BY BILL MULLEN
Guest blogger Bill Mullen is a Professor of English and American Studies at Purdue.
Last week, Purdue University purchased Kaplan University, a for-profit on-line entity owned by Graham Holdings Company, a corporate conglomerate and former owner of the Washington Post newspaper. Purdue says it plans to make Kaplan into a public University called, provisionally, “New University.” The purchase will yield Graham Holdings 12.5 percent of earnings per year, and effectively create a “charter” University which will operate without traditional oversight protections on faculty governance, budgets, academic freedom, faculty control of curriculum, or terms of faculty labor.
The Kaplan purchase has been greeted with disdain and alarm by erstwhile conservative, pro-business and education publications, and with good reason. Significant numbers of students enrolled in Kaplan have never completed their degrees or graduate with enormous debt. According to U.S. News and World Report, its six year graduation rate is 7 percent. As with all for-profit universities, enrollments in Kaplan have been trending downwards. Kaplan is also currently embroiled in legal disputes in several states over its business practices and has been referred to in a Money Magazine article as a “predatory bottom feeder.” Finally, Purdue’s administration wrote secret backroom laws with the cooperation of the Republican legislature of Indiana to shield the “New University” from public access and accountability.
Then there is this analysis from Robert Shireman of the terms of the agreement, which put Purdue at significant financial and academic risk:
The agreement tasks the Purdue side with responsibility for academic functions like admissions and student progress standards, degree requirements, curriculum, and the management of the faculty. But academic quality is inextricably tied to the resources that the university commits to teaching and student support, and that budget must be approved by Kaplan (Section 3.2). Kaplan’s veto power over the academic budget might not matter if Purdue could easily end the relationship. But the deal lasts for 30 years, and the cost of buying out the contract is prohibitive (Section 14.2).
Finally, with the deal, Purdue will be giving the academic cover and legitimacy of a Tier 1 University to a dubious on-line entity, five of whose courses have failed the Department of Education’s gainful employment rule. As Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne Professor Rachel Hile has aptly put it, “the Purdue name and reputation will be shoring up and legitimizing what will remain a cost-cutting for-profit educational enterprise that has a history of deceiving students. The effect will be to inflate the value of what New University offers and to deflate the value of Purdue degrees.”
The purchase of Kaplan is consistent with the vision of the right wing-educational extremism of the man behind it, former Purdue Governor and now Purdue President Mitch Daniels.
Daniels is the Betsy DeVos of higher education (he openly supported her nomination to the Trump cabinet.) An avowed acolyte of capitalist ideologue Milton Friedman, godfather of neoliberalism, Daniels seeks to turn public higher education into a laboratory for the dumbing down and privatization of a University degree. In purchasing Kaplan to make money for Graham, he has sold the Purdue brand to Wall Street, continuing the trend he began as Governor of Indiana when he slashed millions of dollars to public education, created the largest school voucher program in the country, and attacked teachers and teachers unions. Indeed, the Kaplan deal stabs Purdue faculty hard in the back. They were never consulted about this plan, even though it is their work and excellence that has made Purdue one of the elite Universities in the world. Daniels’s dirty deal with Kaplan permanently stains Purdue’s academic reputation and ruthlessly exploits the labor of its students, staff, and faculty.
“This really undercuts the efforts of faculty in Indiana to preserve high quality public education against the encroachments of private entrepreneurs, distance education, and diploma mills,” said Alex Lichtenstein, President of IU-Bloomington’s AAUP chapter. “It is extraordinary that such a consequential decision, with a major impact on the curriculum, would be taken without consulting, let alone even alerting, the Purdue faculty.”
There has been resistance, though, among Purdue faculty and faculty in Indiana. Nearly 100 faculty from Purdue and three other public Indiana universities have signed a public statement opposing the Kaplan deal as an attack on faculty governance and academic freedom (see the bottom of this column).
At Purdue on Thursday, the University Senate will hold an emergency meeting, where faculty will have a chance to discuss the Kaplan deal for the first time. There are several ways the faculty can kill the deal: the Senate could vote to reject it, or put the Kaplan purchase to a vote of every Purdue faculty member. It is they, after all, whose careers, reputations, wages, and professional standing are most clearly undermined by Purdue’s attempted affiliation with Kaplan.
More broadly, the stakes for higher education and publication education could not be greater. Daniels and the Purdue Board of Trustees seek to dismantle faculty governance, academic freedom, and public education in the name of Wall Street profits and privatization. They boast to increase “access” to a University whose academic name is not worth the paper it is printed on, and which seeks to prey on the most vulnerable of American society: the poor, working people, people of color, women, immigrants, people with disabilities, military veterans.
This cynical, exploitative attempt to undermine public education must be stopped in its path. Readers should write to Purdue President Daniels to halt the Purdue-Kaplan deal at firstname.lastname@example.org or call his office at 765-494-9708.
