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Indiana higher ed chief: New policy may be clarified after complaints from IPFW, other regional campuses

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Sunday, December 1, 2013 - 8:06 am

MUNSTER — A policy statement recently approved by Indiana's higher education commission will likely be clarified, after it sparked concerns that it would restrict academic freedom at the state's regional college campuses, the education commissioner said.

Commissioner Teresa Lubbers told The Times of Munster the Indiana Commission for Higher Education has "no interest or legal authority to dictate policy to regional campuses."

The commission's policy, which was approved in October, states that, "regional campuses should limit research to scholarly activity related to faculty teaching responsibilities and research related to local and regional needs."

Lubbers conceded that the policy's language is confusing and likely will be changed by the commission, which coordinates and reviews programs and budgets from the state's public colleges and universities. The panel's 14 members are appointed by the governor.

The policy's wording has prompted complaints from regional campuses around the state. Senate leaders at IPFW even adopted a resolution opposing the new policy, which they contend will limit free and open discourse.

Their resolution states, in part, that "faculty at the Regional Campuses are protected by academic freedom and may pursue any variety of scholarly activities and research."

John Applegate, Indiana University's executive vice president for university academic affairs, said the commission's policy statement contained some language he does not think fully reflects the body's longstanding position on faculty research activities.

"I'm very glad that Commissioner Lubbers has indicated that she understands the issues and intends to seek modification of the policy accordingly," Applegate said, adding that he's confident the commission "shares IU's view that academic freedom for all faculty members is a fundamental value that should be embraced."

Karen Schmid, Purdue University North Central vice chancellor for academic affairs, also welcomed the news that the commission will likely revise the policy statement. She said that at her campus "research is highly valued, and faculty engage in many types of research."

Lubbers wrote in a recent newspaper editorial that the commission stands behind "our institutions' right" to academic freedom.

"Beyond the funding aspect, the state has no role or authority in determining the type of research activities taking place at Indiana colleges," she wrote.