A Message from President Mike Fitts

October 12, 2015

Dear Tulane Colleagues,
As I enter my second year as president, I am immensely excited about Tulane’s future. Because of our academic and research strengths, ideal size and enviable location, we are poised to cement our place among the country’s most distinguished universities.

In order to meet our ambitious goals, we have just completed a robust strategic review and are hard at work preparing for the largest capital campaign in the university’s history. When these initiatives are paired with the excellent work of the task forces on undergraduate education and academic collaborations, plus a recent rise in the US News rankings to #41 among national universities, Tulane is on the path to a truly transformative future.

In the past few weeks I have visited with hundreds of you at staff and faculty meetings, and have encountered dozens more of you around our multiple campuses. As I have said repeatedly, you are the backbone of this institution and essential to our institutional excellence. I have been very impressed by the talented, innovative, hardworking faculty and staff at Tulane.

Thus, I am pleased to announce that the President’s Cabinet has approved a 2 percent merit increase pool, effective Jan. 1, which we believe is an important way to acknowledge the value of our workforce.

At the same time, to fulfill our ambitious goals, we are undertaking a number of budgetary initiatives. As you recall, in January I appointed an Operational Review steering committee to work with the Huron Consulting Group in helping us identify ways to eliminate our annual operating cash deficit of $15-20 million.

Today I want to update you on the progress of the committee. As a result of their many months of research and hundreds of interviews with members of our community, the committee recommended numerous areas where significant savings could be realized. The President’s Cabinet endorsed each final decision.

Two areas, institutional operations and our workforce, will be affected. By implementing the initiatives together, we will save money and start eliminating the cash deficit.
In institutional operations, changes are currently underway in:

    •    Procurement and Travel Management
    •    Summer Programing
    •    Student Housing Utilization
    •    Employee Healthcare Management
    •    Renegotiation of Energy Contract
    •    Student Health Center Third Party Billing
    •    Admission and Enrollment

The above areas were identified as providing Tulane with the best opportunity for cost savings, and will have a minimal impact on the majority of our employees. More details can be found at http://financial-reengineering.tulane.edu/content/updates

Regarding our workforce, we will be offering in the near term a voluntary separation program for staff members who wish to retire or move to another position outside the university. Details will be mailed to eligible individuals by Oct. 21.

It is not our intention to force valuable Tulane employees to apply for the Voluntary Separation Program. However, if we do not achieve the necessary dollars savings through the voluntary phase, we will likely have to consider additional measures such as non-voluntary lay-offs.

Additionally we will make changes to our policies for overtime pay, sick leave and vacation time to make them more consistent with other universities. These changes will be effective July 1, 2016. Details are at http://tulane.edu/wfmo/employee-support/policies/policies.cfm

I know that this is a lot of information to absorb. Please take the time to review all information carefully and send your thoughts and questions to comments@tulane.edu. We will continue to look for additional ways to secure Tulane’s financial future and save money, and we appreciate your continued feedback.

As we navigate these challenging times together, I want to thank you for your patience and devotion to Tulane. These difficult steps are critical to giving us the ability to achieve our ambitious goals going forward. They will position us to generate the resources that will ensure an outstanding education for every student and fulfill our mission as a great university.

Thank you again for your loyalty and dedication.
Mike Fitts

January 13, 2015

Dear Tulane Community:
With the start of the new semester I am energized and excited about the possibilities that lie ahead for our great university. Tulane is well positioned to excel in a rapidly changing educational landscape and I can't wait to take advantage of the opportunities to come.

Our student body, both in numbers and academic quality, gets stronger each year. Our faculty continues to build bridges across schools to work together on society's greatest problems—from Ebola to cancer to cleaning up the environment. Our staff is second to none, as they demonstrate every day. And we all have the privilege of working in one of the world's greatest cities.

In order to build on all of this positive momentum and to continue the effort to enhance our financial position started in prior years by Scott Cowen, we have retained the Huron Education consulting firm to identify ways we can improve our efficiency and effectiveness and increase revenues. The goals of this initiative are twofold: to solidify our financial position by eliminating our annual operating cash deficit of $15-20 million; and to develop a new budgeting system that is better suited for our future plans.

The decision to review our finances underscores our commitment to being good stewards of the university's resources and ensures that we are using them wisely. In fact, we were pleased to hear at the end of last week that Moody's Investors Service, which reviews and rates the financial health of all universities, has revised our outlook from negative to stable. This confirms that, as a whole, Tulane's long term financial future is bright.

I have appointed two internal steering committees to help guide this process and integrate recommendations into positive change for Tulane. The Operational Review steering committee is co-chaired by Anne Baños, chief of staff and vice president for Administrative Services, and Tony Lorino, senior vice president for Operations and chief financial officer. The Budget Review steering committee is co-chaired by Yvette Jones, executive vice president for University Relations and Development, and Michael Bernstein, senior vice president for Academic Affairs and provost. Both committees include faculty and staff.

As part of the review, we have established this website that will be a comprehensive repository of information as the process moves forward. We will provide you with a timeline, establish multiple channels for gathering campus feedback (including interviews with 150 faculty and staff), and, as the work progresses, share findings and recommendations about our assessments.

We will direct this project, in coordination with Huron, with the fundamental goal of being highly collaborative and seeking input from across the campuses. We will be transparent through each step of the process, vetting recommendations with the stakeholders in the Tulane community.

The next few months will require patience, the willingness to embrace the possibility of change and the belief that Tulane will be stronger and better than ever. I am committed to this undertaking and I am looking forward to working with all of you as we bring the process to a productive and positive conclusion.

President Mike Fitts