EDITORIAL: Don't shackle faculty at regional campuses

2013-12-09T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Don't shackle faculty at regional campuses nwitimes.com
December 09, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Indiana Higher Education Commission raised eyebrows and tempers when it adopted a policy in October that seemed to put restraints on academic freedom at regional campuses.

Commissioner Teresa Lubbers said recently the commission's policy on professors' research likely will be clarified. Good.

That policy said, in part, "Regional campuses should limit research to scholarly activity related to faculty teaching responsibilities and research related to local and regional needs."

Lubbers said during a recent Northwest Indiana visit the policy wasn't designed to limit academic freedom. The commission has "no interest or legal authority to dictate policy to regional campuses," she said.

Nor do the regional campus have any interest in being subject to that kind of dictate.

"The faculty at Purdue University Calumet should be engaged in a broad array of scholarship to keep current in their academic field in order to provide graduates with rich learning experiences," Purdue University Calumet Chancellor Thomas Keon said.

In the midst of this tug-of-war between the main campus and regional campuses, remember the goal in Indiana is to produce more college graduates. Indiana needs more college graduates to attract the high-paying jobs the state needs.

Nor do regional campuses offer substandard education. A Purdue University degree is a Purdue University degree, regardless of where it is earned. The same is true of Indiana University.

Having talented faculty throughout the state means giving them freedom to pursue their research interests.

Faculty at regional campuses conduct research that helps the local economy. But they shouldn't be limited to that type of research, any more than their colleagues at the main campus should be scholastically handcuffed.

Faculty at regional campuses have done some amazing work, too. 

Neeti Parashar, a physics professor at Purdue University Calumet, was on the team that won the Nobel Prize in physics this year. Valparaiso native Dayna Thompson was a student when she worked with Parashar on that project involving the Higgs boson subatomic particle, often referred to as "the God particle."

Parashar isn't alone in exposing students to groundbreaking research, either.

So revise the commission's policy. Make sure it's clear that students at all campuses will have the opportunity to benefit from professors' research, rather than trying to concentrate university "stars" on the main campus at the expense of regional campuses.

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