The city of Madison is demanding Tulane University reimburse the city $10 million for recently shuttering its satellite campus.
Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler said the city didn't receive proper notice of the college's closing and deserves compensation based on "the extensive investment of time, money and reputation" the city put into the university.
Butler authorized City Attorney John Hedglin during an August meeting to send a letter of demand to Tulane University President Michael A. Fitts.
A letter of demand is often the final reminder letter before taking legal action.
In the letter, Hedglin says the city entered into "good faith" negotiations with Tulane and spent "substantial financial resources" with the assurance the campus would continue to operate and expand.
"The Madison campus performed well and exceeded expectations, until Tulane reduced its marketing efforts in 2016," the letter reads.
The university announced plans to close the Madison campus in January, giving students, faculty and the Madison community about six months notice.
The decision came shortly after the university hired a new dean to take over the responsibilities of Rick Marksbury, who had been dealing with the city since the campus opened.
Suri Duitch took over as dean of the School of Continuing Studies last August. Duitch and university Fitts emailed students that the campus would be closing at the end of the spring semester, but did not give an explanation. Instead, the email read that the School of Continuing Studies would now "focus more attention on its New Orleans and Gulf Coast campuses, and on online programs, where we believe there are great opportunities for our current and future students."
A dean for over 20 years, Marksbury said he was shocked to hear the campus would be closing. He recalls the mayor called him to let him know about it.
"I drove to Madison and met with staff and I didn't know what to say — especially because there was no rationale behind the closure that I could see. It never lost money, and we had a really good deal with the city."
In response to a request for comment, Tulane released a statement that it is reviewing the letter.
"We trust you will reach your decision regarding fair compensation as rapidly and decisively as your decision regarding the closing of the Madison campus," the letter of demand concludes.
Contact Justin Vicory at 769-572-1418 or JVicory@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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