IU undergrad music degrees would become unavailable in Ft. Wayne under state agency’s proposal

But Purdue University promises to welcome all existing IPFW programs, including music … and that could be good for IPFW’s music students

IPFW's orchestra and choirs perform during their annual holiday concert. A proposal by a state agency could, in enacted, replace Indiana University's undergraduate music degree programs in Fort Wayne with Purdue University music degree programs..
IPFW’s orchestra and choirs perform during their annual holiday concert. (IPFW photo)

Editor’s note: Despite the fact that I’m a musician trained in the Ball State University School of Music, I don’t usually write about the arts in this blog. But recent news prompts me to do so. Also, edits to the original version of this article reflect subsequently received information that the music programs themselves are apparently in no jeopardy, while a state agency’s recommendations would eventually jeopardize the availability of IU music degrees in Fort Wayne. A Jan. 18 edit to this post represents some new thoughts.

Jan. 18, 2016 — Today, the Indiana Legislative Services Agency (LSA) issued a report and recommendations regarding the future of the Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). If all its recommendations are implemented, it appears that students would no longer be able to receive undergraduate Indiana University (IU) music degrees in Fort Wayne.

There are scenarios in which a transition from IU to Purdue could be good for the Fort Wayne music department and its students.

A few hours after the LSA issued its recommendations, however, Purdue distributed a memo that contained the following statement:

“The Purdue University system welcomes all Indiana University programs currently offered on the Fort Wayne campus. Importantly, this welcome includes Indiana University mission programs on the Fort Wayne campus that are not currently offered elsewhere within the Purdue University system.”

That information comes from a memo to IPFW faculty from Deba Dutta, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs and diversity at Purdue.

Purdue University has never in its history conferred a music degree. One might wonder, therefore, about the sustainability of music programs that grant Purdue degrees, as I wrote in a subsequent blog post. It’s reasonable to wonder, “would fewer prospective music students enroll in a program that grants degrees from an institution that has no reputation in music, and if not, would falling enrollment eventually harm the local music programs?”

IPFW’s current music department chair, however, seems optimistic, as I also reported in a different blog post:

“I am very confident that, if we can be successful in this current strange collaboration of IU and Purdue, we can be just as successful if we are managed by someone else.” — Dr. Greg Jones, chair of the IPFW Music Department

That optimism could be founded in the belief that music students enroll at IPFW for reasons other than the IU degree they’d receive. In addition to proximity to home, for example, they might prefer smaller classes, greater opportunities to perform with top ensembles, and the ability to learn from primary faculty (vs. teaching graduate students), all advantages over larger programs such as those in Bloomington.

There’s reason to believe that IU doesn’t fully support all of its undergraduate degree programs at IPFW. Notice, for example, this comment, posted publicly on Facebook Jan. 17 by IPFW English and Linguistics Professor Steve Amidon: “IU seems to want nothing to do with us. In fact, I’ve been told that, six months before the current governance document expires, IU has already stopped approving or considering course or program change requests.

The fact that Purdue has no music degree program (and therefore no curricula to prescribe) might be very good for the Fort Wayne campus, if Purdue therefore allows Fort Wayne faculty to determine what the various curricula should look like. The local faculty could then design curricula that best meet the needs of students who come to the Fort Wayne campus.

That might mean using the existing, IU curricula, or the existing curricula with improvements that IU might not have permitted. Of course, a worst-case scenario would be a non-musical administrator in West Lafayette mandating what he or she believes is best for a music degree program. I hope that scenario is unlikely.

I originally used this blog post to encourage readers who value the the ability to earn an IU music degree in Fort Wayne,  or who doubt the sustainability of a Purdue music degree program, to consider contacting IU’s president.

I no longer recommend this, because IPFW’s music department might well be better off as a Purdue program.

In case you missed it above, here’s a link to the verbatim LSA report:

https://iga.in.gov/static-documents/0/e/5/7/0e57802c/evaluation_report_1.15.2016.pdf

I welcome you to share this blog with others.

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