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Daniels backs off on IPFW mission

Admits research at regional campuses plays crucial role

– Purdue University President Mitch Daniels on Monday clarified statements he made to a radio station last week regarding IPFW’s role in higher education.

“My recent radio interview comment was more concise and general than it should have been as I discussed the role and importance of our distinct campuses,” he said in an email sent Monday to several IPFW leaders.

During a radio broadcast, 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.

Daniels agreed Monday, saying “as you correctly point out, research and scholarly activities, as defined and authorized by the (Commission for Higher Education’s) policy, are extremely important to the needs of your local and regional economies.”

Downs said he understands that sometimes during interviews things can get taken out of context or a person mistakenly uses shorthand to get a point across.

But he said it was Daniels that brought IPFW into the conversation.

“This struck at the core of the university and deserved a faculty acknowledgment,” Downs said. “He stated unequivocally that we are not to do research and doctoral programs. At least he is now acknowledging that research has a role to play on regional campuses. That’s good to see.”

He also noted that IPFW’s only doctoral program – in nursing – was approved while Daniels was president.

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.

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

The flap 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 limit for on-campus housing. The legislation also would have allowed new degree and doctoral programs.