my Tulane tuition and the tuition assessed at the school I am now attending is $11,190. I am also only taking 6 units. will there be any proration?

President Cowen: There will certainly be some recognition of the fact you are a part-time student and we will determine an appropriate pro-rata. Specifics will have to wait.

Simon: Dr. Cowen, thanks for the opportunity, could you please tell us what Tulane is doing for the medical residents and fellows?

President Cowen: Yesterday I posted information regarding medical residents and fellows on the Tulane website; please refer to that posting.

M. Kerker: What is the status of those students who did not have an opportunity to pay the fall tuition prior to the school’s shutdown?

President Cowen: Those students will send their tuition checks to 1700 West Loop South, Suite 600, Houston , TX 77027.

Louis Crispino: For Tulane Staff who have damage to homes and cannot move back to the city right away, will arrangements be made so they can work remotely via the Internet, if they have jobs that allow this (those with technical IT jobs for example)?

President Cowen: I do not have a definitive answer to this question right now but believe within the next two weeks should be able to provide specific guidance on how you might be able to work remotely.

Lee: Have you decided at what date you will be making the decision to open the school’s doors for the spring semester? Many students need to apply to other institutions for the spring term, if need be.

President Cowen: We will be open for the spring semester. As of right now, based on what we know, we will be open in January as originally planned. Unless you hear from us otherwise, you should assume that will be the start date.

law alum: The administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina has been stellar, and the administration.

President Cowen: Thank you for the kind remarks. We have a number of people working 24/7 to ensure that our institution fully recovers and remains a great institution for students, faculty and staff.

J. Butler law Tulane: Hey, simple question…where do we stand on reopening for the spring? How soon will an announcement be made? A lot of us are in limbo about getting leases for a year, and if too much more time is taken, it will be a moot point, because we’ll be committed somewhere else for the year.

President Cowen: You should make decisions based on the assumption we will be open for the spring semester as originally planned, in January. If for any reason that should change, we will let you know. But based on facts and circumstances today we are very confident we will reopen in January.

Sedgwick: We sent in our semester payment via check but it has not been cashed. Is this a problem? She will defer this semester and return for the 2nd semester. She is an entering freshman. Thanks!

President Cowen: I do not believe this is a problem. We are still in search of our mail and I believe it’s on its way to Houston . If there is a problem with your payment we will let you know. We also anticipate within the next week or two to have access to our student billing records. This is why it has been impossible for us to respond to individual questions about tuition to be paid, financial aid and other related questions. As soon as those records are available to us and we assemble the manpower in Houston we will be able to interact directly with students to respond to all of their individual issues.

Chris Hilton: Is it possible to defer starting at Tulane until next fall’s semester without having to reapply?

President Cowen: Yes. All you need to do is to notify us at the Tulane Houston address or administration website or phone number I gave you. Let me repeat the phone number: 1-800-873-9283.

David: Hi President Cowen, I am a high school senior and Tulane is one of my top choice schools. I filled out the online application, and I gave my transcript request form to my guidance counselor, but I put your New Orleans address on it. Will it be forwarded to your temporary location?

President Cowen: Yes, however, to be sure that we received the materials you should call 1-800-873-9283 next week.

R. Cotilla: What is the condition of the uptown campus buildings?

President Cowen: First of all, you should all know that I was on campus during the storm and did not leave New Orleans until a week ago Thursday (September 1). Before I left the campus I toured all the buildings and grounds. The damage to our campus was much less than what others realized in the city and surrounding areas. There was debris on the campuses which could easily be cleared away. There was some water from Freret to Claiborne and there were a few windows blown out in buildings and a few roof tiles missing here and there. We believe we could have our campus operational within six
weeks if we have access to some basic services in New Orleans, most importantly sewer, power and water.

Arthur Lustig: Has emergency power been maintained at the Medical School (in particular red line freezers)?

President Cowen: No, however, we did send a team of researchers to the medical school to inventory and retrieve all our research assets. We have been working with the NIH and other funding agencies to ensure that we maintain our research infrastructure.

JT: I have not got my Tulane ID, and I intend to begin my semester in Tulane in Spring. When do I get my ID?

President Cowen: You will get your ID when you return to campus in January.

Joshua: I am in the process of filling out an application to Tulane as a prospective student fall of 2006. I must assume the campus tour scheduled for Oct. 15 has been cancelled. Will I be informed of future opportunities to visit the campus?

President Cowen: You are correct to assume that the campus tour will be canceled for October 15. However, we are keeping our normal schedule of admission receptions around the country. We have established a satellite office in Richmond , Virginia and are very optimistic about the class to enter in
the fall of 2006. We will provide you additional information about other opportunities to either visit the campus or to attend a reception in the next few weeks.

