The Faculty Senate at IPFW will consider a proposal today asking Purdue University to eliminate the chancellor emeritus office now held by former Chancellor Michael Wartell.
Since Wartell was forced into retirement on July 1, he’s been on sabbatical and maintains an office on campus with part-time administrative support. But a $4 million budget shortfall created by declining enrollment has resulted in elimination of nearly a dozen tenure-track positions in the past year and new scrutiny of spending. Senate recommendations are not binding, however.
Purdue University has a policy requiring administrators in top-level policy-making positions to retire at the end of the fiscal year they turn 65, although exceptions to the policy were routinely granted. Age discrimination law allows an exemption for top executives, but tenured faculty can return to teaching and earn 80 percent of their former salary.
Three resolutions on the Senate agenda – each approved by the University Resources Policy Committee – pertain to the former chancellor. One would eliminate his office at the end of Wartell’s one-year sabbatical and direct him to a nine-month faculty position. Another would adjust compensation to ensure an administrator returning to a faculty post is paid commensurate with other faculty members. The third recommends that sabbatical leaves for administrators be granted under the same guidelines required for faculty leave, which require a proposal supporting the university’s academic mission.
The Senate voted 41-2 in September 2011 to ask the Purdue University Board of Trustees, which oversees IPFW, to extend Wartell’s assignment for two more years. The board declined and appointed Vicky Carwein, 64, as chancellor in June. Wartell’s lawsuit challenging the board’s uneven enforcement of its retirement policy is pending.
The West Lafayette board’s heavy-handed administrative decisions created an awkward situation where none existed. Northeast Indiana legislators would be wise to keep the pressure on Purdue to give the regional university more authority over its own management.
After nearly two years of multiple community committees vetting more than 1,000 proposals and extensive negotiations between Mayor Tom Henry and the Fort Wayne City Council about the guiding principles for spending Legacy Fund money, it appears the council is finally getting closer to actually voting on specific Legacy projects.
The money is from the lease and sale of the city’s old electric utility, City Power & Light. The fund has grown to about $47 million, with $28 million more coming in over the next 12 years.
On Tuesday, city officials will present Henry’s first request for specific Legacy spending to City Council. John Urbahns, director of Community Development, will offer details, including timelines and costs, for several projects the mayor wants to get started as soon as possible. Those priority projects include up to $500,000 for the Riverfront Development Plan, $8 million to create a Downtown Area Higher Education Opportunity Fund, $1 million for a Downtown Trust, $2 million for the McMillen Community Center, $1 million for trails, $2.1 million to improve the looks of railroad overpasses and $3 million to convert Ewing Street and Fairfield Avenue to two-way streets with bike lanes.
Some of these proposals ought to pass with little opposition. Money to convert the former McMillen Ice Arena to a community and indoor sports center is an infrastructure improvement in a part of the city that needs it and fulfills one of the major objectives of the Legacy Fund. The other infrastructure projects – including $1 million for trails and $3 million for streets – are also welcome long-term improvements.
But the administration needs to prove the need for others, particularly the $8 million to help colleges establish or expand downtown campuses. The two main colleges with big downtown presence – Indiana Institute of Technology and University of Saint Francis – have demonstrated their abilities to grow significantly without direct city aid.
The administration is asking the council to suspend its rules and pass the measures on both first and second readings Tuesday with a final vote Dec. 18, the council’s last scheduled meeting of the year. But council members should emphasize good decisions over speed and not feel compelled to rush approval of a $20 million package. At the same time, council members also need to consider that use of the Legacy money has been exhaustively studied and must not take the recommendations of citizens groups and the administration as mere suggestions.
Bennett in Florida
Outgoing Indiana Superintendent for Public Instruction Tony Bennett and the two other finalists for Florida education commissioner will face that state’s Board of Education Tuesday in Tampa. Bennett is considered the favorite, but opposition to his appointment was building late last week from opponents of standardized testing.
The other applicants are Charles Hokanson of Arlington, Va., a consultant and former deputy assistant U.S. secretary of education; and Randy Dunn, a former state schools superintendent in Illinois and now president of Murray State University. All three applied on Friday, the last day for submitting applications.
Unlike Indiana, where too many important discussions take place behind closed doors, the Florida meeting at the Tampa Airport Marriott is open to the public. If Bennett is selected, he’ll soon learn that information he was allowed to keep from the public in Indiana will be subject to public scrutiny in Florida.
The board could name its new commissioner as early as Wednesday.
Mayor’s Night In
Mayor Tom Henry is holding his last Mayor’s Night In for 2012 today. Fort Wayne residents have an opportunity to schedule a 10-minute appointment with the mayor at his office to ask questions, share concerns or provide suggestions on improving city services.
Residents interested in speaking with Henry should call 427-1288 to reserve a meeting time. Staff schedules the meetings on a first-come, first-served basis.
However, residents who have previously met with the mayor are put on a waiting list to ensure all residents have an opportunity to speak with the mayor.