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Purdue to merge administrative offices of two region campuses

Purdue University Calumet Chancellor Thomas Ke(far right) Purdue University North Central Chancellor James Dwork(near right) listen audience questions Wednesday afternotown

Purdue University Calumet Chancellor Thomas Keon (far right) and Purdue University North Central Chancellor James Dworkin (near right) listen to audience questions at a Wednesday afternoon town hall meeting at Purdue North Central about plans to merge administrative operations for the two campuses. | Christin Nance Lazerus/Post-Tribune

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Updated: March 28, 2014 8:43AM



WESTVILLE — Following the same cost-cutting path pioneered by Ivy Tech Community College, Purdue University officials announced Wednesday they plan to merge the administration offices at Purdue Calumet in Hammond and Purdue North Central in Westville.

At a Wednesday afternoon town hall meeting, Purdue Calumet Chancellor Thomas Keon said the proposal, which laid out options ranging from no merger to total merger, had its genesis in conversations with the Purdue system and originally included Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.

“We met for a year to see how to save money administratively,” Keon said. “At some point, we looked at the ways our two campuses were closer and could do things better together. (We want to) try to get the word out to all of you, so you’ll be able to participate in developing what we might look like going forward.”

Keon said a more detailed plan will likely take shape over the next year or two.

The plan will preserve the two existing campuses, which are 35 miles apart, but administrative and academic oversight functions would be consolidated into one central office.

Students, faculty and staff packed the town hall meeting at the Purdue University North Central library, peppering Keon and Purdue North Central Chancellor James Dworkin with questions. A similar meeting took place earlier in the day at the Purdue Calumet campus.

Dworkin said any cost savings gained by the merger would be reinvested into hiring more faculty or expanding student services.

“We’re doing this all for the students,” Dworkin said. “There is absolutely no discussion of closing either of the campuses. They’re both very viable. We would be one university with two campuses.”

A name change is possible at some point, but Dworkin said the campuses will retain their Calumet and North Central designations.

About 9,000 students attend Purdue Calumet, which has an operating budget of about $84.2 million. PNC has about 4,000 students and a budget of about $32.8 million.

The proposal follows directives by the Purdue Board of Trustees and Purdue President Mitch Daniels to cut administrative costs in order to increase affordability for students.

The chancellors did not mention possible job losses, but Dworkin said there will likely be one chancellor to oversee both campuses and a similar situation could occur at the vice chancellor level. He said positions that open up due to retirements or resignations may be absorbed as well.

Last year, Ivy Tech’s Northwest region of four campuses merged with Ivy Tech’s North Central region to offset a $68 million budget deficit. Administrative jobs were cut and one chancellor now oversees both regions.

Professor David Pick, chairman of the PUC faculty senate, said the largest benefit could occur at the highest administrative levels.

“Conservatively, eliminating one chancellor position alone would save hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Pick wrote in an email.

Pick said it’s uncertain how this may impact faculty and degree programs.

“An example of how it may play out is the new economics degree resulting from cooperation between the campuses that would not have been possible if the degree were to be offered separately at each campus,” Pick wrote. “There is a lot of uncertainty about what will happen. The planning portion of the merger will take a year to 18 months but the faculty will be intimately involved in any merger of degree programs and academic departments.”

Though the announcement mentioned only administrative consolidation, comments by Keon and Dworkin indicated that the changes will impact the academic departments.

Graduate student Alex Criswell is pursuing two masters degrees — one at each campus — so he’s familiar with the commute and both the similarities and differences of the two schools. Beyond simply standardizing admissions and data systems, Criswell said he’s interested in whether the changes will point the institution toward becoming an online university.

“I’m graduating this spring so it may not impact me, but I worry about how this could affect students who are behind me and professors I’ve had,” Criswell said.

Keon said new technologies will be an integral part of linking the campuses, but he emphasized that “we are not trying to become an online university.”

Associate professor of chemistry Rey Barreto asked whether courses with a handful of students that are offered at both campuses would be consolidated at one campus and offered remotely at the other campus.

Keon said it might be worth bringing the two departments together to create efficiencies so they have enough students to justify the degree.

The future of the universities’ sports teams are up in the air as well, Dworkin said.



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