Carol Phelps: The phrase “research university” continues to be used, but there has been no information regarding research: status of facilities, etc. I would especially like to know about the vivarium: power, care, losses, evacuations. I also need to advise graduate students about their disrupted research. The NIH cannot help us until we can detail losses.

President Cowen: We have established a special research task force headed by Dr. Paul Whelton who is addressing all of these issues. We are in regular contact with NIH and all other federal agencies regarding how to handle the unique circumstances we are now faced with. I encourage you to contact the dean of your school, who can fill you in on the details.

Mo9: What is the university doing to ensure professors stay at Tulane?

President Cowen: The most important thing we’re doing is paying them during this time of incredible disruption to them, the university and, of course, New Orleans . We hope they will use this time to enhance their scholarly and educational interests so it will lead to the enhancement of the university’s ability to recover and retain its outstanding reputation. I would also refer the faculty to a link on our website,, for other information they may find of interest.

Sam: As a high school counselor, should I continue to encourage seniors to apply to Tulane for next year’s freshman class?

President Cowen: Absolutely! Tulane is one of the most vibrant, outstanding institutions in the country. This tragedy that we have gone through will only make us stronger, wiser and attractive to prospective students who want to be around people who have experienced adversity, who have shown courage and strength in the face of adversity and emerged from this crisis stronger. It seems to me to be an ideal place for any student who is interested in getting both a superb classroom education and an education in life.

Robin: Hello President Cowen! What is a realistic scenario for getting clean water to the campus by January?

President Cowen: I think it is very realistic that we will have clean water to our campuses by January. The federal government appears now to be totally focused on rebuilding New Orleans as soon as possible. That means we will have water, power, sewer and be one of the most safe cities in the United States.

TEMS Dad: President Cowen, I would like to commend you and Dr. Cherrey for recognizing the valuable contribution that the TEMS kids are making to the relief effort in Baton Rouge , and the way they are representing Tulane to the rest of the world. They could not be doing what they are doing without your support. Thanks.

President Cowen: The TEMS story is one of the great stories of unsung heroes. These are approximately 20 young men and women who have devoted their lives since this hurricane on rescue missions throughout the state. I am incredibly proud of what they have done and what they continue to
do. They represent the very best of what we expect of young men and women and we will formally recognize them for their efforts when they return to campus.

L. Pyles: I am a faculty member and am wondering if it will it be possible to utilize my research and/or travel budget this fall?

President Cowen: You will not have access to your research and travel budget unless you are on a funded grant. However, you would need to make contact with your funding agency to establish the status of your grant and availability of funds. You should also make sure you have registered on the Tulane website and made your department chair or dean aware of where you are and how to contact you.

Mr. B: Is there any available information specifically regarding the University College? As a recent high school graduate that attends the UC full time, I am in a slightly different but similar boat as other students that live on campus, pay more, etc.

President Cowen: There’s no specific information I can give you today about University College other than the fact that our Biloxi and Elmwood campuses will be open this fall for UC students to take courses. These campuses will also be available for other Tulane students in the area to take classes during this semester. We anticipate these campuses will be open no later than late October and we will provide ongoing information as it is available to us.

Will: Will credits transfer alone, or will grades transfer along with those credits?

President Cowen: This is a topic we’re reviewing right now with the deans and will be able to give specific guidance within the next week or two.

Emily Carroll: How lenient are you going to be with taking credits from a school that is on quarters?

President Cowen: We understand the peculiarities of schools that are on the quarter system and have a way of translating that into a semester basis. We have done this in the past and would follow the same procedures in dealing with our student situations this semester.

anxious: How safe will the city of New Orleans have to be before you reopen school?

President Cowen: We will have to be assured that the city is safe for our students, faculty and staff. Interestingly, I think it will be one of the safest cities in the country because of what has occurred. And where safety is our highest priority for everyone, this is one area where I am very comfortable it will not be an issue when we reopen.

Blue: I bought all of my freshman books and left them in my dorm. Am I going to be able to get a refund? I’m off to Middlebury tomorrow but hope to be home in New Orleans soon.

President Cowen: Unfortunately, we do not have the information at this time to answer this question. We do not have regular access to the campus ourselves and we will determine the appropriate way to handle the refund after we know the facts and circumstances of your case.

anxious: When do you expect Tulane webmail to be up and running?

President Cowen: We’re in the process of bringing up our IT systems as I speak. We have established a clear order of priority. We anticipate it will still be several weeks before our normal webmail will be available. At this time, it is much more important for us to be able to access our payroll systems, student information systems and financial systems. As soon as those are restored we’ll then turn to webmail.

Amy: Are you accepting applications for the fall term 2006 for freshmen?

President Cowen: We are absolutely accepting applications for fall 2006. In fact we have already received 1200 applications for the entering class 2006. If you are interested, you should call 1-800-873-9283. Individuals will be available to answer your phone calls starting next week.

