December 6, 2023

IUPUI Faculty Council says President Whitten and Board of Trustees 'undermine' shared governance

IUPUI Faculty Council President Phillip Goff presented and explained the letter at the council's Wednesday meeting on Zoom. The council approved sending the letter to President Pamela Whitten and the Board of Trustees unanimously. - Aubrey Wright, WFIU/WTIU News

IUPUI Faculty Council President Phillip Goff presented and explained the letter at the council's Wednesday meeting on Zoom. The council approved sending the letter to President Pamela Whitten and the Board of Trustees unanimously.

Aubrey Wright, WFIU/WTIU News

IUPUI’s Faculty Council is speaking out against decisions made “behind closed doors and without faculty consultation” in a letter to the Indiana University’s Board of Trustees and President Pamela Whitten.  

IU and Purdue University announced their shared campus will separate by July 2024 without consulting faculty, the letter said. Approved by the council Wednesday, the letter states these decisions undermine IU’s history of shared governance and will harm faculty’s careers. 

As the two universities prepare to launch campuses in Indianapolis, IUPUI’s faculty council request IU to offer new positions to faculty affected by the split as well as keep faculty “consistently and formally integrated” in decision making. 

“While we do not argue whether the Board of Trustees has the authority to make these decisions, many are troubled that major decisions affecting our campus are being made without any consultation of those doing the teaching, research, and service that is the foundation for IU’s national reputation,“ the IUPUI Faculty Council said. 

Philip Goff, IUPUI Faculty Council president, wrote the letter with the council’s executive committee. He explained the letter at the council’s Wednesday meeting. 

“The letter is meant to share our concerns, but in a constructive way, rather than a confrontive way,” Goff said. “We have a lot of new trustees, we have a lot of new faculty, we have a lot of new administrators. And I think all would benefit from knowing the background and the deep context of shared governance on our campus.”   

Goff, who said he frequently speaks with university leaders, said he expects a response. 

IU did not respond to requests to comment by the time of publication.

How are faculty impacted by IUPUI’s split?

In August 2022, Whitten and former Purdue President Mitch Daniels announced the end of IUPUI. After 53 years, the universities will create separate campuses: IU Indianapolis and Purdue University in Indianapolis. IU will retain 85 percent of the student body and will own and operate IUPUI’s campus.  

While IU will retain almost all of IUPUI academic programs, Purdue agreed to keep computer science, engineering and technology schools. Faculty in those schools will be employed by Purdue with at least the same salary and benefits as IUPUI, according to an agreement between the two universities. They also retain their classification and academic rank. 

But confusion and concern arose from another part of IU and Purdue agreement — the “tenure home” of soon-to-be Purdue faculty will be determined by Purdue “in its sole discretion.” Purdue created “university tenure,” an untraditional solution that means educators report to the Senior Vice Provost instead of a department.  

Goff said most faculty caught in the realignment will be “forced” into university tenure.  

“The vast majority of tenured and tenure-track professors were denied membership in Purdue Departments and were relegated to a newly created, ill-defined, lesser ‘university tenure’ without many of the resources necessary to succeed,” IUPUI’s Faculty Council said. “This has harmed the morale of the entire campus.” 

Goff said over 100 people in engineering and technology turned in files for “rehoming” — finding a tenure home at Purdue. Non-tenure track faculty fared well, Goff said, but 76 percent of tenured faculty were denied tenure in a department. 

Goff said 35 percent of yet-to-be-tenured assistant professors were denied department membership, and Purdue has made some changes since then, adding more to the university tenure track. 

“Half of those who had been found acceptable for membership in a department had been told instead that they will go up for university tenure,” Goff said.  

Some progress has already been made. Goff said most tenure-track computer science faculty have been given positions in the Luddy School of Informatic, Computing, and Engineering. 

“This is especially good news because all of them had been denied tenure in their home department in West Lafayette,” Goff said. “We're grateful to the IU administration's push to get this done, including the administration of the Luddy School to stand up a department in Indy so quickly.” 

Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education have reported on the “rehoming process” for faculty, detailing confusion, anxiety and disappointment.   

The publicity from the split has harmed IU’s ability to attract and retain strong faculty, the letter said.  

“This brings about tangible harms to the city and state, as lost faculty mean lost opportunities,” the council wrote.  

The council’s letter said IU has a long tradition of shared governance between the Board of Trustees, the administration, and faculty, and “some recent events have challenged the assumption that things continue on that path.”  

Faculty have responsibility toward “fundamental areas” such as curriculum, research, faculty status, the council wrote.  

“We join the Board of Trustees and the administration in looking forward to a bright future at IU Indianapolis — one where we, together, as a strong and integrative team, build new opportunities through envisioning and meeting the needs of the state and the country,” the letter said. “A consistent regard for the great Indiana University tradition of shared governance will go far in making that happen.”

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