Payson Center for International Development undergoing restructuring

Brandi Doyal, Print News Editor

The Payson Center for International Development will undergo a restructuring this summer.

Payson Center director Colin Crawford said that this change would effectively close the center.

“The Payson Center as we know it, that is as an integrated development studies and research center, will close on July 1,” Crawford said. “The restructuring preserves the most robust parts of the current center — namely its academic programs.”

The Payson Center was founded in 1998 as a training program for USAID employees and expanded to Tulane in 1999. Since then it has been one of the fastest growing academic organizations, having administered 59 projects in 25 countries with a combined budget of over $83 million to date.

As a result of the restructuring, the undergraduate International Development major will be run entirely through the School of Liberal Arts. The graduate program including the M.S. and Ph.D. programs will continue to be run through the Law School  just as they are now.

“The course offerings remain intact, subject to the normal shifts in faculty availability and interest and in student demand,” Crawford said. “For undergraduates, a new faculty member will be hired to teach core and elective courses. I hope we will complete that search in the Fall 2015 semester.”

Crawford said the graduate program will continue to offer distance-based online and live courses.

Crawford said these changes will not impact students in a dramatic way.

“I think that for the academic programs, it is neither better or worse — we are working to maintain the same level of rigorous academic offerings. It can be sad, of course, when things change. But change also offers the possibility of seeking new opportunities.”

Crawford said that the restructuring was needed to combat a reduction in funding.

“The reorganization is the result of the reduced funding available to researchers from entities like the US Agency for International Development,” Crawford said. “Grants and contracts from these funders shaped the Payson Center’s financial model over the past two decades, with impressive success … But the funding environment has changed, making it necessary to rethink Payson’s structure.”

Tulane announced on Jan. 13 that it had been operating with an annual $20 million deficit each year. International development professors Eamon Kelly and Dauphine Sloan presented on the changes being made to the Payson Center, showing that the restructuring is meant to alleviate some of the financial burden on Tulane.

President Michael Fitts said that he was unsure if layoffs would be among these changes, but that he would not take anything on or off the table, according to a March 26 article in The New Orleans Advocate.

Crawford said that as of right now, no permanent faculty would be leaving Tulane as a result of this reorganization.

Senior Fernando Ramos, former Undergraduate Student Government vice president for student life, said that academics should not have to bear the brunt of the cuts Tulane makes.

“As academic cuts are undergoing to address the deficit that the previous administration has left on Tulane,” Ramos said. “It is imperative to ensure that this is not the precedent that the university wants to hold when making academic cuts. Socially lucrative departments need to be supported by the university instead of being dismantled.”

The Payson Center Graduate Student Association sent a letter to Fitts expressing its disapproval of the restructuring. The group also said there was no student input in the decision and disagreed with the administration’s choice.

“This decision comes as a very disappointing shock to the Payson community of students, faculty, alumni and other affiliated stakeholders around the world,” the letter states. “The Payson Center is a unique, internationally renowned institute for research and practice in development with almost twenty years of dedication to the Tulane community both here in New Orleans and abroad.”

The letter goes on to state that the Payson Center is the only Masters of Science and Ph.D. program in International Development offered by a private university in the southern United States, and that its joint J.D./M.S. program is unprecedented.

Ramos said  that student opinions had been thrown to the side.

“The Payson Center is an incredible multidisciplinary institution that has made impacts in almost every continent around the world,” Ramos said.”In the case of the restructuring mandate for the Payson Center, the administration made a decision and funneled it down the pipeline. There was no real discussion with faculty, staff and students. Our community was completely disregarded and undermined despite the social value and global recognition we have brought to Tulane.”

Ramos said students should be one of the top priorities for the administration.

“Students are one of the largest stakeholders at Tulane, and with all our tuitions combined, we hold the power to financially sustain this university,” Ramos said.

“It is disappointing how major changes like these are even considered without prior consultation of faculty, staff and students. The current administration… has devalued community integration within the decision-making process.”

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