IBJNews

Daniels tackles skeptics, prepares for Purdue job

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is meeting skeptics head-on as he educates himself about the challenges he'll face as the next president of Purdue University.

Daniels is mid-way through a six-month transition from his role as governor to one of leading a land-grant university. He's spending time on campus, reaching out to national higher education leaders and immersing himself in issues.

Daniels' appointment June 21 was met with an outpouring of displeasure from many faculty, alumni and students, who questioned his qualifications and worried about how his cuts to education funding and reputation as a change agent would play out in his new role.

According to the Journal & Courier, Purdue received 340 emails between June 19 and June 25 in which anti-Daniels missives outnumbered pro-Daniels letters by a margin of nearly 8 to 1.

Daniels is using vacation days from his governor's job to meet with faculty, staff and students. But he says the visits aren't designed to win anyone over.

"It is much more about learning the job. But if there is one unanimous bit of input one gets from talking to people here, talking to people who have been at other universities, from reading, it is: The better the communication, the stronger the sense of common purpose is between the faculty, who are the core of the university, and whoever holds the job I'll hold, the better," Daniels said.

Daniels says he intends to continue the goals of predecessors in striving to make Purdue a pre-eminent university in research, learning, outreach and educational value.

But his reputation as a privatizer of services — such as the state's welfare system and the Indiana Toll Road — and for cutting K-12 education funding have left many uneasy.

Alumni R. Thomas and Anne Schowe, of Santa Barbara, Calif., donated a house at 1341 Northwestern Ave. in West Lafayette to Purdue that is home of the Global Policy Research Institute, among other gifts.

Hours after word of Daniels' appointment spread, Anne Schowe sent an email to university development officers announcing she would stop financial support except for previous pledges to the policy institute because of issues with Daniels, including his decision to sign a law cutting Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood of Indiana because it provides abortions.

"Our family has a long-term commitment to Purdue and love for Purdue," she said. "Mr. Daniels' tenure, now that it has come to pass, will be a short episode in the total history of a great university."

Daniels says decisions he made as governor were appropriate for that job but shouldn't be used to predict what he'll bring to Purdue.

"First off, I respect them to have their opinions on what I did in my old job, my current job now," Daniels said. "I hope they would stop and think that in my new assignment that we have exactly the same objectives: a greater Purdue that is affordable to all those students who can meet its standards. That is all I will be working on."

Ebony Barrett-Kennedy, a clerk in the facility engineering department, attended a recent meeting with Daniels and was pleased that he seemed to be interested in learning about Purdue.

"I appreciate someone who can come in and say they don't know something," she said.

But she still worries that It won't translate into action once Daniels takes over in January.

"He is still courting the job he was given," she said.

Daniels said he does his "own homework" and has engaged in an intensive process to prepare for his new job.

He said he has reached out to about 50 education leaders, including David Boren, former governor of Oklahoma and now University of Oklahoma system president; Robert Gates, former president of Texas A&M, director of the Central Intelligence Agency and, most recently, former secretary of defense in the Barack Obama administration; and William Bowen, former Princeton University and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation president.

DePauw University President Brian Casey said he and Daniels spoke for 90 minutes about how the culture of a university differs from that of state government. He said Daniels took notes throughout.

"The first thing he is going to have to wrestle with is shared governance. That is an entirely different way that faculty governs," Casey said. "One of the things you have to recognize right away — he is extremely intelligent. But the question is, can he radically manage something that is different than what he is used to.

"He is not coming in as an unknown character; he has so much notoriety. But now he is reintroducing himself to a new constituency."

Purdue professor Melanie Shoffner said that notoriety may fade once Daniels is seen making an effort to understand Purdue's colleges and helping them solve their issues.

"I think he has positioned himself in politics as someone who is a change agent, wants to alter the landscape," she said. "So change is not a bad thing. I don't think people here are opposed to change. They just don't know what his change is."

J. Paul Robinson, chairman of the University Senate, said many faculty were shocked by Daniels' appointment because he did not come up through academic ranks as past presidents had. But he said he doesn't want Daniels to be a clone of other presidents.

"I don't want him to be shackled," he said.

ADVERTISEMENT

  • Pulleeeze
    I really do not understand the animosity toward Mitch Daniels and his being named President of Purdue University. The guy is a class act, extremely intelligent, incredibly experienced in a way that no other person I can think of is, and the right person, far and away, for this job. Where in the heck is it written that the president of any university has to be an academic? That has probably been the problem with so many universities. Most all academics, have no real world experience, and Daniels has that experience. Purdue University needs someone with a fresh business approach. Academics are beholden to the faculty and a university does not exist for the benefit of the faculty (although they think it does). How is someone with a medical degree (Beering), physics and aeronautics degrees (Jischke), and an astrophysicist (Cordova) somehow more qualified to run a large organization like a university than someone with business and law degrees along with top private and public sector experience, plus having the notoriety and a contact list that would put to shame every academic out there. Daniels will make that university, my alma mater, the best, far and away.
  • unfortunate
    Indiana will be paying the price for years to come for the desisions he has made, unfortinate that now purdue will be paying the price double.

    Post a comment to this story

    COMMENTS POLICY
    We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
     
    You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
     
    Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
     
    No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
     
    We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
     

    Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

    Sponsored by
    ADVERTISEMENT

    facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
     
    Subscribe to IBJ
    1. I keep wondering why I keep hearing about this problem of corporations leaving America, and I never hear a reasonable proposal to lower corporate tax rates and raise personal rates on income from capital gains and dividends, especially for high earners. It is just too simple of a solution for Congress to embrace?

    2. Are you financially down and you need money to settle your dept,or you need money to start up a business or to invest on a huge business,we also offer Loans to individuals, Firms and cooperate bodies at low interest rate , loan terms determinant,Loan amount between the sum of $5,000.00 to $100,000,000.00. US Dollars And Euro. Loan for developing businesses a competitive edge/ business expansion. We Offer The Following Kinds Of Loans. Personal Loans (Secure and Unsecured) Business Loans (Secure and Unsecured) Consolidation Loan FIRST INFORMATIONS NEEDED ARE: BORROWER’S DATA’S INFORMATION,FILL AND RETURN FOR QUICK START UP PROCESS. Name:_________ Last Name:_________ Age:_________ Contact Address:_________ Country:_________ Amount Needed as Loan:_________ Loan Duration:_________ Phone Number__________ Monthly Income/Yearly Income:_________ Purpose for Loan:_________ Occupation:_________ How Soon is Loan Needed__________ Email via: albertbrownfirm@outlook.com

    3. is a disaster. SR37 already needs to be built to interstate standards between 465 and SR144. Southport Road is a mess each morning and evening.

    4. Bass Pro Shops would be good for the mall as well as a Giant Eagle Market District or a Jungle Jim's International Market Place grocery store like the one near Cincinnati Ohio.A Disney quest indoor theme park would be good.An Academy outdoor store would be good too.Indoor Circus shows and magic shows would be good as well. A casino with sports bar would be good.A Disney theater inside that shows movies and Broadway shows would work.Nashville Tennessee concert shops with indoor neon lights would be good.How about a theater that shows travel shows and theme parks. A train store would be good.How about a giant toy store with high tech video games.

    5. This development is in addition to Allpoints Midwest 5, Aitrtek, a recent FedEx and more in Plainfield. Greenwood and Brownsburg also have similar projects.

    ADVERTISEMENT