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Fort Wayne focus

Daniels adds fuel in IPFW autonomy debate

IPFW's rocky relationship with its parent university is a recurring theme in its 50-year history. Consider this another rough patch for the regional campus, spawning debate that should refocus needed attention on its role as a public university. Among competing demands from area business leaders and from Purdue University, however, IPFW's primary focus must be on northeast Indiana students' advanced education needs.

The debate over IPFW's relationship with Purdue, which provides administrative oversight, erupted this week. The confrontation was some time in the making.

To set the scene:

• Ivy Tech Community College expands rapidly, with some officials pushing a role for the two-year community college system that overlaps with that of the state's regional campuses.

• The Purdue board of trustees enforces Michael Wartell's mandatory retirement deadline, and Vicky Carwein succeeds him as chancellor.

• Area legislators, irritated by the forced leadership change, question campus governance procedures and call for autonomy for IPFW.

• Gov. Mitch Daniels becomes president of Purdue, managing a university system overseen by a board made up mostly of his own appointees.

• The Indiana Commission for Higher Education, also dominated by Daniels' appointees, develops a new statewide strategic plan and updates its policy on regional campuses.

• Declining enrollment and a new state funding formula place budget pressure on IPFW, forcing budget reductions that touch both faculty and staff.

• Daniels on Tuesday angers IPFW faculty (see below) when he tells a northwest Indiana radio audience that ICHE has set the state's mission for regional campuses: “At Fort Wayne there's been something of a debate – there are a lot of people up there who want it to be something different. But the higher education commission continues to remind the folks they are not there to offer doctoral programs; they are not there to do research. We have other places for that.”

• A Policy Analytics study commissioned by the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership makes recommendations regarding IPFW, including a call for its management to be shifted from Purdue University to Indiana University.

A look at the issues arising since Purdue joined IU in offering extension courses in Fort Wayne shows the continuing struggle to balance higher education needs and demands at IPFW. The recommendations made to the regional partnership are another worthy starting point for debate. We hope that others will join in a spirited discussion of the recommendations.

The Policy Analytics report undoubtedly will serve, as earlier debates have, to remind Purdue administrators that the regional campus must serve northeast Indiana and its residents. This time, however, new budget cuts targeting all public universities are likely to launch protests legislators can't dismiss as regional complaints. In that debate, as well, students' education needs must be the focus.

Faculty response

The IPFW Faculty Senate sent a memo to the Purdue University president Friday in response to remarks he made in a Tuesday radio interview.

To: President Mitch Daniels

From: Janet Badia, Speaker of the Indiana University Faculty

Andrew Downs, Presiding Officer of the Fort Wayne Senate

Peter Dragnev, Speaker of the Purdue University Faculty

John Niser, Purdue University Senator

Re: Research and doctoral programs at regional campuses

Date: August 15, 2014

 We have listened to your interview on Regionally Speaking with Steve Walsh on Lakeshore Public Radio on Tuesday August 12, 2014. We found your comments about IPFW and what the Indiana Commission for Higher Education (ICHE) says about regional campuses especially interesting. Below is a quote from you that begins approximately 11 minutes and 05 seconds into the interview.

 “The Higher Education Commission continues to remind folks, you’re not there to offer doctoral programs. You’re not there to do research. We have other places for that. You are there, in the regional setting, to provide an affordable option that prepares young people well for the careers that are available and the jobs that are being sought in the area where you live.”

 ICHE’s Policy on Regional Campus Roles and Missions states, “Research and scholarly activities related to faculty teaching responsibilities and local and regional needs are of special significance at regional campuses.”<1> Your claim that ICHE says we are not here to do research is clearly at odds with ICHE’s policy and with the research and scholarly activities that have taken place at our regional campuses over their histories.

 IPFW does not strive to be a Research I institution, but the faculty at IPFW does and should do research and other scholarly activities. Some of the research and scholarly activity done at IPFW contributes directly to the local and regional needs, but not all of it. All of the research and scholarly activity we do directly contributes to the quality of our teaching. While our students attend classes at a regional campus, they expect and deserve the same quality of education that they would receive at West Lafayette or Bloomington. They expect and deserve to sit in classes with instructors who are engaged as scholars in their fields and who, through that engagement, can best guide students in their own undergraduate research and advance their opportunities post-graduation, as they pursue not only careers but graduate and professional education as well. Ending faculty engagement in research and scholarly activity will only diminish the quality of the education students receive at IPFW.

 We also need to point out to you that ICHE’s Policy on Regional Campus Roles and Missions states, “Under exceptional circumstances aligned to workforce demand, a Regional Campus may be approved to serve as the delivery site of a professional practice doctoral program that is offered collaboratively with a doctoral-intensive research campus already authorized to offer such a program.” Obviously this conflicts with your statement on Tuesday as well.

 We hope that you understand and agree with our position on the issue of research and scholarly activity. We also would welcome a statement from you clarifying your remarks.