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The Journal Gazette

  • Journal Gazette file

Thursday, December 01, 2016 10:01 pm

Separation anxiety

With the IU Board of Trustees’ vote Thursday, it’s clear the proposal to "realign" IPFW’s governance will become a reality.

If, as expected, Purdue’s trustees approve the plan Dec. 16, the campus will be split into two smaller, separate institutions, one a part of IU, and the other a part of Purdue. IU, in conjunction with its School of Medicine here, will assume responsibility for nursing, radiography and dental education; Purdue, for everything else.

IPFW was born 52 years ago, when Purdue’s and IU’s operations here were consolidated on a single campus. The arrangement offered students seamless access to the resources of two top-rated universities.

Many of the students who studied at and graduated from IPFW in the ensuing half-century have remained here and used the education they received to enrich Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana in myriad ways.

Budget deficits, declining enrollment and the need to reassess coursework offerings have made for some tumultous years and multiple proposals for change at the regional campus. Legislators and community leaders have weighed in at length on the perceived problems and ways to solve them.

Now, leaders in West Lafayette and Bloomington have settled on a solution that clearly is more comfortable for both university administrations.

Just what the separation will mean to our community and the students of IPFW is less clear.

The resolution approved by IU on Thursday is definitive about decoupling, but at this point there are more questions than answers on how all of this will be done.

How will joint resources be maintained? How will student activities and athletics be administered? How will donors react, and how will money given to the IPFW Foundation be apportioned? At a time when the state has many unfilled needs, how will two public universities find the money to cover the considerable costs of this institutional divorce? And what will become of the proposal to create a metropolitan university?

As such questions and many others are addressed, the needs of this community must be considered. Local input should be sought and some local decision-making assured.

IPFW’s beautiful campus along Coliseum Boulevard should be preserved and remain central to both schools’ missions.

Students who want to pursue their education here must be able to benefit from the shared resources of two great universities and pursue a wide range of studies without running into inter-university red tape.

We hope the universities that emerge from all of this effort will enhance this city and this region and produce graduates who are proud of where they studied and prepared to take on this region’s opportunities and challenges.

If the separation is handled with those values in mind, the arrangement that emerges might bear a striking resemblance to ... IPFW at its best.