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The Journal Gazette

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Thursday, May 18, 2017 1:00 am

IU aggravated problems it cites as causes of IPFW split

Janet Badia and Andrew Downs

Janet Badia is immediate past speaker of the Indiana University faculty at IPFW. Andrew Downs is speaker of the Indiana University faculty at IPFW.

“A horrible disaster.” “Something had to be done.”

That is how John Applegate, executive vice president for academic affairs at Indiana University, referred to the management structure of IPFW (quoted in The Journal Gazette, May 14). He said IU came to this conclusion because of the impression that IPFW had presented.

Applegate's insult and revisionist history cannot go unchallenged.

His assessment of the management structure would, in fact, be new relative to the history of IPFW. In October 2015, the last group to study IPFW (the Legislative Studies Agency Working Group) agreed preserving the existing management structure was the best course. Less than two months later, the working group was presented with a proposal by two members of the IU and Purdue boards of trustees to split IPFW. That is when certain parties, including IU administrators, began describing the management structure at IPFW in dire terms.

We are not saying things at IPFW were perfect. Over the years, IPFW had a long list of issues it asked IU and Purdue to help us address. This list included workable solutions to issues such as allowing IPFW to have the same academic autonomy at the graduate level that it had at the undergraduate level and the authority to contract with area businesses for services. These changes and others would have made IPFW more efficient and more responsive to the area we serve.

IPFW's list of issues to address went beyond IPFW. For example, we suggested the state create an expedited process for approval of new programs that have a time-sensitive and targeted need. Leaders from our community, Purdue and IPFW wanted to explore the idea. IU opposed it.

Some items on the list had been issues for years; people at IPFW had a tendency to discuss them with a certain amount of frustration because we could not get them resolved. But we never suggested the state of IPFW's management structure was a “horrible disaster.”

To the contrary, a survey of the IPFW faculty in 2014 found that 69 percent wanted to remain a multisystem university with shared management. IU and Purdue were given this information in 2014 and again when they were considering realignment.

Now that realignment appears to be inevitable, IU talks about making the experience for students seamless and about making investments at IUFW. The more IU says this and describes the seamless experience, the more it should sound familiar. It sounds like IPFW.

Many people have wanted to know why IU did not make investments sooner. IU makes investments only where it has administrative and fiscal control, and it had neither at IPFW.

Unfortunately, instead of trying to find a way to make investments while preserving IPFW, IU decided it was better to dissolve IPFW, abandon a 90-year tradition of providing liberal arts education in northeast Indiana, and focus exclusively on health sciences.

Taxpayers deserve a special thank you in all of this. They have been asked to pay more than $4 million for the transition already. The estimated expenses include more than $1.25 million for IT transition, more than $1 million for rebranding and new signage, and $900,000 to convert the Helmke Library from an IU library to a Purdue library.

There are likely to be more transition expenses as the realignment is finalized.

The problems that existed at IPFW were not insurmountable, and they never impeded IPFW's ability to offer students a mostly seamless educational experience with unique opportunities particular to our identity as a multisystem campus. In fact, there were more bachelor and master degrees conferred this spring than in the last 18 years.

The challenge for IPFW was the lack of will among those with the power and ability to address our problems and to work with us on behalf of the area we serve.

We understand that many people at IPFW and in the community would like to move on from these debates, but mischaracterizations like Applegate's diminish the important role IPFW has played in the lives of our students and in the area we have served for the past 50 years.

We are committed to working with our colleagues at PFW and IUFW and the community leaders who are offering their support to make these separate entities successful.

It will take all of us to make that happen.