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In this June file photo, Purdue University President Mitch Daniels speaks at the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center.

Faculty leaders dispute Daniels' view of IPFW mission

Some IPFW leaders have taken issue with remarks made by Purdue University President Mitch Daniels about the role of regional colleges.

During a radio broadcast this week, the former governor told a Merrillville public radio host that higher-education advocates in Fort Wayne are mistaken about their mission.

“The (Indiana Commission for Higher Education) 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,” Daniels said.

“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,” he added.

Members of IPFW Senate – Janet Badia, Peter Dragnev, John Niser – and Presiding Officer Andrew Downs objected in a memo they emailed to Daniels on Friday.

“Clearly, regional colleges can't do the kind of research as larger schools like IU, but the commission's preamble allows for research and scholarly activities,” said Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics and associate professor of political science at IPFW.

A section of the commission'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.”

Daniels was unavailable for comment, but a member of his staff said he has not read the IPFW email.

When he does, Downs said he hopes the Purdue University head recants his comments.

Purdue University provides administrative oversight of the regional IPFW campus, with students able to receive degrees from both Indiana University and Purdue, depending on the program.

This week, though, business officials who met with the State Budget Committee at IPFW recommended that Indiana University, not Purdue University, govern IPFW.

The flap this week follows a failed legislative push in February to have IPFW designated as a metropolitan campus.

The distinction would have allowed the college to bypass some regional rules, including a limitation for on-campus housing for students.

The legislation also would have allowed new degree and doctoral programs.

During a June visit to the IPFW campus, Daniels said he is keeping an open mind on whether IPFW needs more autonomy but recognizes that the campus' biggest strength is its ability to give a diploma that says “Purdue University” or “Indiana University,” something it would lose if it were to break away.

Last fall, enrollment at IPFW was 13,449, which includes full- and part-time students as well as dual-enrollment high school students. Enrollment exceeded 14,000 in the fall semesters of 2010 and 2011. IPFW is the fifth-largest campus in the state.