Dear Tulane Community:
Final exams begin today. For the first time in Tulane's history, these tests will be administered exclusively online. What weeks ago was considered unthinkable is now being undertaken with the same diligence, commitment and can-do Tulane spirit with which our students, faculty and staff have responded throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we wish our students every success during finals, we are also making plans for the fall semester. Our goal is to return to on-ground teaching, learning, living and working this fall. The in-person experience with classmates and colleagues is a critical part of university instruction and life, especially given the relational, experiential culture of learning that is at the heart of a Tulane education. At Tulane, we educate, challenge and transform the whole person – intellectually, socially and emotionally – so having the "whole person" on campus is critical to our mission.
But in repopulating our campus, the health and safety of our community cannot be compromised in any way. Our distinct advantage as an institution, in this regard, is that we have the best minds in public health and medicine to help us achieve the balance of re-opening our campus, while protecting the most vulnerable among us.
To bring our campus back safely for all, especially those in our local and global community at greatest risk, we are examining every possible scenario and option, including social distancing, rapid testing for students and employees, modifications to housing plans, changes in classroom settings, online learning/remote working for those most at-risk and other innovations. We are thinking creatively and outside the box in terms of hosting athletic contests and other events, as well as exploring new educational opportunities this crisis might demand in public health and research.
Besides making our academic community whole again, returning to campus in the fall will also be a major boost to the New Orleans economy. As the city's largest private employer with a student, faculty and staff population of more than 20,000, our presence will be a central part of bringing New Orleans back to life economically, socially and culturally.
To chart our path forward to the fall and beyond, we have formed committees filled with some of the best minds at Tulane, including those from our medical community, who will ensure any actions we take follow the very best public health practices. These committees represent all undergraduate, graduate and professional schools and divisions of Tulane.
While we depopulated our uptown campus in March, our downtown medical community, heeding the call of their profession, largely remained in place. They have been busier than ever during this pandemic when their life-saving clinical and research activities, along with those of the Tulane National Primate Research Center, are needed more than ever. Because of the unique needs of its mission, the medical school will embark on an accelerated schedule throughout the summer to gradually, and with a variety of safety precautions (PPE, social distancing, robust testing, etc.), bring back the students, faculty and staff necessary to continue to train the next generation of physicians.
I am confident that we will be successful in our effort to return to campus and restart our academic life on the ground and in person. After all, resilience is part of Tulane's DNA. However, success will take the focused, sustained commitment and dedication of the entire university community banding together to define a new future and a new Tulane. That’s why I need to hear your ideas for the best path going forward. I urge you to submit your suggestions here.
The months ahead will likely be challenging, but I believe they also will be inspiring and unifying as we work together to rethink, regroup and return to the campus home where we all belong.
P.S. Be sure to check out this week’s Heroes and Helpers below.
"Heroes & Helpers" recognizes a person or team, among Tulane's students, faculty, staff and alumni, engaged in extraordinary efforts on behalf of others in the battle against the major health crisis of our time.
Robert F. Garry Jr., Xiao-Ming Yin and Di Tian
For this week's Heroes & Helpers we recognize three School of Medicine researchers for setting up COVID-19 testing that yield results within 24 hours. This is helping protect patients and healthcare workers now – and may prove pivotal in allowing us to restart an on-ground university experience in the fall. Read their story