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Shutting Down the Rumor Mill

September 3, 2003

Carol J. Schlueter
Michael DeMocker

There's nothing quite like a public debate, much of it carried out on Internet chat sites and talk radio programs, to cause half-truths and rumors to proliferate. Plenty of debate surrounded the recent controversy about the future of Tulane University Athletics--debate that went beyond athletics into broader topics such as Tulane's place in the New Orleans community.

pcard-Gibson_aerial_1Not all of the "facts" that circulated were correct, however. Those Tulane half-truths may not have made it to one of the rumor-quashing Internet sites such as or, but Tulanian decided to try and correct some of the less-than-true information that has circulated this spring.

The Tulane Board: Outsiders or Tulanians?

When the tide of controversy began rising over Tulane's athletics review, many questions surfaced about the Tulane Board, the university's governing body that made the ultimate decision to keep Division I-A athletics. In particular, there were questions about what kinds of ties the board members have to Tulane. The Tulane Board currently has 32 members, who are the Administrators of the Tulane Educational Fund. President Scott Cowen is both a member of the board and reports to the board.

People who serve on the board all have strong ties to Tulane and most have been active in various university volunteer councils. Twenty-seven of the 32 members are alumni. Of the remainder, three are parents of former Tulane students. One of these parents has been a member of the President's Council and Business School Council, and one was chair of the Parents' Council. Another board member is not an alumnus but has numerous Tulane alumni in his family, including his parents and grandparents.

Twelve members of the current board live in the New Orleans area and 19 live in other states; one lives in another country. The board's history shows that its membership was largely based in New Orleans from 1960 to 1980, but more members from outside Louisiana were brought in starting in the 1980s by then-president Eamon Kelly.

Tulane Students: Louisiana or "Other"?

Some questioners during this process wanted to know how many students from Louisiana attend Tulane and how this trend may have been changing. Here's an analysis of statistics from the registrar's office. In the total student population (undergraduate and graduate, full- and part-time), Tulane enrolled 3,900 Louisiana students in 1982 compared to 4,388 in 2002.

Going back further, in 1950 Tulane enrolled about 4,524 Louisiana residents in all schools and colleges, a difference of only 136 compared to 2002. While Tulane now has a larger overall student population, the comparison is intriguing. Percentages tell a slightly different story. Looking at the undergraduate student population (excluding international students), who attended full-time, the students from Louisiana were 24.30 percent in 1982, but declined slightly to 20.89 percent in 1992 and 18.24 percent in 2002. A still different picture emerges, however, by adding in students from University College.

Those students are mostly part-time, though some full-time students do attend and graduate through University College, Tulane's continuing education division with night and noontime classes for working adults and traditional students. When University College students are added with full-time students, the numbers from Louisiana are 41.5 percent in 1982; 37 percent in 1992; and 35 percent in 2002. Test scores of undergraduates also were reported incorrectly in some venues in past months.

Here are the correct numbers. In fall 2002, the entering freshman class had an average SAT score of 1327. The score for the class that entered in fall 1998 was 1278.

Who's in Our Class?

There seems to be some confusion about what institutions are in the peer group with Tulane. For strategic planning purposes, Tulane follows a group of nine universities. They are Duke, Emory, Georgetown, Northwestern, Stanford, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest universities, as well as the University of Southern California and Washington University in St. Louis.

The criteria that Tulane uses to compare itself with these institutions includes undergraduate admission and student quality, graduate education, research level and financial position. All are private institutions with intercollegiate athletics programs, and most have law schools and medical schools affiliated with major hospitals. Some are true peers, and others are in a group Tulane is monitoring.

There also is an "aspirant group, that we would like to model ourselves after," says Yvette Jones, senior vice president for external affairs. All but one of these schools have the status of being Carnegie Doctoral Research Extensive institutions, which is conferred based on the number of graduate degrees awarded every year across a number of disciplines. In addition, all except Wake Forest and Georgetown are members of the Association of American Universities, an organization of the 62 leading U.S. research institutions.

Show Us the Money

The fundraising record of President Scott Cowen was questioned by some writers in public forums. In actuality, his record shows significant success. The endowment of Tulane stood at $503 million in June 1998 when Cowen took office.

On April 30, 2003, the endowment was $571 million, representing an annualized return of 4.0 percent during what was a tumultuous period for all U.S. investments. As a comparison, in that same period the S&P 500 showed an annualized return of 3 percent. In fundraising, Tulane brought in $321 million between 1998 and 2003, compared with $183 million between 1993 and 1998.

The Cost of Doing Business

Some questions were raised in certain forums about the cost of the new building for the A. B. Freeman School of Business. Construction of Goldring/Woldenberg Hall II began in April 2002 and is scheduled to be completed this fall. Nearly all the funds for the $26 million project have already been pledged by Tulane alumni, friends and foundations.

The expansion of the business school comes at a critical time. For several years now, the original Goldring/ Woldenberg Hall has been operating well in excess of capacity. The additional structure will be a high-tech, state-of-the-art facility for graduate and executive programs.

Carol J. Schlueter is director of publications at Tulane. She can be reached by e-mail at


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