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Email from Dean Altiero

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2005 2:10 pm    Post subject: Email from Dean Altiero Reply with quote

Tulane Engineering Students:

Please accept my apologies for not writing to you earlier. As I am
sure you understand, I have been quite busy since the announcement
on Thursday of the actions taken by the Board of Tulane.

Let me begin by stating the obvious. I am deeply disappointed that
the Board of Tulane has chosen to eliminate the departments of Civil
and Environmental Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Computer
Science, and Mechanical Engineering. Obviously I was not supportive
of this decision and I can assure you that I argued very strenuously
that these degree programs should be retained. President Cowen
agreed that I presented a very strong case but he said that this is
a strategic decision and that, in his view and that of the Board,
the three affected engineering departments are far too small
relative to their counterparts to effectively compete for national
prominence. Having said that, I am afraid that these actions have
been taken and there is no turning back. I believe that what we
must now do is what is best for you, our students, and the faculty
members who are being affected by the elimination of these three
departments. And we must think about what we can do to ensure the
brightest possible future for Engineering at Tulane University.

Let's begin with you, our students. The departments of Biomedical
Engineering and Chemical Engineering have not been eliminated; they
will be merged into a new School of Science and Engineering as of
July 1. Thus students majoring in either of these disciplines will
be able to complete their degrees at Tulane. The degree programs
offered by the other three departments will not end until June 30,
2007, so all current juniors and seniors in those majors will also
be able to complete their degrees at Tulane. We are currently
working on a plan that will allow current sophomores majoring in
programs that will be eliminated to complete their degrees at Tulane
as well. Details will be sent to you on Monday. Therefore the only
students whose degree plans will be affected are current freshmen
majoring in degree programs other than Biomedical Engineering and
Chemical Engineering. If they want to continue at Tulane, they will
have to transfer to another major. Otherwise they will need to
transfer to a university that offers that major. All freshmen who
return to Tulane for spring semester will be given assistance in
transferring to another university for their sophomore year if that
is their choice. Assistance will be provided and details on that
will also be sent out on Monday. Any student who has academic
questions or concerns should contact Dean Martinez
(, Christi Longlois ( or
their departmental academic advisor.

Now about the faculty. They too were shocked by the news on
Thursday and they are just coming to grips with what has happened.
I have spoken to most of them, as have their respective Department
Chairs, and on Thursday evening, President Cowen spoke with all of
them through a conference call arrangement. The faculty members in
CEE, EECS and ME will continue at Tulane through June 30, 2007.
President Cowen, Provost Lefton and I have all offered our
assistance in helping them secure positions elsewhere and I am
certain that there will be many universities around the country
eager to recruit such talented colleagues. In the meantime you know
as well as I how much our faculty members care about you and I am
confident that they will put as much of their time and effort into
your education as they always have.

So what about the future of Engineering at Tulane University?
President Cowen has offered me the new position of Dean of Science
and Engineering and I have accepted. I have accepted this position
for the following reasons. (1) I am intrigued by the new model that
will be implemented at Tulane and would very much like to play a
part in its implementation. (2) The new model will make it far
easier for the sciences and engineering to work together and with
medical scientists from downtown. (3) I will be in a position to
make certain that our Biomedical Engineering and Chemical
Engineering programs will receive the necessary attention and
investment to successfully make this transition. And (4) President
Cowen has assured me that the School of Science and Engineering will
be a powerful platform on which a newly defined Engineering presence
can be built at Tulane University. On Friday morning President
Cowen conducted a conference call with the School of Engineering
Board of Advisors. During that conference call, he asked the Board
to work with me over the next 18 months to develop a vision for the
future of Engineering at Tulane University. I intend to begin that
process immediately after the holidays.

