WEST LAFAYETTE, IN – Three Purdue chapters of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) – West Lafayette, Northwest, and Fort Wayne – released a statement today expressing disappointment in the secretive process by which the Purdue University Board of Trustees have selected Purdue’s next president. The Board announced on Friday, June 10 that the current president would be stepping down at the end of their current term, and they had already selected the new president who would start January 1, 2023. In so doing, the Board failed to provide transparency and openness of the search process and criteria, to involve stakeholders including faculty, and to offer candidates a public campus visit to engage with the campus community.
Purdue-West Lafayette (WL) chapter president Leigh Raymond, professor of Political Science, shared the chapter’s concerns about the Board’s announcement. “We are alarmed about the lack of any public engagement with the faculty or campus community about such an important leadership decision. Purdue’s land grant mission is built on a vision of transparency and collaboration between the university and the community; this process falls far short of those core principles,” he said.
Purdue-WL chapter executive committee member-at-large, Michael Johnston, associate professor of English, added, “It is absolutely standard practice for universities to run public searches for the position of president. This ensures both transparency and that the voices of the faculty are part of the hiring decision. The fact that the university community was not even alerted to the transition until the new president was announced is a clear violation of this basic norm.”
Purdue-WL chapter secretary/treasurer Kayla Young, graduate student in Political Science, spoke about the lack of student involvement in selecting new university leadership. “AAUP considers faculty anyone who does the job of faculty, including graduate students. Both undergraduate and graduate students are important stakeholders at Purdue, and could have contributed much to the process of recruiting a new president,” she said.
Purdue-WL chapter executive committee member and past president Alice Pawley, professor in the School of Engineering Education, expressed her frustration with the Board. She said, “This was a chance for Purdue to do shared governance right. But the Board keeps showing us again and again that they’re not interested in engaging in the shared responsibility for the university’s welfare between the Board, the President and the Faculty. AAUP standards are extraordinarily clear about both the import of public presidential searches, and the role of the faculty in ensuring a successful process. Why our Board keeps ignoring precedent at Purdue, and decades of good practice recognized nationwide, over things that are so important, is baffling.”
Purdue Northwest chapter president David Detmer, professor of philosophy, noted how a lack of faculty consultation is a disturbing pattern for the Daniels administration. “In 2014, President Daniels and the Board of Trustees ordered two Purdue universities—Purdue University Calumet and Purdue University North Central—to merge. When the Faculty Senate at Purdue Calumet passed a resolution calling for more study before taking this critical decision, this faculty recommendation was rejected.”
Despite this inauspicious beginning of this new presidency, the chapter members across the Purdue University system expressed hope that there is a unique opportunity to improve the culture of shared governance at Purdue under the new administration. Raymond concluded, ‘“Although we are disappointed in the process for selecting our new president, we at AAUP-Purdue are committed to working with the new administration on the key challenges facing the university and its faculty, students, staff, and stakeholders going forward.”
About the American Association of University Professors
The American Association of University Professors (AAUP), with over 50,000 members and 500 local chapters, champions academic freedom; advances shared governance; and organizes to promote economic security for all academic professionals. Since 1915, the AAUP has shaped American higher education by developing standards and procedures that uphold quality education. The Purdue University system sports AAUP advocacy chapters at Purdue-West Lafayette, Purdue-Fort Wayne and Purdue-Northwest regional campuses, and Indiana has a statewide conference. Local chapters serve as an independent voice of their faculties on matters of shared governance, academic freedom, and working conditions for faculty. Members join the national organization, and then are part of the local chapter.