Tulane Regroups to Keep Recruiting Students

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New Orleans' famed Tulane University, its campus damaged by Katrina, has relocated admissions offices to Richmond, Va. The school will continue recruitment efforts for the spring term. Richard Whiteside, a Tulane vice president who is also dean of admissions, tells Liane Hansen how the school is coping.


Colleges and universities were just beginning a new academic year as Hurricane Katrina struck. Administrators, faculty members, workers and students evacuated campuses. Some will be able to return to schools that suffered relatively little damage, but many schools will remain closed for at least months and possibly longer. Richard Whiteside is vice president for enrollment management and dean of admissions at Tulane University in New Orleans. We spoke with him yesterday, and he gave us an appraisal of the situation at Tulane.

Mr. RICHARD WHITESIDE (Dean of Admissions, Tulane University): Tulane was damaged by the hurricane, as was the entire city of New Orleans. And as a result of that damage, we have suspended classes for the full semester, but we will continue our business operations in various locations as we repair the campus and prepare to open for the spring term.

HANSEN: Now the admissions office has been moved to Richmond, Virginia, I understand?

Mr. WHITESIDE: That is correct. We decided to relocate our operation to Richmond, Virginia. We have a business partner there who works with us very closely on mailing to our prospective students and on hosting some of our Web site applications. And they've graciously allowed us to use a portion of their facilities to relocate our operation.

HANSEN: What about the rest of the administration at the university? Is it stretched out into other places around the country?

Mr. WHITESIDE: Most of the administrators stayed with the campus at various locations. Some evacuated with the students to Jackson, Mississippi. Some stayed on campus during the storm. They are now all being relocated and collected in Houston, Texas.

HANSEN: And the students, are they all in Jackson?

Mr. WHITESIDE: They're no longer there. They were there for several days. Most of them have now made their way home.

HANSEN: Is their any estimate at all about when you might be able to reopen the campus?

Mr. WHITESIDE: None at this time. We know that we will not have classes during the fall, but we will try to reopen the campus for faculty and staff and to resume business operations on campus as quickly as possible.

HANSEN: And what about the spring semester?

Mr. WHITESIDE: We are still planning on opening for the spring term. I see no reason why that would change.

HANSEN: What happens to seniors who were preparing, you know, to graduate?

Mr. WHITESIDE: Well, we have asked our colleague institutions in an agreement that was issued by nine different presidents of educational associations to host our students as visitors for the fall semester and not to charge them tuition, and I assume that many of their member institutions will agree to do so. On our end, we will take back as full credit all of the courses taken by those students and apply them towards degree, and then the students will return in the spring and graduate in May.

HANSEN: What kind of dent does this put in your recruiting efforts?

Mr. WHITESIDE: Well, I think that it's going to be substantial, obviously. Many people are watching this coverage on television and thinking the worst of a great city. And I think some of the coverage is just not representative of the place that I live and the community in which Tulane exists. So that's, I think, not going to work in our favor.

On the other hand, I think that Americans have great resiliency and great sympathy in much the same way people felt some degree of sympathy for New York after 9/11. I talked to people on Friday and we have received over 100 applications on the Web site for the beginning of September 2006, so there's still great interest in the marketplace in Tulane University.

HANSEN: Richard Whiteside is vice president for enrollment management and dean of admissions at Tulane University. We spoke with him yesterday from his sister-in-law's home in Pelham, New York.

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