PNW Pioneer

Students, faculty provide reflections, concerns following unification

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With a year and a half since the unification of the PNC and PUC, several issues remain unresolved including the university’s budget deficit, tenure of faculty and the reconfiguration of academic programs.

Carmen Panlilio, vice chancellor of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, said it can take up to five years to see earliest stability after university unification. Panlilio said that while PNW is still working to gain stability as a unified university, it is important for the campuses to be working as one.

“While we can celebrate our differences in so other many ways, when it comes to a unified institution, we need to celebrate that one version,” Panlilio said.

Student perspectives

Elizabeth Watkins, junior education major, said unification has been beneficial for her. She attends the Hammond campus, but takes classes in Westville during the summer because she lives closer to Westville.

“I think it made it better for both campuses. The only thing I don’t like about the merger is that the Westville campus still does not offer half of my classes, and it would be more convenient to have them there,” Watkins said.

Riley Owens, SGA chief of staff, said unification has not been easy for students at the Westville campus.

“There is an overarching theme of broken promises,” Owens said.

Owens said the Westville campus has not been treated equally and there are some people who believe the Hammond campus is the main campus. Owens said he feels some people think the Hammond campus is better than the Westville campus.

“We are one university, so let’s act like one. Let’s not play games of having one campus being better than another. We are both equal campuses getting the same degrees,” Owens said.

Owens also said he wants degree availability to be equal on both campuses. Owens said that many professors hold more office hours at the Hammond campus, and that there are more classes offered at the Hammond campus as well.

“Some majors are basically forced to drive to Hammond if they don’t want to transfer schools because the classes they need are offered there at Hammond. If they are offered at Westville, it’s only offered once a year,” Owens said.

Owens said there are a lot of students and instructors on the Westville campus who share his feelings toward unification.

“People don’t speak up because they are scared of repercussions,” Owens said.

Faculty perspectives

Geoffrey Schultz and Dan Wilbur, chair and co-chair of Faculty Senate, said the members of the unified Senate have been working well together, although there are some challenges, including academic programs, tenure and the budget deficit.

Wilbur said the Senate is working on aligning curriculum between the campuses.

“At first, we had to have it aligned to a certain extent before we officially became Purdue Northwest. Now we are looking at it again and we see there’s duplicate courses, or one campus was doing a program very differently from another program,” Wilbur said. “Some faculty are angry at administration. There is uncertainty of what’s going to happen with our degree programs.”

Currently, some classes are only offered on one campus, creating a problem for some students. Schultz does not see that changing in the future.

“There is a perception that students have to travel,” Schultz said.

At the Senate meeting on Oct. 13, 2017, an instructor from Westville said that he was being told to travel to Hammond to teach a course and that administrators would not have faculty travel to both campuses. Ralph Mueller, provost and vice chancellor of Academic Affairs, said that there may need to be some traveling between campuses if the course is only offered at one campus.

“There choices are to either travel and teach the section or be assigned a course to stay on campus that may not be in your area of expertise,” Mueller said. “If those courses are not available the only other way to make up your teaching is to bank it, so you owe a course the following semester. We need to be clear at some point of where to teach or we make sure that there is enough for you to do.”

There have been rumors that instructors will be forced to travel between campuses, but Schultz said Chancellor Keon has received no complaints and that is not true.

“When unification began, faculty supposedly agreed that you didn’t need to teach on the other campus unless you wanted to,” Schultz said.

Schultz said faculty has not received a pay raise in 4 to 6 years and that many are concerned about tenure. There is currently a plan for tenure that applies to all of PNW, and the Senate is working on reconfiguring it. Schultz also said he has noticed that there seems to be more positions being created such as associate deans in colleges and the adding of administration in the Chancellor’s office.

“Why all of a sudden do we need all these administrators when we are in the midst of enrollment decline?” Schultz said.

Schultz and Wilbur said despite the challenges, they believe that the transition has been smooth. They said the transition after unification can be a 7-year process, and that PNW is running on course.

“We’re doing great, there’s enrollment declines, and we are still studying the reasons behind those,” Wilbur said.

Schultz said he believes that the issues will be resolved in time.

“I think about my wife when we were having our first child. It took three days until our daughter was born and nine months of the gestation period. When she was finally born, it was all worth it. I think that’s what’s happening here; we are going through a gestation period,” Schultz said.

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