OPINION | Tulane should relocate its campus

Abe Messing, Staff Columnist

Gabe Darley

In February 2021, President Mike Fitts and a panel of Tulane University leadership met to discuss what the university was doing to combat climate change. The panel assured its audience that Tulane was meeting its greenhouse gas emission goals and was on track to introduce more electric shuttles to campus by next year. However, it remains unclear how serious Tulane is about preventing the worst effects of environmental catastrophe from completely destroying the community. 

The immediate responses being deployed on campus are unfortunately not real solutions to such an urgent problem. Climate change should be treated as an inevitable part of future life, and the university must consider more drastic options accordingly. Tulane should figure out a way to cure, not cope that is, if the current administration cares about Tulane’s longevity.

If the administration does care, Tulane should relocate itself inland immediately. Using less water on the quads or designing new buildings to foster more natural light are nice talking points, but how effective will these kinds of changes actually be at thwarting the resolve of the Gulf of Mexico to consume the city? 

Some estimates warn that New Orleans will be submerged underwater in as early as 40 years, and Tulane stands to lose everything if this happens. Should Tulane uproot from New Orleans, the community could suffer from brief homesickness but would possess the possible legacy of survival. 

The school’s relocation would not manifest as the abrupt movement of enrolled students and faculty to a different campus. Instead, a freshman class of pioneers who have not developed a relationship with New Orleans would trailblaze this new Tulane. 

Former students would understandably be discomforted by a Tulane separate from New Orleans, but they could take solace in knowing Tulane’s ethos and status would be preserved despite having to sacrifice its geographic and cultural history. 

This process would be long and arduous, so starting as soon as possible would be best. Could a satellite campus be established in a similarly sized city? Austin, Texas, for example, looks nice. 

The university is constantly refurbishing and developing its infrastructure. Why not begin using these funds to support a new campus elsewhere? 

Maybe Tulane could purchase and merge with a smaller college to cushion the culture shock felt by the residents of whichever town would be tasked with hosting the student body. Granted, students in the years leading up to this mass exodus would be slightly shortchanged by Tulane’s “colony” and its need for resources, but it is a necessary price to pay to keep the school alive for posterity. 

Tulane students and native New Orleanians have long wrestled with Tulane’s incongruous presence in the city. The stark social and economic disparities that cause this incongruity are unlikely to go away as income gaps between the rich and poor widen in the US. If no escape plan is hatched, Tulane will continue to exist as a dissonant enclave until it does not anymore. Tulane should use its new electric vehicles to scout a location in a different city.