Statement Opposing the New Online University Deal Between Purdue University and Kaplan
The deal between Purdue University and Kaplan:
- establishes a public-benefit corporation (“New University”) operated by and for the profit of a private entity (“Kaplan”);
- provides for 12.5% of the “New University” revenue to go to Kaplan after operating costs and a priority payment are met; in addition, an “efficiency payment” of 20% of any cuts in operating cost incentivizes the “New University” to place efficiency above principles of academic integrity, student service, shared governance, and freedom of learning and inquiry;
- channels public financial means to a private, for-profit entity with no public oversight, draining resources from public colleges and universities devoted to academic excellence and the public good, not the bottom line;
- establishes conditions of at-will employment for 3,000 “New University” faculty and staff members, with no common geographic location for face-to-face meetings, and no provision for shared governance, tenure, or oversight from a deliberative body of faculty who are professionally qualified in the relevant area of expertise (“New University will have its own institutional accreditation and maintain its own faculty and administrative operations.”)
- ignores that Kaplan-owned entities have been decried for paying workers some of the lowest wages in the for-profit education industry; that attorneys general in Illinois, Delaware, and North Carolina have launched investigations into Kaplan University; that Kaplan has settled litigation in Massachusetts over allegations it misled students about job placement rates and in Texas over allegations that it employed unqualified instructors.
- the deal violates the long-cherished core principles of shared governance and academic freedom that the AAUP has stood for since 1915;
- the deal outsources and privatizes public resources, weakening the ability of our public campuses to provide the quality education for which they are internationally recognized and jeopardizing their ability to continue to fulfill their public missions of providing Hoosiers with the best education possible;
- as a public-benefit corporation operated for the profit of Kaplan, the new entity would undermine essential protections for the freedom of learning and inquiry on which higher education in the US has been premised for the last hundred years, as well as stripping Hoosiers from all walks of life of access to a higher education guaranteed by norms of professional review by peers;
- it asks Hoosier taxpayers to devote tax revenues (through Indiana scholarships such 21st Century Scholars Program) to the enrichment of a private corporation, a concept directly at odds with the mission of a public university, which is to advance the public good (via the education of citizens), not to turn a profit for a small band of private shareholders;
- prioritizes profit over academic program quality, which will damage Purdue University’s hard-earned reputation for academic excellence.
We the undersigned faculty at Indiana public universities hereby oppose the purchase by Purdue of Kaplan University:
Akinwumi Adesokan, Associate Professor, Media School , IU Bloomington.
Majed Akhter, Assistant Professor of Geography, Indiana University, Bloomington.
Myrdene Anderson, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Purdue University.
Marcia Baron, Rudy Professor of Philosophy, IU Bloomington.
Benjamin Balthaser, Associate Professor of English, Indiana University-South Bend, Treasurer, IUSB AAUP.
Abhijit Basu, Herman B. Wells Professor Emeritus of Geology, IU Bloomington.
Alan Bender, Associate Professor Biology, IU Bloomington.
Marianne Boruch, Professor of English, Purdue University.
Purnima Bose, Associate Professor of English and Global and International Studies, IU Bloomington.
Jean Beaman, Assistant Professor of Sociology; Affiliated Faculty, Global Studies, Purdue University.
Tithi Bhattacharya, Associate Professor of History, Director, Global Studies, Purdue University.
T.J. Boisseau, Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Purdue University.
Zinaida A. Breschinsky, Professor Emerita of Russian, School of Languages & Cultures. Purdue University.
Adam Bright, Limited Term Lecturer, English Department, Purdue University.
Thomas Broden, Associate Professor of French,Purdue University.
Michele Buzon, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Purdue University
Susan Curtis, Professor of History and American Studies, Purdue University.
Donald A. Coffin, Emeritus Associate Professor of Economics, IU Bloomington.
Kory Cooper, Associate Professor Department of Anthropology & School of Materials Engineering, Purdue University.
Edward E. Curtis IV, Professor of Religious Studies, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
Charles Cutter, Associate Professor of History, Purdue University.
Marlo David, Associate Professor of English; Affiliated Faculty Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and American Studies, Purdue University.
Barbara Dennis, Associate Professor School of Education, IU Bloomington.
Keith Dickson, Professor of Classics, School of Languages and Cultures, Purdue University.
Tom Duffy, Emeritus Professor of Education, IU Bloomington.
Rachel Einwohner, Professor of Sociology, Purdue University.
Paul Eisenberg, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, IU Bloomington.
Hamid Ekbia, Professor of Informatics, Cognitive Science and International Studies, IU Bloomington.
William Feighery, Chair, Department of Chemistry, IU South Bend.
David Fischer, Professor of Mathematics, IU Bloomington.
Anne Fliotsos, Professor of Visual & Performing Arts, Purdue University.
Jennifer L. Foray, Associate Professor of History, Purdue University.
Rayvon Fouche. Director of American Studies, Purdue University.
Stephen L. Fox, Associate Professor of English, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Member, IUPUI AAUP.
