Monday, December 26, 2005

Face the Challenge

First of all happy holidays to everyone who reads my site....

Has the media forgotten about the help New Orleans will still need? Has the federal government ever paid attention to New Orleans? Have the people of the United States forgotten what has happened?

Sometimes I feel like they have.

Clearly, the media attention has dissolved. We would expect nothing less. One reason it has begun to disappear is because the federal government (mainly the executive branch) has ignored the rebuilding effort in its entirety. When was the last time Bush was in New Orleans? When was the last time he mentioned some ideas about what the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT should do to PREVENT future disasters? We know something needs to radically change. Is he waiting until one more disaster happens before we make those changes? This criticism isn’t ringing loudly enough with the American people. It’s not that they don’t care about the future of New Orleans, it’s that they don’t recognize the lack of attention being paid to the rebuilding effort. I want to get these issues into the limelight. I am contemplating the concept of creating some type of political action committee that can raise money to put pressure on politicians of that sort. Wanna help? Join the N.O.L.A.- New Orleans Lives Again facebook group.

Let’s talk about the city for a minute. The city is bouncing back rapidly and not everyone is able to appreciate that. Still, a lot of work needs to be done. But the city is going to become radically different, relatively quickly. The rich people are going to come back right away. The poorer people will be forced to stay in their current situations until their neighborhoods are restored. Many of these neighborhoods are being rebuilt to be much higher class. Thus, we will see these areas improve socially. The poorer people may not come back. This would of course upset me, as I believe they play an equally important role in the culture of New Orleans. But I know that New Orleans will be a better place. There will be room for everyone to come back one day, and the city will flourish with a larger population.

But how can I prove this will happen? If you happen to be watching the news or reading magazines like the Economist or Newsweek, then you probably know how I’ll support these claims. New Orleans is receiving a ton of federal money (not enough but still a lot). They will not go broke. Politicians can’t afford to let them go broke. It’s wildly unpopular for a politician to be against relief for New Orleans. New Orleans announced it will be the FIRST fully internet wireless city. On top of that, real estate development companies are ALREADY in New Orleans, purchasing a ton of land. They know what the value will be, and many expect St. Charles to become one of the highest valued streets in the nation.

Will this happen right away? NOPE. Don’t expect it to. It will, however, BE happening while we are there. We have a chance to be a part of the biggest rebuilding effort in the world. We will watch as people flood into the city, as areas are restored, and as new structures are created. We have a chance to witness it all and learn from it. This disaster will inspire many to learn what went wrong. When we graduate, people will know that Tulane students have had the most unique experience in the world. And no, they won’t think Tulane’s academic reputation fell apart, because Tulane will make itself better known.

With all this said, I spoke with one of my favorite freshmen yesterday, and she told me how the chances of her going back were almost non-existent. She said she absolutely wanted to (she had just been down in New Orleans earlier this week) but her father said absolutely not. Her father said he didn’t like the way it looked and it appears he didn’t approve of her going back. I just don’t understand how a parent could completely negate their child’s wishes. Why would any parent want to make their son or daughter unhappy? Why would they want to make a decision against his or her wishes? It doesn’t make sense. I’m old enough to make my own decisions. If I didn’t want to go back, I wouldn’t. Anyone who goes to college makes much more life altering decisions than whether to return to Tulane. These parents act like their child isn’t returning to Tulane, but is going to live in a shack on the street. In fact, it makes me furious to believe that some people won’t be able to experience the magic of New Orleans and the love of the Tulane family, just because their parent wants them to stay a school that is “coincidentally” closer to home. For the love of God, let her make her own decision!

I have gained new introspect into the issue regarding people returning to New Orleans. I know that inevitably people won’t return. I know that the resilient ones will. I know that those who have the strongest bond with New Orleans couldn’t bear to miss out on the upcoming semester. I know that those who don’t have this bond won’t come back. I just wish that all of those who wish to experience the magic of Tulane won’t be stopped by anything other than their own free will.

