With just one hurdle left to clear before Purdue University’s deal to buy for-profit Kaplan University is complete, several hundred faculty members are hoping to put up a roadblock.
More than 300 of them signed a petition that was sent this week to the Higher Learning Commission, whose accreditors must sign off on the deal before it can proceed.
Former Purdue Senate Chairman David Sanders – who’s often been critical of President Mitch Daniels – sent the letter to the HLC, but says it’s not just the Senate who are behind it.
“If you looked at the list of signatories, you’ll find a substantial proportion are not in the Senate or associated with the Senate," Sanders says. "Three hundred twelve isn’t everybody at Purdue, but it’s a substantial number, it’s equivalent to the size of the College of Science or something like that.”
Purdue Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning Frank Dooley says the faculty are within their rights to express opinions about the deal, but he declined to speak on the merits of the letter to the HLC.
“I don’t think it makes sense for us right now to respond to the petition until we see does HLC think there’s merit to what was put in the petition,” Dooley says.
President Daniels has frequently dismissed the Senate’s disapproval of the deal as unrepresentative of what he claims is widespread approval of the transaction within the Purdue community.
David Sanders says he believes there’s hope the HLC will quash the deal, in part because faculty input seems a bigger part of the panel’s decision-making process.
“They’re the first organization to, I think, consider this from the perspective of the greater good of Purdue University,” Sanders says.
Dooley, who also sits on the Senate, says HLC reps visited Purdue last week and met with faculty and students.
“The HLC’s visit was a fact-finding mission, if you would," he says. "And I think part of what they want to do – one of the reasons they wanted a session with faculty is to hear from the faculty what their perspective was. So to the extent that the faculty are raising questions, concerns – that’s exactly what they should be doing.”
Dooley says he expects the HLC to issue its findings sometime in December. A final decision is likely to be made at the HLC's February meeting.