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The Communicator NEWS & POLITICS

Death of a University?


Photo credit: Chris Johnson

Written by: Bernadette BeckerJanuary 23, 2016
Chancellor Vicky Carwein intended to introduce a recommendation from a Legislative Services Agency study personally to staff and faculty Jan. 15 at 11 a.m. in the Hilliard Gates Sports Center, but the information was leaked the previous night leaving students, staff, faculty and city residents alike shocked.
Rumors were swirling and seats were packed with IPFW blue and logos as the chancellor began the meeting with an apology that the recommendation was proclaimed via the Journal Gazette front page rather than from the administration itself.

The legislative study recommended IPFW realign under Purdue University, with the exception of health-related majors under Indiana University.

What precipitated this recommendation and this Legislative study was a request by the Indiana General Assembly for a working group to “evaluate the role and governance” of IPFW — as is stated in the 55 page LSA study, which was released Jan. 15.

This proposal will not have an immediate effect on students and all those enrolled will be able to attain their degrees from the two universities as promised, according to an announcement made by the chancellor.

Essentially, the study is answering the question of “who’s responsible?” for the success or failures of IPFW and how to streamline the bureaucracy that may be hindering its success.

Chair of the Board of Trustees of Purdue Mike Berghoff, who served as chair of the working group, Board of Trustees of IU member and former Chair of the Board Dr. Mike Mirro, a working group member, and Chancellor Vicky Carwein, also a working group member, all led the presentation of the group’s information. Berghoff, who was the primary speaker, stressed that this is the beginning of change and that it was legislators who prompted, established and appointed the working group.

Berghoff explained the recent history of studies made to evaluate the structure of IPFW and stated that legislators felt some areas were not studied sufficiently.

The LSA study states:

“Over the past decade, the external and internal governance structures for IPFW have not produced substantial growth in the areas of teaching and research that are important for the well-being of Northeast Indiana and its citizens, for example, a gap in offered bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral or professional degrees affecting at least 17 occupational fields and 15 degree and certificate programs.”

The working group that legislators appointed began in June.

The group members felt that their role was to find “something different…more meaningful…more impactful….more bold,” said Berghoff.

Meanwhile, this was a proposal, explained Berghoff, it was not a feasibility study.

Berghoff explained that in beginning deliberations key points emerged. These include: the proper governance model for the campus; the type of programs or degree offerings that would benefit students and local employers;  discerning the obstacles to IPFW success; determining funding; and how the Community Council is serving IPFW.

Then during summer 2015, the working group created a “progress report” for Community Council members and regional legislators, it was apparent that there were no substantial, dramatic ideas for change to satisfy the needs or hopes of the legislators and council members. That called the working group back to the drawing board.

Berghoff said they found, “most of the resistence to get where we wanted to go seemed to center around a — or was caused by — a fairly clumsy model that was established 50 years ago.”

Berghoff claimed that many of the problems the working group kept encountering stemmed from the IPFW model of governance itself.

This “fairly clumsy model,” however, is not being questioned regarding the governance of IUPUI. Even though, “IPFW has a much more equal distribution of students and faculty between IU and Purdue programs than IUPUI,” according to Andy Downs, an IPFW political science professor and member of the working group.

IPFW’s problems, as cited by Berghoff, include: Academic program approvals and purchasing requests take too long; Transcript management difficulties since IU and Purdue have two different transcript systems; a lack of rules regarding the sharing of student information between universities; the existence of multiple alumni associations; and complicated fundraising and development efforts.

Since there were too many issues to be addressed individually, according to Berghoff, the working group began to look at “do[ing] something different” rather than adjusting the original model.

To the working group, IPFW’s situation was: “Two institutions — who are in the same industry, who are in the same markets, kind [of ] doing the same thing, located right next to each other, on the same piece of property with a lack of clarity about who’s really in charge and what — who — reaps the benefits of any investments,” said Berghoff, which is an interesting statement considering that later during Q&A, he conceded, “both of the universities have areas of expertise and are acknowledged for those areas.” Logically, with those different areas of expertise come different appeals to students.

The recommendation outlined by the working group includes ideas for a Purdue bioengineering center and an IU inter-professional medical education center. These ideas, which are not guaranteed as this is only a proposal, raise questions as to whether IU and Purdue were reluctant to invest without a clear and direct return on their investment.

Berghoff corroborated this when he explained, “part of the reason that’s not happening now is [be]cause it’s not clear what the return is, or whether the investment you make will really produce anything.”

With IPFW divided, the investments and accolades will likely be directly channeled to Purdue and IU. Berghoff went on the explain that this proposal would better allow IU and Purdue to use their distinct areas of expertise, which apparently are exclusive to medicine and engineering — as IU will be pulled out of all other areas of IPFW curriculum.

This action disregards the numerous nationally ranked humanities programs IU has, including Music, Journalism, Marketing and Finance (for undergraduates) and numerous graduate programs including Public Policy Analysis, Entrepreneurship, African History and Latin History, Finance, Library and Information Studies, Higher Education Administration, and Elementary Teacher Education according to the IU website.

IU and Purdue degrees in the public eye hold different weight on different subjects, and as Purdue does not even have a music major, it is seemingly difficult for Purdue to assume the duties of administering it, as was brought up during the Q&A session. There is much speculation that there will be an enrollment drop among all those interested in arts and humanities, as they will no longer have the national ranking of IU.

