PUC, PNC to merge administrations

2014-02-26T19:02:00Z 2014-02-27T10:30:07Z PUC, PNC to merge administrationsTimes Staff nwitimes.com
February 26, 2014 7:02 pm  • 

Purdue University Calumet in Hammond and Purdue University North Central in Westville will merge administrative duties, the universities announced Wednesday.

The details of the merger have not been worked out, but eventually it will lead to one chancellor who will oversee both campuses.

According to a joint statement, the two campuses, which are 35 miles apart, will remain, but administrative and academic leadership will be consolidated into a central office.

The move follows joint proposals by Thomas Keon, chancellor at Purdue University Calumet, and James Dworkin, chancellor of Purdue University North Central, to collaborate on a plan for implementing the move later this year.

Keon and Dworkin said the savings will be part of the planning process, but there are no definite numbers right now. "We will have more specific data later in the process," Dworkin said.

During a joint telephone conference about the merger, Keon said it is difficult to anticipate whether anyone would lose a job. He said there is normal attrition that takes place, and there are several openings at the Calumet campus and they will look toward people at both campuses to fill those vacancies.

"No immediate changes will be seen," Keon said. "We expect to begin discussion starting across both campuses to bring everyone together and get input on how to make the most effective and efficient changes in our structure."

Purdue officials said the joint proposal reflects Purdue's continued emphasis on administrative cost savings to promote student affordability and accessibility. Keon talked about the benefit of having one Information Technology department and managing student data from one location. A registrar and admissions may still be needed at both locations.

Currently, Purdue Calumet has a student population of 9,500, with about 1,000 dual-enrollment students. PNC has an enrollment of 5,600 students, of whom about 3,500 are full time.

Combining the academic side will be a bit more challenging, Keon said.

"We will be doing quite a bit of work on this," Keon said. "The doctor of nursing degree is being offered at all campuses. We're doing joint courses between the two campuses right now. This is all about making this better for students."

The chancellors said there also will be discussion about the athletic programs at both campuses.

"Whatever changes are made, the university as a whole, we will be stronger as an institution than any one individually," he said.

Dworkin said, "Both campuses already have many strengths, but by working together closely we will be able to create an even stronger presence in the many communities which we serve. In the final analysis, we will be better able to serve our students, which should always be our highest priority."

There has been no discussion about name changes for the two campuses, but Keon said he expects the "campuses will still be known as the Calumet and North Central campuses."

Linda Woloshansky, president and CEO of the Valparaiso-based Center of Workforce Innovations who has worked with the two campuses, said Dworkin and Keon are innovative and thoughtful leaders and have always acted in the best interests of their students and the community.

"This is an example of their belief in collaboration and regionalism," she said. "Each of these campuses have strong programs which will complement and support each other."

Sen. Ed Charbonneau said he was not surprised the two universities merged, and it wasn't too long ago that there was some discussion about the two regional Purdue campuses merging with Indiana University Northwest in Gary.

"We're in a world competition for jobs and in order for us to win, we must have a world educated workforce, and we have the obligation to make sure it's affordable," Charbonneau said. "We've done this in the steel industry and the hospital industry. This is not a new and radical concept."

Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers said the commission is encouraged by Purdue's plans to maximize efficiency while maintaining academic quality at its regional campuses.

"These efforts to streamline services and eliminate duplicative functions are consistent with Purdue’s strategic plan and our commission’s priority on increasing college productivity and student success,” she said.

Students and faculty at Purdue Calumet said they hoped the announcement will offer new opportunities for the academic programs.

Rachel McCooley, a sophomore studying nursing, said some classes aren't offered each semester and more class options and instructors would help.

"That affects the students and our lectures, especially in the science department," McCooley said. "Most of the time our teachers are hurrying to get through the material without any time to ask questions."

Saul Lerner, a Purdue Calumet professor in the Department of History and Political Sciences, said it comes down to what steps the administration takes during consolidation.

"I think there is opportunity to grow," Lerner said, "but we have to see how this all develops."

Dworkin told the faculty and staff at PNC the merger probably would take about two years to complete with the administrative change completed in 12 to 15 months. Issues such as tenure, salary parity and course sharing will take longer because they involve more levels of approval and will involve more discussions with teachers.

PNC sophomore nursing student Jake Wright said, "I think it's pretty cool. A lot of people from the region go to classes here, and they wouldn't have to travel so far."

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