10/2/20 Purdue trustees

Polytechnic Institute Dean Gary Bertoline, foreground, addresses Purdue's trustees in a meeting Friday morning at Purdue's polytechnic high school in Indianapolis.

Purdue’s Board of Trustees will meet Friday to vote on the implementation of a civics literacy graduation requirement for Purdue West Lafayette — and all of its satellite campuses.

The civics literacy requirement, which would mandate all Purdue students to attend approved civics courses or listen to the entirety of 12 podcasts created by the Purdue Center for C-SPAN Scholarship & Engagement, was initially proposed as a West Lafayette campus-only requirement but is classified on the board meeting agenda with (SW), meaning systemwide. That means Purdue Northwest, Purdue Fort Wayne and IUPUI would all require the program.

The University Senate voted against the program in April 2020.

“This makes the board’s decision to progress forward even more problematic,” Alice Pawley, Purdue professor and chapter president of the American Association of University Professors at Purdue, said in an email Monday night. “The senates at the system schools also have responsibilities for their curricula and graduation requirements — and the board hasn’t even tried to work with those faculty to get consent.”

Pawley said in a later phone interview that representatives from Purdue’s satellite campuses “absolutely didn’t know” that the civics literacy requirement existed, let alone that it would apply to them as well.

“This is par for the course,” Dave Nalbone, professor at Purdue Northwest and statewide AAUP president, said in a phone interview Tuesday. “The Board of Trustees is saying, ‘We don’t care what they think.’

“It is deliberately insulting.”

Nalbone learned about it only when Pawley told him earlier this week.

“Why don’t you consult the faculty?” he asked. “It’s like a team designing a racer in a back room and not asking the racer driver to test-drive it.”

Provost Jay Akridge introduced the proposal for the graduation requirement to the board. While the board has jurisdiction over all Purdue campuses, Akridge has no authority over them directly. Each campus has a chancellor who reports directly to President Mitch Daniels.

The Exponent has requested a copy of the proposal and had not received it by publication. Pawley said neither she nor any other faculty member has seen the proposal. Akridge confirmed with Pawley on Wednesday morning that the program will be systemwide but has not responded to any of her requests for the proposal, she said.

Pawley provided multiple documents regarding the civics literacy program. One of the documents referred specifically to the West Lafayette campus, and none of them mentions any satellite campuses.

“In a way I understand their decision to not involve the other senates,” she said. “They wouldn’t want to go against more senates. They don’t want to do the legwork.”

Pawley said it was “so hypocritical” for the board to go against the senate’s vote on a program to promote civics literacy.

In response to this news, Nalbone said he expects to see a vote of no confidence in the trustees in the near future.

AAUP chapter presidents from Purdue Northwest and Purdue Fort Wayne did not respond for requests for comment by publication.

It is still unclear whether Purdue Global or Purdue’s nine polytechnic institutes are included in the requirement.

Retirement age and nepotism

The board also plans to address items titled “Approval of Exceptions to Nepotism Policy,” which applies systemwide, and “Exceptions to Mandatory Retirement Age,” which applies only to the West Lafayette campus.

When The Exponent called Akridge about this, Purdue spokesperson Tim Doty responded with an email, which read, in part: “As this will be brought up at the BoT (board of trustees) meeting, we won’t have anything for you until Friday. As soon as items are voted on or the meeting ends, we send out the news releases.”

Doty did not respond when asked whether the immediate availability of news releases implied the decisions are made in advance.

The decision-making of a board of a public entity is required to be in public, according to Indiana’s Open Door Law.

When asked more generally about the mandatory requirement age, Doty responded with a link to Purdue’s retirement age policy.

Purdue’s policy is as follows:

“University Executives and Staff in High Policymaking Positions shall retire by the end of the fiscal year in which the age of 65 is attained if (1) the employee has been employed in such capacity for the two-year period immediately before retirement, and (2) the employee is entitled to the Minimum Retirement Benefit Specified by Federal Law for persons who hold positions to which mandatory retirements may lawfully apply.”

The retirement policy does not apply if the executive has not accumulated enough funds in a retirement account to generate at least $44,000 per year, according to Exponent reporting from 2012.

The policy also states administrators can return to faculty upon retirement. There are no exclusions to this policy, according to Purdue’s website.

Daniels’ contract, however, “supersedes” this policy, Doty said in his email.

Purdue’s nepotism policy is, in part, as follows:

“Purdue University prohibits all persons from being employed or continuing employment in any position that places them under the Administrative Supervision of another employee with whom they have a Personal Relationship. All faculty and staff are further prohibited from exercising Evaluative Supervision for a Purdue University student with whom they have a Personal Relationship.

“Exceptions to this policy may only be granted by the Vice President for Ethics and Compliance.”

There are no exclusions to this policy, according to Purdue’s website.

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