Blogs > Cliopatria > Tulane and NYU

Dec 9, 2005 2:04 pm

Tulane and NYU

It's a truism--but one that we sometimes forget nonetheless--that the purpose of universities is to educate students, and that without the tuition payments that students or their families supply, professors would need to find other employment.

Yesterday, at Tulane, the decline in student enrollment following Hurricane Katrina had its first dramatic impact: the university is eliminating 230 tenured faculty positions. Most of the cuts came in the medical school, though 50 engineering positions were eliminated. The university's engineering and overall graduate programs also will cease to exist as a distinct entity. Implied but not stated is that more cuts might yet occur: the university is anticipating that 85% of the pre-Katrina student body will re-enroll in January, but admits that it lacks the facilities to house these students. According to the Times-Picayune, the university plans to accomodate students through a combination of temporary housing and placing 1,000 students on a"Greek cruise ship."

As Tulane pleads for more students, a group called"Faculty Democracy" is doing everything possible to drive undergraduates away from NYU. With a membership of more than 200 professors, the group recently passed a resolution condemning NYU Pres. John Sexton's demand that all spring TA's actually agree to show up and teach their sections before being hired. (An"undemocratic" requirement indeed, fumed the FD.) According to the resolution, unless Sexton bows to the group's demand that NYU recognize a graduate student union, the faculty will consider such" consequences" as"withholding grades, implementing a moratorium on the graduate admissions process," and canceling all discussion sections, so that such a section could not"legitimately be held to have failed to meet owing to the absence of a TA or preceptor."

This set of demands suggests that a good portion of the NYU faculty has lost its way, substituting the mission of educating students with a vision that urges faculty to hold undergraduates hostage to the professoriate's ideological whims. Having declared war on their undergraduates, the members of"Faculty Democracy" might want to reflect on the Tulane experience, and remember that faculty at a university with no undergraduates will need to find other lines of work.

Update, 2.03pm: To answer a reader question, Inside Higher Ed reports that 65 of the fired profs were tenured.

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More Comments:

Greg James Robinson - 12/10/2005

To bring together the respective situations of Tulane and New York University is a truly tendentious argument. It seems to me like saying that, while some poeple are starving, others are refusing to eat food that may be bad for their health. The only important connection I can find between the respective situations of the two universities is the responsibility of government. In the case of Tulane, of course, it took the shape of government neglect, in the case of NYU, it was the NLRB ruling that allowed NYU to take steps to suffocate unionization by students. I might note that here in Quebec there are graduate student unions, and they do not seem to have made a great difference in conditions. Whether this is a testimony to mutual common sense or the general powerlessness of unions, I am not in a position to say.

Michael Burger - 12/9/2005

Many thanks for the clarification.

yours faithfully,

Robert KC Johnson - 12/9/2005

I haven't read anything definitive--but as far as I can tell, these are tenured (and some untenured, as well) faculty. The programs in which the professors taught (various in the Med School and several engineering-related departments at the college) have been shut down, due to lack of students in the post-Katrina era.

Louis N Proyect - 12/9/2005

Michael Burger - 12/9/2005

Professor Johnson: Just read the article on Tuland to which you linked, but it said only that 230 faculty were being eliminated there, not 230 tenured faculty. Is it indeed 230 tenured faculty who are getting the axe?