From the President: Talking to each other

January 26, 2001

Scott Cowen

Last October, more than 1,200 staff members filled out and returned a survey evaluating their jobs and their work environment as employees of Tulane University. Those questionnaires told us quite a few things-some good, and some not so good. We learned what things are working, and what things need work. I cannot tell you how appreciative I am of those who took the time to fill out and return the staff surveys.

In addition to the completed surveys, we received more than 170 written comments about various aspects of the university. I read every one of these comments to get a better understanding of the staff's feelings. The results have provided us with valuable benchmark issues that we will be addressing in the coming months.

One issue raised that really caught my attention was communication or, rather, the perception among staff members that better communication-and more of it-is needed in the campus community. I am a firm believer in open communication within the institution at all levels. As many of you have noted, we have taken a number of steps to improve both the quality and quantity of communication coming from the senior administration.

Among the steps taken to date:

* Columns and regular reports in Inside Tulane, and increased frequency of Inside Tulane from monthly to twice monthly during the school year. Inside Tulane is distributed to all university faculty and staff members.

* Columns in Tulanian Magazine, which is mailed quarterly to all Tulane alumni, friends, faculty and staff members.

* A redesigned and regularly updated Tulane University Web site. We are in the process of refining the university's primary Web site to improve on the changes made last year. In addition to regular updates, all major reports and planning documents are posted in the administrative areas of the Web site for everyone in the university community to read.

* The President's Letter, which is mailed twice a year to all Tulane alumni, friends, faculty and staff members. * A Tulane listserv, which e-mails campus updates to subscribers several times each week.

* Town Hall meetings, held during the school year to bring faculty, staff and students up-to-date on universitywide issues.

* Last, but I hope not least, is Tulane Talk, a new weekly e-mail update I began in January that is partly lighthearted, partly serious. Its purpose is simply to keep the Tulane community informed about what their president is up to during the course of any given week. The response to date has been excellent, and I greatly appreciated the more than 100 responses I received to the first installment. (I will keep you updated on my dog-owning status!)

Are there other ways in which we could improve communication from the senior administration? I always welcome ideas on how to better reach people in the university community. The results of the staff survey are directed at more than just the senior administration, however. I hope that the efforts we are trying to make in improving communication serve as examples to others in the community.

The feeling of inadequate communication expressed by our staff holds a message for every single one of us who is a supervisor or manager. At every level, in every department of Tulane University, we should be working to improve and open up new channels of communication with our co-workers and employees. Better communication overall can do nothing but lead to a more cohesive and harmonious place for us to live and work.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000