While I am sure that this is not all of what you hoped to hear from
me, I have tried to address all of the concerns that you have about
your personal situation and about the future of your School. We've
been through a lot this fall and I can't tell you how much I am
looking forward to your return in January. We'll have our
usual "Open Forum with the Dean" shortly after you return and we can
talk about where we go from here. I'll spring for the pizza. By
the way, the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) has
just informed me that they have raised $10,000 to support our E-week
activities this spring. So there's some good news to end my message

Very best to all of you,
Dean Altiero
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2005 3:03 pm    Post subject: It speaks volumes Reply with quote

*This is my personal emotional opinion to that letter. (as a group) may or may not agree with what I am about to say. Keep that in mind. P.S. I am not bashing Cowen*

The School of Engineering remains a strong institution. We have some very talented and unique professors whose first love is teaching us. For Dean Altiero to say "I am certain that there will be many universities around the country eager to recruit such talented colleagues. " is not consistent with his, and President Cowen's claim that EECS must "compete for national prominence."

The talking points of Dr. Cowen are being echoed by Dean Altiero. Dean Altiero is now going to be the Dean of Science and Engineering. His job is secure. Dean Altiero, I have a message for you, "Fight for US, the students." We are what makes a university prestigious! By alienating your students, alumni, faculty and friends, you are not going to gain national prominence anytime soon. You should be accepting of us, not dismantling the programs we all know and love.

As far as Cowen's talking points go: There are two options here, 1) EECS faculty are, as Altiero just said, "talented" or 2) EECS faculty, as it currently stands,cannot attain the level of national prominence desired. I agree with 1. Our EECS Faculty is among the best in the world. As I attend Boston University, I have come to appreciate more and more the atmosphere at the EECS department. We are a top notch institution. I came to BU (#8 engineering school) ahead, academically, of most of the students here. How can they dismantle EECS when we JUST got accredited? We were the ONLY institution to get a perfect score on our first try. THAT is national prominence Dean Altiero. This is a slap in the face to all we have worked for.

Here are some of the ways in which Tulane Engineering has attained national prominence:

1) DARPA Grand Challenge. A multi-disciplinary team of Tulane students was one of 5 teams to complete this challenge. We completed it on our first try. THIS IS PRESTIGIOUS. We NEED computer, electrical, mechanical, and biomedical engineers!

2) David Filo, Jim Clark. Both have donated 30 million dollars. What stronger show of support for engineering do you need? A billion dollars?

3) Who can rebuild the levees that protect our beloved city? Civil Engineers! You cut their program. Have some foresight. We NEED Civil Engineers.

4) Who can design artificial intelligence systems to perform all of the following: Save People on rooftops, find ways to alter storm behaviour? Computer Scientists!

We have prestigious alumni from around the world. People travel far and wide to attend our great institution. How can you remove such a large draw? You claim it only affects 229 Students. I say bullshit. It affects 13,000 students and countless families from around the country. It affect the 'could have beens' who will disregard Tulane in the future. You cannot put a number on how badly this decision makes us look.

The alumnae of Tulane University, and especially engineering alumnae, are up in arms about this abismal show of support for our student body. I look forward to their continued support.

I cannot comprehend how destroying an entire college can make an institution better. We are not dead weight. Take a look at the stats, we did everything you asked for with respect to fund raising.

Keep Tulane Engineering!
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2005 11:22 pm    Post subject: We aren't giving up Reply with quote

As a Freshman EE major, this decision is one that affects me enormously. Unlike most undecided Freshmen, I am about 90% confident that I want to major in EE. And then if not EE, then Mechanical Engineering. I am also 100% confident I want to go to Tulane. Basically, I am in a situation I have no control over, and it kills me. For those with the power to reverse this decision, it kills me even worse to see them give up easily in a fight. I respect Dean Altiero's decision as long as he has not given up on me, a totally dejected Engineering Freshman, and on US, the Engineering community...

When I started my college search, I looked at schools based on Engineering programs. I knew I was pretty sure I wanted to major in Electrical or Mechanical Engineering, and perhaps even double in Math, so having a good Engineering school was a must for me. Then, when I visited Tulane and realized what an awesome place it was, I realized this is for me. I want to be here, and I want to graduate from here. No other place even compared.