This will not be helpful considering the nationwide decline in enrollment as reported by the Census Bureau.

Shannon Johnson, an IPFW librarian, echoed that sentiment.

She said, “Speaking as an alumna of an IU program at IPFW I have concerns about switching humanities and art programs away from IU. In some cases there are no equivalent programs at the main PU campus, and for others they lack the reputation of IU.” Johnson continued, “I know in my case I most likely would have chosen a different campus rather than pursue a degree from PU in an area they are not well known for, especially when IU SB offered the more coveted IU degree. Talking with other alumni many feel the same way. I am worried that this move could have a negative impact on recruitment and fundraising efforts.”

Dr. Ann Livschiz, director of the honors program and a history professor at IPFW, said in an email that since this study only mentioned health-, engineering- and science-related majors, it could be very worrisome to current or prospective students as “the way the proposal was presented (and conceived) sends a clear message about the future priorities of the entity formerly known as IPFW.” Those priorities do not seem to include the arts and humanities.

Berghoff asked for the Q & A session to be 15 minutes long; however, the outrage of the faculty extended the interrogation to over 45 minutes. During that time it became increasingly obvious that there are many unresolved issues and unanswered questions regarding the proposed realignment. Moreover, Berghoff ’s “extremely patronizing manner,” as it was labeled by Livschiz, brushed aside faculty concerns. One point of frustration expressed among the faculty and staff is that the working group never consulted them beyond the ones in the working group.

Additionally, with all the confusion and lack of clarity, it begs the question of why now? Is the growing strength of the IPFW brand precipitating this systematic dismantlement?  During the Q & A, a former IPFW student, remarked “If you take away a brand, that brand is [going to see] an extinction,” and cited examples of former colleges that have come and gone.

This proposal would essentially destroy the name IPFW, as the proposal explicitly recommends the name be changed  to Purdue University Northeast (PNE). This shift has received derision from faculty, as the change in the logos and stationery alone could likely be a substantial amount.

What this presentation made abundantly clear is that IPFW is a child in the midst of family court: it is a dependent institution that is not operational outside of its parents’ guidance.

One professor, Bernd Buldt, claimed that IPFW is hindered by “not enough autonomy,” which leaves it unable to make the decisions necessary to meet the needs of the local community. Buldt gave the example of how IPFW petitioned for years for a school of pharmacology and received approval just as Manchester opened their school of pharmacology in Fort Wayne.

Another comment, by Dr. Peter Iadicola, the chair of the IPFW sociology department, was that Purdue management was a source for IPFW problems and obstacles for success, thus increasing Purdue power would not be a logical solution to IPFW’s problems.

Livschiz agreed that there is a misperception that an administration change can help enrollment increase. She stated that the real reason students are taking longer to complete degrees or are failing to complete is because of economic struggles, family commitments and difficulty with coursework — none of which will be addressed by this administrative switch.

After repeated questions about the proposal’s impact on various aspects of IPFW, Berghoff stated, “We’re hoping, we’re counting on the implementation team to take that issue and the others we haven’t even thought about and make sure we find a reasonable way to address them.” In exasperation he added, “If you don’t think that’s possible, then let’s just stay the same!” which was met with uproarious applause and cheers from the audience.

At IPFW 51 percent of students are first-generation college students, meaning that these students many times lack support and have unique challenges, according to the IPFW website. 73.9 percent of all students at IPFW receive some form of financial aid according to the IPFW website.

However, The Washington Post reported in 2015 that for “the bottom 20 percent of family incomes” the national decline in college enrollment has been much more dramatic. Thus for a school like IPFW that can be accessible for those who otherwise cannot afford college, there has been a deeper dip in enrollment. That dip is made more evident since it is paired with people who went back to school because of the recession and are now heading back to their jobs with the economic improvement.

Downs voted against the proposal because it left too many uncertainties, such as the possibilities for double majors, transfer of aid, and whether this “proposal” is actually voluntary, he said as reported by the Journal Gazette on Jan. 17.

This proposal has brought more questions than answers, especially considering that the working group was launched in June 2015 which, interestingly enough, was the same time IPFW received a new status under the Indiana Commission for Higher Education as a Multisystem Metropolitan University. This status allowed IPFW to have graduate degrees independent of IU or Purdue and was hoped to allow IPFW to better meet the needs of the region.

Downs said in an email that this proposal would at least bring the title of Multisystem Metropolitan University into discussion, as there would be two separate universities rather than one, intertwined university. This proposal provokes questions about that status because there will likely now be a distinct separation of the universities, but it is still yet to be determined.

The determining factor according to the LSA study is “If Presidents Daniels and McRobbie and the two Boards of Trustees agree to move forward with the concept of two separate universities in Fort Wayne,” which does not include input from IPFW members.

But as this is only a proposal, the LSA report states that, “Due diligence of the impacts must be completed and strategies for implementation must be developed,” before changes are made.

These issues will be revisited at forthcoming meetings, and there will now be an implementation team to determine how this proposal could be enacted. The implementation teams have not been chosen or structured, according to Berghoff. THECommunicator6 – 7PDEATH OF A UNIVERSITY?Findings of Legislative Study Present more Questions than AnswersThis proposal would essentially destroy the name IPFW, as the proposal explicitly recommends the name be changed  to Purdue University Northeast (PNE).“I am worried that this move could have a ne