The recent announcement of IPFW Chancellor Vicky Carwein's retirement, and especially its timing, comes as no surprise.
After her predecessor Chancellor Michael Wartell retired in 2012 after being denied the opportunity to extend his employment past the mandatory retirement age, Carwein was hired to help facilitate the deconstruction of IPFW from that of an integrated and comprehensive regional center of collegiate education and research for Northeast Indiana into what will become two co-located regional satellite campuses of their respective parent universities.
The academic focus of the two surviving entities will be on career-specific education and training programs supporting the health sciences and STEM-related skills considered important to local business and industry, including its burgeoning health care industry. Although Purdue has agreed to take over the remaining arts, sciences, and humanities programs, no specific commitments have been made to do so and it has already signaled its direction by shutting down several degree programs despite sufficient student enrollment to support them.
All of this translates into: “Sorry Northeast Indiana, you may not have your own version of IUPUI. We have decided otherwise for your own good”.
Given these decisions have been made and will largely be implemented by July 1 of 2018, IU and Purdue should abandon any plans to replace Carwein in the role of a single chancellor and instead jointly appoint a transition executive and team to oversee that the end goal is achieved. To do otherwise simply perpetuates the charade that IPFW will remain as one integrated academic entity when we know it will become two, both of which will be more tightly bound to their home bases than ever before. As part of planning the transition to the desired model the administrations of IU and Purdue should also determine how their respective regional campuses will be organized, led and by whom, with a joint commitment to share certain expenses of operating and maintaining campus facilities and certain administrative functions.
All local and state leaders who were actively involved and/or openly supported IPFW's future direction need to own this decision and help facilitate its implementation without the ongoing distraction of pretending that IPFW will still be what it can no longer be. This includes the boards of trustees and administrations of IU and Purdue, the Mayors of the City of Fort Wayne and its surrounding communities, our representatives in the General Assembly and especially Senate Pro Tem David Long, and the business advocacy groups such as Greater Fort Wayne, and the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership.
Residents and taxpayers of Northeast Indiana should continue to voice high expectations of IU's and Purdue's planned investments in the newly-configured dual regional campus structure and the results should be diligently monitored. Otherwise, the entire unnerving process will have achieved nothing more than the partial but significant loss of an invaluable strategic asset for our region.
Patrick J. Wiltshire