I am pleading my case on behalf of the Freshmen, apparently the ones with the least amount of hope left. Dean Altiero has kindly expressed an optimistic "plan in the works" to help graduate the sophomores. That surely will help a little bit... but yet... it is only a painkiller and not the cure. Freshmen like me are reading the posts on this website and others at a complete loss for words realizing we have absolutely no control over these horrific events. We are powerless.

I mean it is a blessing to see Tulane upperclassmen show their concern for the future of Engineering. They are already guaranteed their degrees and could very easily (and selfishly) brush off the future changes. But what is it that the people who are hit most directly can do (the sophomores and freshman)?... nothing... I was attending Tulane to have the knowledge and power to set up a website like the people here have done, but I am still ignorant. I lack the knowledge, and thus I am powerless.

I write this because I refuse to be a lab rat given no respect. I refuse to be a spec of dust merely brushed off the shoulders of the influentials. Those in power right now can express their sympathy for us, but it doesn't phase them one bit because they never see us. They didn't get to see me break down after reading the renewal plan, realizing this is 10 times worst than the effect of Hurricane Katrina on me.

All I'm asking is for the understanding of those in power. It is SOO easy for them to do away with the Engineering Department because they will never see the faces of those involved. They will never know the pain endured by Freshmen all over as a result of this decision. And then, the mere fact of it all being handled by people who have nothing to lose... by people already guaranteed their degrees and guaranteed their teaching positions... that is what kills me the most... We, the Engineering underclassmen, are relying on you all - the people with potential for persuasion and influence - to help us

On behalf of all the Engineering Freshmen... Please... I beg of you... do NOT give up... Even if degrees are guaranteed for you, or teaching positions are locked, they are far from secure for me... If Tulane's plan stays as is - it will take me attending 3 different Universities to obtain a degree... and I'd be utterly disappointed and dejected during my whole stay at the third University knowing I could be at Tulane if it weren't for the decision of so-called "experts"... (Right now I'm at a college without an Engineering program)

A message to all the people "above" me...
Tears have been shed... Blood has been spilled...
But this is not the end...
In the words of Jimmy V, "Don't Give Up. Don't Ever Give Up."
And that is all I have to say...

Scott Kensell
Electrical Engineering 2009
Distinguished Scholar Recipient and Proud Tulane Freshman

Email me at or call at 865-806-2451... I want to do as much as I can to help...
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Location: New Orleans, LA

PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2005 11:51 pm    Post subject: The Pain of Attachment Reply with quote

I have it on good authority that (even though yes, his job is secure) Dean Altiero fought tirelessly, tooth and nail, over and over against these changes, looking for any alternative path that was available. And he was repeatedly overturned.

It seems that he has realized that nothing more can come of continued effort in that vein, and is trying to move forward. Nobody set out to screw anyone here. Nobody 'gave up'.

Obviously this is your forum. It's everyone's forum. You're of course welcome to your opinions. However, it is my opinion that all of this is a waste of time, and your time and effort would better be spent on the future of Tulane Engineering (and Science... cough) than clinging to the past.
Brock M. Tice
Graduate Student, Tulane University
Department of Biomedical Engineering
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Scott Kensell

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2005 12:12 am    Post subject: ok... Reply with quote

I was not writing to criticize Dean Altiero in any way, and I am glad to hear he fought tooth and nail at the meeting...

The only message I am trying to get across is this... The "official" board meetings may be over. Maybe there is no overturning of this decision. Maybe this IS all in vein... but if it is so what... I have just lost everything with this decision so I have nothing to lose and I don't intend to go down without a fight...

My "message" (if you will) is to turn the phrase "fought tooth and nail" into the present tense... Perhaps there is no quick counter to this long, thought out renewal plan, but there may be an alternate approach that only time will be able to tell... I just don't want to see people lose hope...

For me, as it stands, I have just one more semester (my first semester) at Tulane University. I don't want it to be my last. I want to graduate from Tulane, and my ONLY hope is a rethinking of this plan.

I feel like the renewal plan lacks the true utilitarian philosophy. It is a "relatively" quick remedy that hurts way too many people at the present. I know it has the interests of those in the future at its heart, but I believe there must exist a compromise that could satisfy the students of both the present and the future...

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