Diplomas to change to say PNW, students opposed to change

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For Spring 2019 PNW graduates, diplomas will say they were earned at PNW instead of  Purdue University due to a Board of Trustees decision, according to a Sept. 28 statement by Chancellor Thomas Keon.

Keon said, in an interview with The Pioneer on Sept. 19, that the Board of Trustees decided that Purdue Global needed a separate diploma. Purdue Global, the online university previously known as Kaplan University, was purchased by Purdue University in April 2017. The Board of Trustees concluded, according to Keon, that all four universities should have differentiated diplomas: Purdue University, Purdue Global, Purdue Fort Wayne and PNW.

The Pioneer contacted the Board of Trustees on Sept. 25 for comment but has not received a response.

The diplomas previously stated that the Board of Trustees of Purdue University granted the degree with an indication at the bottom that the degree was awarded at Purdue University Northwest in the State of Indiana. The new diploma will now state that Purdue University Northwest has granted the degree.

Keon said distinguishing between diplomas conferred at regional universities is common among other public universities.

“The significance of this change for Purdue Northwest is further cementing our unique identity as a university that is strong, vibrant, innovative, diverse and an increasingly competitive choice for exceptional, nationally-recognized undergraduate and graduate education,” Keon said.

After May 2019, alumni will also be given the opportunity to order a new diploma reflecting the change and will be notified how to do so through the PNW Alumni Community, according to a university press release sent on Sept. 28.

Jerry Lewis, vice chancellor for Communications and Marketing at Purdue Fort Wayne, responded to the decision to change diplomas.

“It is not uncommon for regional universities within large public systems — especially universities that are independently accredited — to award diplomas at the individual institution level,” Lewis said.

Dustin Thibideau, SGA vice president, said he doesn’t agree with the decision because PNW is still an affiliate of Purdue University and is still governed by it, making the diploma distinction obsolete.

“Students still want the degree that says they went to a prestigious university despite going to a smaller campus. That gives them an edge in the job market,” Thibideau said.

He hopes that the university will survey the students regarding the potential changes.

Riley Owens, SGA president, spoke to Keon on Sept. 28 regarding the matter and said that he understands why the Board of Trustees made the decision even though he does not agree with it.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to put [this change] on the students that are already here and thought they were graduating with a Purdue University degree,” Owens said.

He plans to bring student feedback on the matter to the next Board of Trustees meeting to propose postponing the decision, allowing students currently enrolled to earn a diploma without the change and giving the changed diplomas to incoming freshmen.

A petition circulating through social media gained 10,000 signatures in three days and a student protest has been organized for Oct. 1 on both the Hammond and Westville campuses.



The students graduating in December 2018 will receive the previous diploma (left) and the students graduating in May 2019 and onward will receive the new diploma (right). Images: Provided



Update: This story was updated on Sept. 30 to reflect the student response to the announcement.