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IPFW Senate calls for redo of higher ed research policy

A policy revision regarding academic research at regional campuses has IPFW Senate leaders concerned that the Indiana Commission of Higher Education is limiting academic freedom.

Yet the commission’s leader says that’s not the intention – and the commission has no legal authority to control the research on campus.

“It was meant to be a statement of focus,” Commissioner Teresa Lubbers said by phone Monday. “If the language is confusing in any way, we can make a change.”

The commission’s policy, approved Oct. 10, states “regional campuses should limit research to scholarly activity related to faculty teaching responsibilities and research related to local and regional needs.”

IPFW Senate members Monday approved a letter to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, urging leaders to change the faculty research policy, arguing that the new language limits academic freedom.

“We feel academic freedom is the very foundation upon which the academy has been built. Free and open discourse, study and inquiry are fundamental to our work and should never be compromised,” Michael Nusbaumer, speaker of the Indiana University Faculty, said. “Therefore, we support in full measure the right of faculty to pursue and engage in research in their areas of interest and expertise in keeping with the long-held principle of academic freedom.”

Nusbaumer said IPFW isn’t alone in its quest for a change – all regional campuses at both Indiana University and Purdue University are raising the issue with the commssion.

“We wanted to get this through … that we are troubled by those efforts to restrict us,” he said.

In the letter addressed to the commission and Lubbers, the IPFW Senate encouraged the commission to recognize the importance of scholarly research and remove language related to limiting or restricting research.

Lubbers said she plans to address the policy at the commission’s December meeting and will recommend a change in wording.

“If it’s the word ‘limit’ that’s causing trouble, we’ll just remove that word and replace it with ‘focus,’ ” Lubbers said. “ … We didn’t mean to be doing anything substantive in any way.”