As the summer draws to an end and the 2017 academic year looms ever closer, I find it pertinent to reflect on my past two years as an IPFW student and student senator.
I can still vividly remember one of my first student senate meetings as a freshman where we first discussed the possibility of the campus being split. It seemed ridiculous at the time, but nevertheless here we are at the dawn of a new university: Purdue Fort Wayne. This decision was neither swift nor easy. In fact, as many may know, the process was riddled with controversy from the very beginning.
A lack of communication and transparency from the university administration led to frustration and, ultimately, protests on campus. Further, the minimal involvement students were given in the process added to the distrust of the administration. However, with the realignment process completed, have these communication and transparency problems finally been laid to rest? Unfortunately, I’m not convinced.
Purdue Fort Wayne is currently in the process of selecting a chancellor to lead this new university. While I am very optimistic about the positive changes fresh leadership will be able to bring to the campus, I am also keenly aware of the compliance any chancellor must have to the Purdue Board of Trustees. Ultimately, the Board of Trustees has final say in any major decision affecting Purdue Fort Wayne.
The chancellor can attempt to communicate the opinions of the students, faculty and community of Purdue Fort Wayne, but they have no vote in any board of trustee decision. Once a final decision is made, the chancellor is responsible for executing it on campus. Without representation on the Purdue Board of Trustees, I fear that this campus will continue to see strong-armed changes with little input from the local community.
To be clear, I believe that both the Purdue Board of Trustees and the university administration have sincere intentions with their plans for the campus. However, I and many others have strong disagreements with several of the changes made thus far. With nearly 30,000 students between the Purdue Fort Wayne and Purdue Northwest campuses, not to mention the numerous faculty, staff and community members, it is remiss that there is not at least one trustee providing direct representation for the regional campuses. There are currently a total of 10 trustees with three being appointed by the alumni association and seven being appointed by the governor.
Why not add one or two trustees to be appointed from the regional campuses? This is easier said than done. The Indiana Code would have to be amended to create any new position on the Purdue Board of Trustees and gaining support from state legislators outside of the Northeast Indiana region would likely prove to be difficult.
Despite these challenges, I believe it is vital for the future of Purdue Fort Wayne to pursue greater representation within the Purdue system. I am proud to call IPFW, soon to be Purdue Fort Wayne, my home and will stand by it through these tough times.
Lewis Ostermeyer is a resident of Fort Wayne.