In his last appearance as president at the Tulane University annual Town Hall meeting, Scott Cowen provided candid and at times humorous responses to questions posed by audience members as well as those contributed online. President Cowen, who has announced that he will retire in July 2014, seemed as equally relaxed fielding questions about the state of higher education, research funding and the fiscal health of Tulane as he was to more personal ones such as his intentions after retirement.
Tulane University President Scott Cowen responds to a question from an audience member during the Town Hall meeting on Friday (Oct. 4) in Dixon Hall. Social work professor Charles Figley moderated the Q&A with the university president. (Photo by Ryan Rivet)
Regarding his post-retirement plans, President Cowen let on that he and his wife, Margie, will spend at least half of their time in New Orleans, where he will continue on at Tulane as a member of the faculty.
“I will go back to the classroom and my writing,” Cowen said.
In addressing a question about the increasing costs of higher education, President Cowen said, “Whether you are a Dartmouth, a Tulane, a community college or public four-year institution without much of a brand, the fact of life is expenses are going up faster than revenues. That’s the fact of life. The model is not sustainable.”
He went on to say that in the coming years, Tulane will have to “modulate tuition increases, put a higher priority on raising scholarships for students and make better use of technology.”
Asked if the financial state of Tulane University was “better, similar to or worse than it was pre-Katrina,” President Cowen replied that it was similar. “Before Katrina, 2003–2004, we were on very solid footing,” he added.
When one member of the audience asked about the likelihood of decreased government funding of research, President Cowen replied that he was deeply concerned about the possibility.
“One of the things that has made America great has been its research universities,” he said. "Many discoveries that have improved the quality of life and the quality of health care have come from labs within our universities, and that has been fueled by government funding.”
Decreased government funding for research will have “repercussions within our universities and more importantly, have repercussions on America and our future.”
In a lighter moment, President Cowen was asked with whom he would most like to have coffee and beignets.
“You know who I would love to talk to?” President Cowen replied, “Theodore Roosevelt. I think he is such an intriguing individual in terms of how he led his life — a true Renaissance man — and the kinds of changes he affected when he was president of the United States.”
The Town Hall meeting
, a traditional centerpiece of Homecoming Weekend, was held on Friday morning (Oct. 4) in Dixon Hall on the Tulane uptown campus. Social work professor Charles Figley moderated the event.