NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Staggered by Hurricane Katrina, Tulane University announced yesterday that it is laying off about 230 faculty members, dropping some sports and eliminating several undergraduate programs, including electrical engineering and computer science.
“This is the most significant reinvention of a university in the United States in over a century,” said Scott Cowen, the university’s president.
The campus in the city’s Uptown section has been closed since Katrina’s floodwaters devastated New Orleans and drove out most of its half-million inhabitants. About two-thirds of Tulane’s facilities flooded, including dormitories, and most of the students are now scattered at schools around the country.
The private university plans to resume classes in mid-January, though it expects a costly one-third drop in enrollment. Tuition accounts for 35 percent of Tulane’s revenue.
Before the storm struck on Aug. 29, Tulane had about 2,500 faculty members, 13,200 students and an annual budget of $593 million. The university put the cost of recovering from the storm at least $200 million.
Tulane said it will eliminate about 180 faculty positions at its medical school and about 50 at its other graduate schools and its undergraduate program.
“I deeply regret that employee reductions were necessary to secure the university’s future,” Cowen said. “We have tried to make the reductions as strategically and humanely as possible, recognizing the hardship it places on those whose positions have been terminated.”
Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, said Tulane’s plan is unprecedented in its scope and speed. “I have thought long and hard to see if I could identify a comparable change at another university in the last century, and I can’t,” Hartle said.
The university said it will continue to participate in such NCAA Division 1 sports as football, baseball and men and women’s basketball. But it eliminated men’s track, men and women’s tennis, men and women’s golf, women’s swimming, women’s soccer and men’s cross-country.
The university also said that it will concentrate on areas where it can excel. Five undergraduate programs – civil and environmental engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science, computer engineering and exercise and sports science – will be eliminated.