DAVE K.: How do I go about notifying you about a withdrawal from the university?

President Cowen: You should send a letter to our Tulane address in Houston, 1700 West Loop South, Suite 600, Houston , TX 77027. You should be aware of the fact we have extended the withdrawal deadline until September 27. We did this so you can make an informed decision before you would reach such a conclusion. I ask you to continue to monitor the information on this website because unless you’re absolutely sure you want to transfer you may be much better off remaining a Tulane student.

Rothenberg: The email addresses for the deans all have a domain name. My dean does not seem to be getting these emails. Are these email addresses indeed functional? Molly Rothenberg, director of graduate studies.

President Cowen: Molly, some of the deans now have addresses and more will be getting them each day. I will have Dean Soufas contact you directly if you email at my normal email address.

mjw: When the school reopens for the spring semester, will “first semester” courses be offered (such as first semester chemistry or physics) or will only the second semester courses be offered? Along with that, how will the freshman writing class be handled?

President Cowen: Yes, they will be first semester courses and second semester courses. We will have enough flexibility to accommodate all students, whether they would be taking first or second semester courses.

Just a mom: First of all, I want to say that you are doing a remarkable job of keeping the Tulane community together. Do you have an estimated date on getting power, water and sewer back on? Also, will you reopen even if it takes until Feb. 1 instead of mid-January? My son is an incoming freshman and is spending his first semester at Princeton . He WILL be back when you are ready.

President Cowen: I am delighted that your son will be back in Tulane University in the spring. I do not have an estimated date yet for the restoration of power, water and sewer because that is controlled by the city. We do anticipate having information on the availability of those services in a matter of two weeks. We will reopen in the spring and we now anticipate it will be as we originally planned in mid-January, but if we had to move it back a few weeks we would do that because we are absolutely committed to be open for the spring semester and allowing our students to take a full load, and graduate on time.

John: Why has the president frozen the Athletic Departments funds thus preventing the teams from participating in their sports?

President Cowen: The president has not frozen the Athletic Department funds and our teams are participating in their sports. The first football game will be on National TV a week from tomorrow (September 17) against Mississippi State. Likewise our other fall team sports are participating as we speak.

Steve Nelson: When will be able to establish some kind of effective communication? I’m ready to get back to work helping to get things running again, but so far I have not been able to communicate with anyone in the administration, despite several attempts.

President Cowen: We’re in the process of restoring two-way communication. This live chatroom is our first success. I anticipate that we will have more vehicles for two-way communication as the days go by. Once again, I encourage you to monitor our website,, for specific information.

Lafayette: If I register at another university for the fall as a visiting student, am I still considered a Tulane student and will I have to reapply for admission for the spring semester?

President Cowen: You are absolutely a Tulane student and will always be a Tulane student. If you are registered as a visitor, transient or guest student, you are considered a Tulane student by both Tulane University and the host institution. You will not have to reapply for admission for spring semester.

R. Gautrin: Can you ask the building management to clean the refrigerators in Deming housing?

President Cowen: We are in the process of assessing all the conditions of our buildings, including Deming. We will be securing those facilities and removing whatever needs to be removed. Our facilities are secure from allowing others to get in and our facilities management staff is doing a superb job of remediating each building.

K. Young: How can an undergraduate student get an official reproduction of their transcript to be sent to another institution?

President Cowen: At this time, we cannot provide that reproduction. But as soon as our information technology systems are fully operational, which I anticipate will be within three weeks, we will be able to provide you with a transcript.

Linda: Can you explain the information on the website regarding the extension for withdrawal?

President Cowen: The normal date to withdraw from Tulane University and no longer be a student is September 13. By extending it another two weeks it gives you additional time to consider your decision so you can make the wisest decision possible. If you withdraw you will not be a Tulane student and you would have to reapply to the institution to return.

Rachel Kohn: Will we still have an abbreviated orientation for the 2009ers when we return in January? Also, what is the status for formal rush of the sororities?

President Cowen: We will definitely have an orientation for the class of 2009. You have already had the most memorable orientation of any class in history of higher education in America ! There will be a rush for sororities and fraternities this spring.

Tulane Diaspora 05: Is the Bubble food pavilion still intact? We have money riding on that bet.

President Cowen: The Bubble (The Pavilion) is intact. I visited it myself before I left campus and it was remarkable. Likewise, the UC that is under construction is totally intact. I am so thankful that our facilities, while somewhat damaged, came through the storm strong and proud.

Andrea: Our son is a senior (29 hours left) and is applying to dental school. He is currently taking 12 hours. Will the grades for these courses count toward his GPA computation as well as for credit for graduation?

President Cowen: This is a topic under consideration and I hope we can give a specific answer within a reasonable period of time, which will be two weeks.

