The first Purdue University Senate meeting of the year featured an update on changes within Purdue University Global following recent disputes over the online university’s recently publicized nondisclosure agreement and arbitration requirement.
The subject of PUG arose as co-chairs Deborah Nichols and Stephen Beaudoin of the Kaplan Entity Special Committee presented and answered questions about the online school.
Nichols explained the nondisclosure agreement for professors, which drew criticism from the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank that first published it. The policy, she said, has been completely scrapped from PUG.
She said the committee had known of the agreement since early summer and eventually scheduled a meeting with PUG Chancellor Betty Vandenbosch. Unfortunately, news of the policy broke before the meeting was held.
Nichols and Beaudoin also broached the issue of PUG’s relationship with public records. The entity enjoys special privilege because it’s not completely public.
“There are legal reasons why Global is not subject to Freedom of Information Act laws,” Beaudoin said, though he did not elaborate at the meeting.
Legislation passed by the Indiana General Assembly last spring exempted Purdue's newly acquired arm from the state's open-door laws.
The co-chairs reported PUG’s rationale for rejecting public records requests was that FOIA requests are too expensive and time-consuming, which drew seemingly incredulous laughs from faculty but no other comment.
Policy updates also included the arbitration requirement PUG put forth for its students.
Current guidelines dictate students must agree to settle legal disputes with the formerly for-profit online university outside the courts, according to the Century Foundation.
Nichols and Beaudoin said they will look into faculty concerns about possible contradictions within the arbitration requirement and PUG’s current statements.
“We’re trying to figure out how (Purdue and PUG policies) align to the benefit of students at both places,” Nichols said after the meeting.
“They don’t sign away any of their rights to not complain. I mean, that would be crazy.”