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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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Director of Tulane doctor of social work program removed

Tulane University removed Tonya Hansel as director of the doctor of social work program. Hansel remains a tenured professor. (Courtesy of Tulane University)

In December, Tulane University removed Tonya Hansel as director of the doctor of social work program. The school appointed Ngawang Legshe, former assistant director, as interim director. 

Hansel remains a tenured professor at the School of Social Work. 

Hansel’s removal prompted Jessica Cole, a recent graduate of the doctor of social work program, to create a change.org petition for Hansel’s reinstatement. The petition called the change “sudden” and a “shock to many who are connected to and value the Tulane University School of Social Work.”  It had 69 signatures as of Friday. 

Hansel said her removal surprised her. 

“We had a higher graduation rate, all of our metrics were a very strong program,” Hansel said. “So it came as a huge surprise to me that they would stop my contract to do the administration of the program.”

It is unclear why Hansel was removed from her administrative role. Tulane did not respond directly to questions about the decision’s reasoning. 

In a statement, Tulane spokesperson Mike Strecker said the school “is committed to a fair and respectful work culture.”

“We embrace and uphold the highest standards of personal and professional ethics, honesty and trust,” Strecker said. “The issues raised by Professor Hansel are being (or have been) reviewed to ensure that all appropriate policies, practices and procedures were followed.”

The program was undergoing accreditation. 

“We’re hitting all the markers in the DSW program of a successful program,” Hansel said. “And when I start asking questions about the budget is when I was told that I was removed.”

“I thought it was just general mismanagement,” she said of the budget. “I was advocating on behalf of the program.”

Cole said the university did not clearly communicate the reasons for Hansel’s removal and its impact on the program. 

Cole said she expressed concerns via email about Hansel’s removal to President Michael Fitts and Provost Robin Forman. 

According to Cole, the president forwarded her email to Patrick Bordnick, the dean of the School of Social Work.

Bordnick did not respond to two emails from The Hullabaloo seeking comment.

In an email exchange Cole provided to The Hullabaloo, Bordnick wrote, “As someone entrusted with overseeing these crucial decisions, I assure you that my approach is always thoughtful, deliberate, and centered on what is best for our students and the program’s future.”

I understand that changes in leadership can bring about uncertainty,” the email continued. “However, I want to reassure you that our commitment to maintaining and enhancing the high standards and status of our DSW program as a top contender in the US remains steadfast.”

Cole said Hansel’s active involvement with students, willingness to provide guidance and support and dedication to the accreditation process made her an important mentor.

“I’ve had a lot of support in the background from people,” Cole said. “People who have vocalized, ‘thank you for doing this. Please keep doing this.’ But they’re too fearful of coming out in support of it.”

“We’re like, ‘What’s going on? We just graduated from this program,’” Latoya Carter, another recent graduate of the doctor of social work program, said. “And then, all of a sudden, the person who I’ve always seen as the leader of the program is now telling me that she’s no longer going to lead it.”

In an email sent to the school’s faculty and shared with The Hullabaloo, Bordnick thanked Hansel for her work. 

On behalf of our school and the university at large, I extend our heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Hansel for her exemplary service as the Director of the DSW program,” the email said. “We eagerly anticipate her continued impact in her future roles as a researcher and instructor.”

Bordnick emailed Hansel and praised her work again, according to an email shared with The Hullabaloo. 

“Given your significant role in the CSWE accreditation process, we would be honored if you would consider continuing to oversee the final stage of this project,” the email said. “Your expertise in this area is highly valued, and your continued involvement would be greatly appreciated.”

“They have asked me to continue doing all the work that I did do as the administrator,” Hansel said. “just not publicly, which I think is ridiculous.”

“If the program is growing, students are graduating, we’re becoming accredited, we’re reviewing curriculum, we have a healthy thriving faculty – if those things, the markers of a healthy academic program are being met,” Hansel said, “why remove someone suddenly?”

News Editor Olivia Warren contributed reporting.

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