Rebecca: Can we change our mascot from “Green Wave” to “Mighty Hurricanes?”

President Cowen: This is a very interesting suggestion. It brings a smile to my face, but I believe some other university in the country already has the trademark on that name.

mojo: Realistically, when do you believe real, sit-in-the-classroom, instruction will begin?

President Cowen: Realistically, I believe it will be in the spring and it will be in January.

Amanda: I was scheduled to graduate in December from the Biloxi campus. I was taking my last 2 classes via online and my financial aid has already been disbursed. What are my options at this point?

President Cowen: The Biloxi campus will reopen no later than the end of October and I think your best option is to pursue the completion of your courses there.

Jane876: Will you have Dr. Whelton join the talk next week or post an update to the website?

President Cowen: In subsequent chat rooms we will ask other senior administrators from the university to participate as appropriate.

DeAnna Burns: Will I be able to graduate in December?

President Cowen: If your requirements have all been finished and certified by our university, you will be able to graduate in December. Change your unhappy face to a happy face!

Chris: Is there any way to get a transcript of this chat to share with members of the university community who were unable to be here for the live chat?

President Cowen: A transcript of this chat will be posted on the Tulane website on Monday. I encourage all of you to share widely with your friends, other faculty and staff members. You are also free to use the questions and answers here on the numerous blogs that exist to organize communities during this difficult time period.

Mizuho: I have not paid the August summer course fee. I used to use the electronic payment system on the Tulane website, but it does not work now. Would you tell me how to pay it?

President Cowen: Yes, you may send your check to 1700 West Loop South, Suite 600, Houston , TX 77027.

Green Wave Girlie: Where will seniors get their degrees from?

President Cowen: The seniors will get their degrees from Tulane University.

Honig: My daughter is a senior and taking her last 15 units at Duke that were needed to graduate from Tulane. My understanding is Tulane’s policy is that the last 15 units must be taken at Tulane — will this requirement be waived so she can graduate in December as planned?

President Cowen: Yes, of course. Your daughter has been with us for over three years, she is a Tulane student and we will ensure she graduates with a Tulane degree.

Brian: Did the hurricane blow out the windows of Monroe Hall?

President Cowen: Monroe Hall weathered the storm very well. As I recall I did not see any windows that were blown out.

Helmi: When will the Tulane webmail start working again?

President Cowen: I believe it will take about three weeks to get the webmail system up and running. We have established other Information Technology priorities that must be established before webmail. We will reestablish it as soon as possible and do not think it will take any longer than three weeks.

Diann: Will student tickets be available for the 9/17 game and how do I locate them?

President Cowen: Yes, and we will make sure we post how you can get these tickets on the website.

Sidney Segall: I’m a ’75 law school grad. How do I donate funds directly to Tulane?

President Cowen: You send a check to 1700 West Loop South, Suite 600, Houston, TX 77027. I want to thank you for your generosity. At a time like this, Tulane University needs the support of its alumni and friends more than ever.

Susie S.: How is the clean-up going around campus?

President Cowen: Clean-up is going very well. We have already started that process, have hired one of the most well respected national firms to oversee the restoration of our campuses.

Denver Lisa: What can alumni around the country do to provide immediate help to students presently enrolled at Tulane?

President Cowen: If there are Tulane students in the community which you live, helping them to create a community there and have a home base of operations would be much appreciated. Our students are currently scattered all over the United States and they’re longing to find other Tulane students and
connections. Our motto is, “If you feed them, they will come.”

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

President Cowen: Hurricane Katrina has been a devastating experience to everyone associated with it. It is an event unparalleled in the history of the United States. It is difficult for those who have not been in it to understand the tremendous impact it has had on the residents of the areas affected as well as the institutions.

I am incredibly proud of everyone associated with Tulane University and what they are doing to rebuild this institution while dealing with their own personal crisis because they lost their homes and possessions. Tulane University has been in New Orleans for 170 years and everyone associated with the institution is committed to make sure it will be in the great city of New Orleans for another 171 years.

At a time like this, I know many of you are looking for answers and we will provide them as soon as we possibly can. Please remember we are working under extraordinary conditions without the basics you all take for granted on a daily basis. You are in our hearts and minds, and every day we wake up thinking about how we can restore our great institution. But we need your help. Right now that help comes in a point of understanding and sensitivity.

I promise you we will address each and every one of your issues as soon as we possibly can. At a time like this we have to be very careful of what we do and how we do it. Tulane University is a special place because of our location and our heritage and I have no doubt we will come out of this adversity a much stronger, confident and wiser institution that will be unique among all colleges and universities in the United States. And that will eventually accrue to all of you associated with the university. I am proud and honored to serve the institution at this time of adversity. We will not let you down. Stay with us. Be patient.

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

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