Lessie Jo Frazier, Associate Professor of Gender Studies, IU Bloomington.
Alan M. Friedman, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, Purdue University.
Geraldine Friedman, Associate Professor of English, Purdue University.
Luis Fuentes-Rohrer, Professor of Law, IU Bloomington.
Michael Gasser, Emeritus Professor of Informatics, IU Bloomington.
Laura Ginger, Professor Emerita of Business, IU Bloomington.
Paula Girshick, Professor Emerita of Anthropology, IU Bloomington.
Nancy Goldfarb, Senior Lecturer of English, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
Jane Goodman, Associate Profess of Anthropology, IU Bloomington.
Rae Greiner, Associate Professor of English, IU Bloomington.
Pamela Hanratty, Senior Lecturer, Biology, IU Bloomington.
Sally Hastings, Associate Professor of History, Purdue University.
Kelly Hayes, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
David Hoegberg, Associate Professor of English, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
Julian Hook, Associate Professr of Music Theory, IU Bloomington.
Christoph Irmscher, Professor of English, IU Bloomington.
Michael Johnston, Associate Professor, Dept. of English, Purdue University.
Stephanie Kane, Professor, School of International and Global Studies, IU Bloomington.
Oscar Kenshur, Emeritus Professor of Comparative Literature, IU Bloomington.
Sarah Knott, Associate Professor of History , IU Bloomington.
Daniella Kostroun, Associate Professor of History, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
Modupe Labode, Associate Professor History & Museum Studies, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
Benjamin Lawton, Associate Professor, Director of Italian Studies, School of Languages and Cultures, Purdue University.
Adam Leite, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Indiana University Bloomington.
Bradley Levinson, Professor of Education, IU Bloomington.
Alex Lichtenstein, Professor of History, IU Bloomington.
Yan Long, Assistant Professor, School of Global and International Studies, IU Bloomington.
Robert Marzec, Professor of English, Purdue University.
Stephen Macekura, Assistant Professor of Global and International Studies, IU Bloomington.
Jake Mattox, Associate Professor of English, Indiana University-South; President, IUSB AAUP.
John R. Kaufman-McKivigan, Mary O’Brien Gibson Professor of History, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
Michael McNamara, Associate Professor, Interim Chair, Department of Theatre, Visual and Performing Arts, AAUP
Liz Mercier, Continuing Lecturer of Latin and Greek, Purdue University.
Lynne J. Miles-Morillo, Ph.D., Visiting Assistant Professor of German, Department of German and Russian, School of Languages & Cultures, Purdue University.
Paul Mischler, Associate Professor of Labor Studies, IU-South Bend, IUSB-AAUP.
Marissa Moorman, Associate Professor of History, IU Bloomington.
Daniel Morris, Professor of English, Purdue University.
Michelle Moyd, Associate Professor of History, IU Bloomington.
Bill V. Mullen, Professor of American Studies, Affiliated Faculty, Global Studies, Purdue University, Member, Purdue AAUP.
Megan Musgrave, Assistant Professor of English, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
Amrita Chakrabarti Myers, Ruth N. Halls Associate Professor of History and Gender Studies, IU Bloomington.
James Naremore, Emeritus Chancellors’ Professor, IU Bloomington.
Kelsey Parker, Associate Professor of English, IU South Bend.
Jonathan Raff, Associate Professor of Envirmontal Sciences and Chemistry, IU Bloomington.
Benjamin Robinson, Associate Professor of German, IU Bloomington,, IU AAUP.
Aparajita Sagar, Associate Professor of English, Purdue University.
Ranu Samantha, Associate Professor of English, IU Bloomington.
William E. Scheuermann, Professor of Political Science and International Studies, IU Bloomington.
Jeremy Schott, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, IU Bloomington.
Amanda Seidl, Ph.D., Professor and Graduate Chair, Dept. of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, Purdue University
Peter Seybold, Associate Professor of Sociology, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
Melanie Shoffner, Associate Professor, English Education, Purdue University.
Jack Spencer, Associate Professor of Sociology, Purdue University.
Kevin Stainback, Associate Professor of Sociology, Purdue University.
Marcia Stephenson, Associate Professor of Spanish, Purdue University.
Jessica L. Sturm, Associate Professor of French and Applied Linguistics; Coordinator, French Language Program; Affiliated Faculty, Linguistics, Purdue University.
Antonia Syson, Associate Professor of Classics, School of Languages & Cultures, Purdue University.
Monica Tetzlaff, Associate Professor of History, IU-South Bend, IUSB-AAUP.
Monica M. Trieu, Assistant Professor, American Studies, Asian American Studies, Purdue University.
Daniel Winchester, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Purdue University.
Ellen Wu, Associate Professor of History, IU Bloomington.
Endorsed by the IU Bloomington Chapter of the AAUP
Endorsed by the Bloomington Progressive Faculty and Staff Caucus