After Indiana and Purdue universities joined to offer classes at a new Coliseum Boulevard site in 1964, it would be another decade before administrative functions were combined under one chancellor. The recommendation of a legislative study group now points to dissolving that union and operating IU and Purdue programs as separate entities.
It shouldn’t take another 10 years to settle governance issues, but more time is needed to determine how the recommendations will affect students and the northeast Indiana community. Moreover, an eager endorsement by area business leaders and IU and Purdue officials shouldn’t exempt the proposal from greater scrutiny. Students and alumni have questioned the effects dual management will have on individual programs. Some community members are concerned about the loss of IPFW’s hard-earned and community-centered identity.
IPFW faculty have produced a report effectively challenging the Legislative Services Agency study on enrollment, charitable giving, research and return on investment and questioning changes that would significantly affect northeast Indiana’s comprehensive regional university.
The Fort Wayne campus’ designation as a multi-system metropolitan university last July 1 seemed to point to opportunities. IPFW seemed poised to hold new authority and resources to meet the needs of students and the regional economy more quickly and effectively. While the LSA report acknowledges the responsibility of a metropolitan campus to use its "human and financial resources to improve the region’s quality of life," the final recommendations offer little detail on how the governance change will serve that end.
The report places much emphasis on commitments by both Purdue and IU to invest in Fort Wayne. While the investments would be welcome, vague commitments are meaningless. And the financial implications of these changes have yet to be quantified. IPFW inevitably loses influence when it is reduced to smaller pieces of two major universities competing for state funding.
IPFW Chancellor Vicky Carwein said developing programs and initiatives will continue. But the uncertainty surrounding campus governance can’t be helpful. The issue will be settled once and for all only if the transition work allows the time and space to honestly address all questions and concerns. What’s most efficient and effective for West Lafayette, Bloomington and Indianapolis should not be the primary driver of the final decison.
Most important, those involved should never lose sight of the fact that a university is at the heart of their work. It’s not a business, medical center or government agency – it’s a unique and precious asset to our region and its residents.