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Purdue’s Faculty Senate Seeks to Rescind Kaplan Deal

Saying Purdue University’s purchase of Kaplan University violated “both common-sense educational practice and respect for the Purdue faculty,” the university’s Faculty Senate voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to ask Purdue’s leaders to reconsider the deal.

Following a two-hour meeting, the Senate voted, 46 to 8 with one abstention, on a resolution calling on the president and Board of Trustees “to rescind any decisions, to the degree possible, made without faculty input.” The vote came just one week after Purdue’s surprise announcement of its deal to buy the 32,000-student university in an effort to jump-start its online profile.

Since then a number of questions have arisen about the deal, prompted in part by reporting by the Journal and Courier, that the new arm of Purdue would not be subject to state public-records laws.

The Indiana Conference of the American Association of University Professors has also come out against the deal.

Before the Faculty Senate vote, Purdue’s president, Mitch Daniels, spent an hour answering questions about the deal, insisting to faculty members that the university had examined all the key issues in the five and a half months it spent secretly negotiating and vetting the plan. “This is the most risk-free relationship I can imagine,” he told them, while also criticizing several of their questions as confused, non sequiturs, and “a mess.”

When one professor cited concerns that had been raised in a commentary published in The Chronicle, Mr. Daniels brushed off the question and instead attacked the article’s author, Robert Shireman, claiming incorrectly that he had left the U.S. Department of Education under a cloud.

Mr. Daniels also claimed that Mr. Shireman had been “caught consorting with short sellers” in connection with his work at the department during the early days of the Obama administration, when he helped write regulations that toughened oversight of for-profit colleges. Mr. Shireman’s conduct at the time was the subject of an investigation, prompted by complaints from political supporters of the for-profit-college industry, but no findings or charges were ever issued.

“It’s baloney,” Mr. Shireman said of the allegations revived by Mr. Daniels. He also took to Twitter to ask the Purdue president for an apology and retraction of his comments.

It is unclear what weight the Faculty Senate’s resolution will carry. The next step in the approval process for the Kaplan deal is a vote by the Indiana Commission on Higher Education, but based on a statement that its commissioner, Teresa Lubbers, issued just minutes after the faculty vote, approval there seems all but assured.

The commission “looks forward to working with Purdue University to develop the procedures required for authorization of this new state education-affiliated institution,” the statement said. “As higher education evolves to serve more students in innovative ways, we will seek to ensure that new models enhance access, affordability, and academic quality for students.”

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