March 1, 2013

Good Morning:

It is Friday, March 1, and an event that was unthinkable one year ago - federal budget sequestration - is likely to occur at 11:59 EST this evening. Congress designed sequestration to be so draconian - involving an automatic $85 billion slashing of both defense and domestic programs - that it would force our elected representatives to agree on a sensible, alternative deal to address the federal deficit. That will probably not happen and the "blunt" instrument of sequestration will deliver a significant body blow to a broad spectrum of federally funded programs, including student financial aid, university-based research and scholarship, and Medicare reimbursements to healthcare providers.

Right now, because of a lack of clear guidance from Washington, most institutions are still struggling to understand what sequestration means for their respective organizations. We have, for some time, been assessing the likely impact on Tulane for this fiscal year and the next if the budget impasse continues.

Fortunately, for the time being, we believe these cuts will not have a significant impact on the financial aid we provide for students. The cuts may, however, have a more profound impact on programs which rely heavily on funding from federal agencies targeted for cuts, including the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Provost Michael Bernstein and Dr. Laura Levy, Tulane's vice president for research, are working with the deans of affected schools to develop action steps to mitigate any adverse impact of sequestration. I will keep you posted as we learn more working with the deans and following how Congress will deal with sequestration. 

It is unfortunate that our elected officials in Washington have not yet come to terms with the critical financial issues facing the country. The inability to find common ground thus far has created unnecessary instability in the economy and made it much more difficult for organizations to plan for the future. I hope Congress and the president come together today or as quickly as possible in a spirit of bipartisanship to develop a long-term deficit reduction plan that is balanced - one that preserves critical investments in student aid, research and education that allow our country to prosper through continued innovation and economic growth. This is what university presidents from around the country have been urging our leaders to do for quite some time. Here is a link to a letter 153 university presidents, including me, sent to President Obama and congressional leaders back in July. And I wrote this op-ed for The Huffington Post on the same subject in December. And here is a page of Frequently Asked Questions regarding sequestration.

I will discuss the impact of sequestration and other national and Tulane-specific issues in a live chat at noon on Monday, March 4.

Hope you can join me,


Office of the President Emeritus, 1555 Poydras St, Suite 700, New Orleans, LA 70112 504-274-3638