New Orleans Universities Slash Faculty

Faced with financial crisis, hurricane-ravaged New Orleans's two largest research institutions are making painful cuts. Yesterday, Tulane University announced it will cut 230 faculty positions and eliminate 14 doctoral programs. Louisiana State University's (LSU's) Health Sciences Center, meanwhile, has begun furloughing hundreds of faculty.

Tulane faces $200 million in costs to recover from damages from Hurricane Katrina and a drop in income due to an expected 86% smaller undergraduate enrollment when the main campus opens in January. On 8 December, university president Scott Cowan announced a "bold renewal plan" developed with advice from outside academic experts. Much of the plan involves trimming weaker programs. Undergraduate and graduate departments must lose 50 faculty positions by May 2007, and doctoral programs including sociology, economics, and four programs in engineering and computer science will close down.

Cuts will also be made to Tulane's medical school, which lost clinical care income due to New Orleans's drastically reduced population and uncertainty about the city's future size. The school, which won't resume classes in New Orleans until next fall, will shed 180 faculty positions by 31 January and focus on its strengths, such as infectious disease, cancer, gene therapy, organ transplantation, and heart disease. The cuts are "across the board," affecting teaching, clinical care, and basic and clinical research, says Paul Whelton, senior vice president for health sciences of the Tulane University Health Sciences Center. "It's a necessary action, and it's a sad one," says Whelton.

A drastic drop in revenues from patient care has also devastated LSU's Health Sciences Center. The center announced plans to furlough faculty just before Thanksgiving. Both younger and older faculty who have less research grant support are being laid off indefinitely without pay. Cell biology and anatomy assistant professor Roderick Corriveau, who says his department chair called to tell him his last paycheck would be 8 days later, calls the policy "brutal." He is now appealing to colleagues, trying to find a place for himself and his three graduate students.

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