Up until very recently, I refused to accept that New Orleans would be any different when we got back. How ridiculous, of course it will be different. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. In fact, it could present a multitude of opportunity that will enhance the experience that I have articulated in previous posts. We are all wary of change; we are all scared of going back to New Orleans and finding a deserted wasteland. I don’t run away from adversity. I don’t blame those that do. But I don’t. I face it and challengeit; ultimately defeating it or learning from my own mistakes. Returning to New Orleans is the biggest challenge that some of us may ever face, coping with our emotions from this tragedy may be a close second. Regardless, I look forward to it. But that’s me. And I guess have to accept the fact that some people view this challenge as a risk, and they would rather not risk their education. And that’s where I think I differ from those that aren’t returning. I view this as something that we can overcome with perseverance and persistence. But those that aren’t up to it, I’ll just say farewell. To be part of our community, it’s going to take a lot of work. You are going to have to care. In fact, you are going to have to take a lot of action. Those of us who will be in New Orleans for spring semester know this, and we are ready to face the challenge.

People who aren't coming back are still in a massive minority. Most of us Tulane students are the type who want to experience the rebulding of New Orleans and assist in some way. We are those who will look at the return as a CHALLENGE and not a RISK. But if you are wondering about how many people will return to New Orleans, I refer you to the following site, where about almost every single person has said that they will, in fact, be back.

Another post coming soon,

Friday, December 09, 2005

Good news or bad news?

I will deviate from my usual unconditionally pro-tulane stance in order to offer you a researched analysis of the new Tulane policy. Some of you may know what this new Tulane policy is, but I fear that many of you haven’t even noticed that a change has taken place. This change isn’t just a minor tweak in the operation of the university policy, but according to President Scott Cowen it is “the most significant reinvention of a university in the United States in over a century (LA Times, 12/9/05).”

Let’s first take a look at the major changes:

Let me dispel the major rumor: they AREN’T cutting a ton of majors. They are making a bunch of minor changes in a lot of areas and a few really big structural changes, in areas that really don’t affect us. However, all of these changes serve to enhance the academic integrity of the university, and will not do anything to harm it.

Let’s first look at the assumptions of all this change. Tulane is acting in a way that will help mitigate its financial burden and cut expenses while establishing an opportunity to grow. I don’t expect any of the current people at Tulane to like the idea of these changes, because no one wants their undergraduate experience to be altered in any way. However, these changes won’t affect our experience at all. In fact, they will work to benefit the experiences of future students. We should look at these decisions as positive steps toward restoration of our old financial status as well as steps toward enhancing the academic quality of our remaining programs.

It seems that Tulane went ahead establishing these policies without consulting the student body. A few sources with whom I have spoken have indicated that Tulane moved forward with these major changes without input from any of the elected student representatives. This isn’t necessarily a big change from Tulane’s typical method of decision-making protocol. Apparently they, along with MOST colleges, tend to make decisions without major consultation with the student organizations. I don’t see why it would hurt to at least consult with the student government officials know what’s going on, even if they don’t get a big say. Not being a part of these organizations myself, I don’t have a lot to say about this particular aspect, but I know there are many who do. So let’s work toward that, Tulane administration.

Assuming you have read all the specifics, which are found here, I’m going to look at some of the major points and see how they may affect Tulane’s future.

Tulane’s biggest changes are the elimination of many engineering majors, layoffs of 230 faculty, elimination of the “coordinate system” and reduction of our involvement in the NCAA.

To begin with, the changes to the engineering majors is sad, it truly is. I mean, cutting five programs seems to be pretty drastic. But it isn’t a drastic move in any facet. I love all you engineers majors out there, but let me explain. The cuts will affect 229 undergrads, or 3% of all the undergraduates. That’s all. Tulane will, instead, save a ton of money and invest in programs that will help bring them academic recognition and, of course, federal funds (USAToday, 12/8/05). I'm sorry to you 229 undergrads, I truly am.

