Legislation stalled at the Statehouse deserves better than the secret dealings that escalated standard personnel decisions into a discrimination complaint. Indiana lawmakers, who have deferred to Purdue officials in addressing IPFW’s concerns, can show leadership by addressing governance issues through proposals emanating from Fort Wayne.
House Bill 1627, requiring the Indiana Commission for Higher Education to designate a "metropolitan campus," never received a committee hearing, but its intent could be carried out through another piece of legislation.
The bill would require the management agreement between IPFW and Purdue to include language ensuring a separate budget appropriation for the Fort Wayne campus and authority to award doctoral degrees within its own tuition revenue stream.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, declined to comment this week on the bid to change IPFW’s classification. His spokesman said "he is continuing to work on the issue but doesn’t feel that it’s appropriate right now to make public comment."
Chancellor Vicky Carwein outlined IPFW’s position in a Jan. 11 opinion article published on these pages.
"We will continue our longstanding advocacy in the legislature, with the Commission for Higher Education, and with our parent schools for a campus designation that recognizes our unique status as the only campus in the state and nation that equally offers degrees from two of our nation’s finest universities," she wrote.
Area lawmakers, including Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, and Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, have worked to give IPFW the same tools that allowed IUPUI to prosper, but they have been stymied in that attempt. Kruse’s bill in the 2014 session died in committee on an 8-4 vote. Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, suggested at the time that "personality conflicts" might be the cause of governance disagreements between IPFW and Purdue, and Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, argued those issues should be addressed among IPFW officials, Purdue trustees and the commission.
Somehow, those issues are still unresolved. After Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne, filed HB 1627 this year, Purdue President Mitch Daniels recommended that the Commission for Higher Education change Fort Wayne’s designation from regional to metropolitan campus. The result is a waiting game, with the commission deferring to legislators and lawmakers holding out for a commission decision.
While the various players have their own interests to protect, they should be able to agree that encouraging efforts to increase the number of four-year and graduate degrees is good for all of Indiana.
The General Assembly should rise above the personality conflicts and put IPFW in better position to contribute.