May 3, 2002
Last Sunday's New York Times Magazine article, "A Suicide At M.I.T.," which chronicled the events leading to the recent death of an undergraduate student there, raises a number of issues for universities regarding academic pressures and the responsibility of schools to balance a student's right to privacy with the desire of parents to be kept informed about the state of their child's health.
I have asked Provost Lefton to examine our procedures and policies with respect to the issues raised in this article to ensure that our approach is most appropriate and sensitive to the needs of both students and parents. This is not an easy task. Should students be treated as independent adults or should the university revisit the traditional but largely outdated concept that it serves "in loco parentis" (in place of a parent)?
In another student-related issue Bill Lennon, executive director of Tulane's Center for International Students and Scholars, informed me this week about the crisis facing international education since Sept. 11. Calls for new background checks on student visa applicants and requirements that universities more closely monitor foreign students promises to make recruiting students and professors, as well as conducting research in the international arena, more challenging.
I heartily agree with Bill that while pursuing these initiatives may be more complicated we can not reduce our international programs, education and activities. More than ever, knowledge and understanding of the world is crucial to our university and to our nation's long-term interests. One of Tulane's distinguishing characteristics is its commitment to internationalism and we must continue to pursue this effort.
Finally, I made my semester visit to the Primate Center yesterday. It reminded me that the purpose and function of this world-class research Center, though separated from the rest of our campuses by Lake Pontchartrain, lies at the heart of the university's mission. For those of you who have never visited the Center, I highly recommend seeing it at some time. It is a fascinating place.
Have a great weekend,
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