The next big change is that Tulane will now sponsor only six Division I intercollegiate athletics programs competing in eight sports. They will suspend the others. The changes will affect 100 students — one-third of student athletes. Athletic scholarships will be honored, and assistance will be given to those who wish to transfer (USAToday, 12/8/05). Since I don’t know a lot about NCAA sports, I contacted my friend Blake Rotor, who happens to be quite knowledgeable in this area. Blake writes: The sports situation is mainly a cost-cutting measure. It has been discussed for years that the athletic department loses a lot of money each year and there have been previous discussions about dropping out of division 1 all together, most recently in the spring of 2003. Tulane was granted a waiver from the NCAA for this catastrophe so that they don't have to abide by the membership requirements of being a Division 1 member, but the waiver is only good for 5 years. Normally, in order to be Division 1, a school must have 7 mens and 7 womens sports, or 6 mens & 8 womens, which is they way Tulane has been for 2 years now after the addition of women's swimming & diving, and the removal of men's track. There are also football attendance requirements to be D 1, but those are unimportant right now. Today, the school cut down to 4 mens teams and 4 womens teams which is far below the NCAA requirements. It is even below the requirements for being Division 3, like Emory, Wash U, Chicago and other academic institutions are. In order to be Division 3, a school must have 5 mens and 5 womens sports. Also, this is invalid with the provisions of Title 9 which says that your male/female athlete ratio must be very close, I think within 3% percentage points but I'm not sure, of the school's male/female total student ratio. Thus, changes will have to be made soon to add more sports, or decide to drop out of the NCAA entirely and become an NAIA school like Loyola New Orleans, which would be quite unexpected. The logical thing for them would be to bring back men's & women's tennis, and become a Division III school, without any athletic scholarships, but let baseball play at Division 1, which is possible and had been discussed during the football talks 2 years ago. The sports that were cut were expensive, brought in zero money, and don't bring much prestige or recognition to the school, while it is sad to see them go. – thanks Blake.

Now for the layoffs. I believe this is a purely financial decision. Tulane just can’t afford to keep a ton of people on staff, and consequently the medical school will account for 180 of the 230 layoffs. The university said that it will concentrate on areas where it has attained, or has the potential to achieve, world-class excellence and "will suspend admission to those programs that do not meet these criteria." But the university did not immediately identify which programs that would mean (, 12/8/05). We can infer that the money will be reinvested into programs that yield larger financial grants, and thus make a huge difference. I’m sad to see this program go. But when the time comes, I know it will be back.

About 86% of Tulane's 11,390 undergraduate students have registered for spring semester, just under the more typical 90% registration rate by this time of the year. (Take that naysayers). Freshman applications for next fall are up about 12% compared with this time last year (USAToday, 12/8/05). Tulane will be raising academic standards and shrinking the size of the incoming freshman class. However, tuition only accounts for 35% of Tulane's revenue (LA Times, 12/8/05). If we get a huge federal relief grant (which we will), this will more than make up for the loss in tuition as well as help pay for the cleanup effort of the school.

Other change to note- almost every single class at Tulane will be taught by a full-time faculty member. I can’t stress how beneficial that can be to our ability to learn a thing or two.

Additionally, Tulane will be getting rid of the “coordinate system.” This unique system split men and women in hypothetical colleges, respectively Tulane College and Newcomb College. For people who didn’t meet all of these college’s academic standards, many students were accepted in the University College and given the opportunity to transfer into one of the other colleges after completing some coursework at Tulane. These different colleges will now be lumped in one administrative body, The College of Arts of Sciences. Big deal? Nope. Nothing changes academically, except men and women will share advisors, deans and such. What does it mean for the school? They don’t need three different administrative staffs running the same academic programs.

The bottom line, Tulane faces a $200 million operating deficit and these new policies will help solve more than 25% of that. This is a step in a positive direction for more than just financial reasons. Clearly, Tulane has solidified measures that will substantially enhance their academic status. I believe that these academic changes will really do some good for the university, especially in the long term. Yes, some of the changes are pretty significant. Yes, change is a scary. But we all should have gotten used to change by now.

Brett Hyman

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Whole Foods to Reopen in January

From the Whole Foods corporate website:

"Welcome back! While Arabella Station is under repair from Hurricane Katrina, Whole Foods Market has introduced the Pick Up Service that provides Whole Foods Market products to residents throughout the Gulf Coast region. Customers may call 1-800-967-9703 and order their favorite Whole Foods Market products, from fresh organic produce, artisan food, and special diet offerings to chilled prepared foods and holiday orders. All orders are delivered by refrigerated truck the following business day to the Arabella Station location only. Arabella Station will reopen the first week in January."

: )
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