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The Journal Gazette

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Andrew Downs, an associate professor of political science at IPFW, speaks with students about the proposed governance changes and what they could mean for the school’s future during Tuesday’s information session.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016 3:36 am

Clarity on IPFW's future lacking at session

Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette

IPFW junior Elise Fisher started out her college career at Purdue University in West Lafayette.

But during her freshman year, the speech pathology major became frustrated with large classes taught by teacher assistants and the feeling that her professors were more interested in research than in teaching her classes.

The next year, she transferred to IPFW and brought along her freshman college roommate, who was an international student. 

Fisher is concerned about a proposal to change IPFW governance and Tuesday attended the first of several informational meetings held at IPFW. About 80 students and teachers attended the meeting.

"It could certainly be detrimental to future IPFW students as well as to the city," said Fisher, who is from Fort Wayne. The way the campus is set up now "brings students who would not come to Fort Wayne otherwise." Her younger brother was set on attending IPFW but now is not sure, she added.

Currently, Purdue University and Indiana University both grant degrees at IPFW in a variety of majors while Purdue is responsible for managing the campus. Purdue pays the bills, but it also gets the revenue, said Andrew Downs, an associate professor of political science who is the presiding officer of the Fort Wayne Senate at IPFW. Political science is an IU unit.

Downs served on a state-mandated 10-member working group that wrote a proposal to change the way IPFW is governed after the state legislature last year directed the Legislative Services Agency to evaluate the role and governance of IPFW.

Under the proposal, Indiana University would maintain control of the School of Medicine and enhance its health science and medical education offerings, which would include nursing. In those areas, IU would have sole operating and management responsibility.

Purdue would provide and control all other programs and course offerings with an expanded focus on biomedical engineering and advanced manufacturing.

Ultimately, both Downs and IPFW Chancellor Vicki Carwein were the only working group representatives to vote against the 23-point proposal in an up-or-down vote in December.

The reason for the state’s involvement was the metropolitan campus designation given in early 2015, a designation that would allow IPFW to engage in more research, and a desire to get more degree programs at IPFW in line with regional employers. 

But as professors, teachers and the public currently sort through the 55-page proposal, Downs said any movement on the proposal seems to have come to a halt.

"The parents are at an impasse," said Downs, who led Tuesday’s information session. "They’re not speaking to each other."

Students are worried about what sort of weight their degree or degrees would carry in the future, particularly if the campus undergoes a name change.

IPFW administrators like George McClellan, vice chancellor for student affairs and who attended the meeting, say if there were two separate institutions, that could actually increase costs for enrollment and create problems in delivering financial aid and managing two administrative bodies.

The way the proposal reads right now, students who enrolled in Fort Wayne IU programs would then have to enroll in Purdue Fort Wayne for their general education requirements, Downs said.

Felicia Burcham, a junior political science major from Huntington, doesn’t like the proposal. Her department is currently an IU unit.

Along with music and other programs, Purdue would have to create the degree under the proposal because it is not offered right now, Downs said. 

Some students were relieved when they heard that their degree would be grandfathered in, meaning their degree would still be an IU degree, Burcham said, but "we don’t know how this is going to happen."  Nor does Downs.

Burcham said she plans to stay in northeast Indiana and elected to go to IPFW rather than IU so she could save on costs and network for a future job. With this proposal, she is afraid that Indiana will lose its best and brightest to other states.

"We can expect other institutions, especially in Michigan, to begin competing with us," Downs said, because those institutions might have a larger campus or different athletics.

"IPFW means something," Downs said. "People used to refer to it (IPFW) as ‘bypass high.’ When you walk down the hallways now, you see people wearing IPFW T-shirts."

But like many areas in the Midwest, the population is not growing as quickly as it is elsewhere and the size of the college student population is shrinking, Downs said

With the current 30-year-old management agreement between Purdue and IU running out June 30, English major Adam Corral of Decatur hopes things become clearer soon.

"No one really knows exactly what’s going on," Corral said. 

jduffy@jg.net