Mitch Daniels, Governor of Indiana, has just been appointed President of Purdue University, the second largest university in the State of Indiana, by that University’s Board of Trustees, eight of whom were appointed by Mitch Daniels.
Daniels, who successfully rammed through a host of draconian measures while Governor, including ending collective bargaining for State workers, enshrining discrimination into the State Constitution and disastrously outsourcing the State’s welfare services to IBM, has also been no friend of public education. He has pushed through voucher policies that promote the privatization of Indiana Schools and has diverted taxpayer money to some of the most extreme radical elements in our society. He is currently working to gut teacher certification in Indiana. He has acted as an aggressive shill for “Western Governor’s University,” an online concern based in Salt Lake City, Utah, which, awards academic credits based not on how much time students spend in the classroom but on the skills and knowledge they can show they've mastered.”
While Governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels has cut $150 million from the State’s already underfunded higher education budget. At Purdue, State funding fell from $262 million in 2009 to $233 million in 2011. Mitch Daniels claims his first concern would be for the amount debt students take on but in-state tuition at Purdue has risen 62% since 2004 although Governor Daniels denies there is any causation between decreased State support and increased tuition rates. Meanwhile, while schools suffered shortfalls under Mitch Daniels’ changes to school funding formulas requiring painful cuts in staffing and programs in our Public schools, the Daniels administration somehow “mislaid” $500 million that should have been distributed to Indiana’s cash-starved counties.
`The Purdue Exponent quotes unnamed “analysts” as contending that Governor Daniels’, “national reputation from his days as a former White House budget director will help him with the challenges ahead,” expecting us to forget how as George W. Bush’s budget director Mitch Daniels he predicted the United States would have a surplus of $5.6 trillion and estimated that the total cost for Iraq War would be around $50 billion. Still, Mitch Daniels is being counted on to call on the connections he’s made with political donors to double Purdue’s $200 million endowment.
In a survey of Purdue students, faculty and staff conducted at the start of the search process, and overwhelmingly agreed that, “essential that the new president have academic credentials equivalent to a tenured full professor.” Mitch Daniels has never worked in academia. He did graduate with a Bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, where he was able to negotiate a plea deal to possession of marijuana, LSD, and non-prescribed prescription drugs, and also a law degree from Georgetown University.
R. William Funk, whose Dallas based R. William Funk and Associates worked on this search and the last three Purdue Presidential searches, put forth that, “These president roles are increasingly external in their focus, which means fundraising, lobbying the legislature, being the cheerleader for the university, spreading the word of its quality and good work, going to Washington and dealing with federal granting agencies. And when you think about it, he’s uniquely prepared and qualified in those types of areas.
Dennis Barden, of the Witt/Keiffer executive search company, termed Mitch Daniels selection as a “Wow appointment.”
“Your average politician is pretty fickle when it comes to connecting with people, engaging with them, and stating a case for support,” Mr. Barden stated, perhaps misunderstanding the correct use of “fickle.”
Since the 1980s, we have seen the model for State Universities move away from academics, of learning for learning’s sake, and toward a “business” model which has brought with it a reduction in tenured professors, an increase in student teaching assistants instead of full professors teaching undergraduates from standardized teaching plans, the reduction and outsourcing of support staff, an elimination of programs that do not generate enough income and a corresponding rise in the number of administrators and an extreme upward spiraling of administrative compensation. We have also seen an influx of politicians “retiring” into highly paid positions in higher education, some of which caused a great scandal when it turned out they and their relatives had been ghosting it at the then-fledgling public-private partnership that turned the for profit Ivy-Tech into the State’s de facto community college system.
Mitch Daniels has been an advocate for increased “efficiency” in higher education, leading the charge to eliminate credits needed to earn some degrees and modeling universities more along the lines of trade schools. This conception of the University as a place to earn a specialized degree, one that may become quickly outdated without continuing study in that field, is a step back from the University’s historic contention that they teach people to think in a rigorous manner so they will be equipped to adapt to a wide range of employment opportunities.
A couple of Sundays ago, an editorial appeared in the Bloomington Herald Times written by Cecil Bonham of the Right Wing “think tank,” Indiana Policy Review, referenced Higher Education as creating “human capital,” and went on to repeatedly talk about a “well educated workforce,” without a word or a thought for education for education’s sake. Of education as a necessary tool to develop an intelligent, well-rounded, citizenry. Of education as a means of self-fulfillment.
Still, they might be right. Purdue is, after all, Indiana’s “Agricultural College,” and if there’s one thing Mitch Daniels has an abundance of, it’s BS to spread around.