From the President: Community Building

January 27, 2002

Scott Cowen
Phone: 865-5714

As we begin the new year, I think we can all look back and safely say that 2001 was not the year we anticipated or planned for. The horrific events of Sept. 11 and a financial downturn that deepened into national recession certainly were not on our minds a year ago as we made plans and set goals both as individuals for our own lives and collectively as a university.

Now, we head into a new year continuing to feel the emotional and economic effects of Sept. 11. Even so, there are many things about which we can feel positive despite the climate of uncertainty that surrounds us. For example, the academic and financial plans and goals we have established for Tulane University during the past three years remain relevant and attainable.

Some of our timelines have shifted as we postponed or rescheduled projects while trying to assess the impact to the university of the nation's economic recession. The events of Sept. 11 and the economic downturn hold possible implications not only for our fund-raising efforts but for student retention, admissions, financial aid and federal program funding.

As I write this, I remain cautiously optimistic about our ability to confront these challenges in a very positive manner. The basic emphasis and direction we have established remains, however, and we can look forward this year to continuing and building on the progress already made. The unexpected turn of events in 2001 also has had another, more personal effect on me, and that is to make me more aware of Tulane not only as university but also as a community.

I don't think any of us can really look at our friends and family, our colleagues and coworkers, in the same way after Sept. 11. Just as our nation has come together in the face of crisis, so did our own Tulane community. Looking back, as sad as the days and weeks were following the attacks, I can nonetheless appreciate the way faculty, staff and students all worked together to answer questions, offer comfort, rally support and just spend time together.

It makes me aware of how powerful and how strong we are when we are united. Former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm once defined community as a state of mind, a shared vision, a common fate, one that like friendship, is never really tested until it jointly faces adversity. It is relatively easy, following such a crisis as that experienced in September, to muster the energy, selflessness and support needed to create a true community.

When it gets tough is when there is no crisis, no emotional impetus, to bring people together. Community-building is not easy, but I know it's worth our best efforts. I'd like to challenge all of us to make it our personal goal to truly work toward strengthening even further that sense of a Tulane community in 2002, even as we continue to work toward the institutional goals we have already established. Most of all, I wish everyone a peaceful and joyous new year.

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