IU and Purdue Break Up Over IUPUI

Early Friday morning Indiana University and Purdue University administrators announced that IUPUI would once again split into two separate universities.

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Purdue president Mitch Daniels (left) and Indiana University president Pamela Whitten (right) at Friday's announcement in Indianapolis | Photo courtesy of Devan Ridgway, WFIU/WTIU News

The computer science, engineering and technology departments will be integrated into an extension of Purdue’s flagship campus at West Lafayette, while the rest of IUPUI, including the School of Science, will be absorbed into the new IU-Indianapolis regional campus. 

Current students will likely see little effect until 2024, when the 52-year union is set to officially dissolve. Those currently working on a Purdue degree will still receive one, and credits obtained before that date will be fully transferable to either school. This is especially important for students who might be majoring in a program at one school and minoring at another. Students whose program is being transferred to a different university will also have the option three years from the official split date to obtain a degree from either school. 

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Campus Center at IUPUI

At a press conference with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce held after the announcement, Purdue University President Mitch Daniels and IU President Pamela Whitten declined to answer whether Purdue students would be able to take part in IU-Indianapolis athletics. However, it was later made clear that Purdue students will be able to take part in IU-I student clubs and use their facilities. 

The spirit of competition between the two universities remained present, as Daniels quipped in his opening remarks how there were “half as many” Purdue University Board of Trustee members as IU Board of trustee members at the conference, but that was “all it took” to equal out. Whitten, for her part, gifted Daniels an IU hat after he joked that the last gift he had gotten for her “was from Goodwill.”

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From left to right; Chair of Purdue Board of Trustees Mike Berghoff, Purdue President Mitch Daniels, commissioner of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education Chris Lowery, IU President Pam Whitten and Quinn Buckner, chair of the IU trustees | Photo Courtesy of John Underwood/Purdue

Later in the meeting, chair of the Purdue University Board of Trustees Mike Berghoff suggested the split would incentivize new investment, since there is “no guarantee” under the current arrangement at IUPUI that money spent by either flagship campus will specifically benefit students in their respective programs.

Purdue University plans to allow West Lafayette students to “study away” at the extension campus while pursuing internships and other opportunities in Indianapolis. They also hope to eventually build a new dorm.

According to Daniels, the decision comes as a response to "calls we have heard from Indianapolis and across the state for a bigger and more visible Purdue in Indianapolis," and will "create more opportunities for students" as the school integrates further with the community through "close relationships with local businesses, nonprofits, sports organizations, and more." Governor Holcomb was among those that endorsed the move.

The split, according to IU, also offers further opportunities to integrate the School of Science curriculum with the health sciences and the IU School of Medicine. 

It is still unclear what IU plans to do with the former University Hospital once it is consolidated with Methodist Hospital in 2026, but it will surely play a role in the future of the growing campus.

According to Interim Chancellor Klein, IUPUC will continue to be administered as a regional education center under IU Indianapolis after 2024. The B.S. in mechanical engineering is the only program accredited through the School of Engineering and Technology and will shift to be administered by Purdue University. It is still to be determined whether or not the school will officially split or maintain the IUPUC name.

There was a mixed reaction to the decision among the student body.

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Brenna Mckay, junior at IUPUI | Photo courtesy of Brenna McKay

Brenna McKay is a junior majoring in elementary education at IUPUI. “I chose IUPUI because of the fact that it was both Purdue and IU put into one, and I was excited to be a part of both,” she said. “I am not excited about just basically being a branch of IU. Had I known this was going to happen I would’ve looked into other options.”

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Jacob Leistner, senior at the IU School of Medicine | Photo Courtesy of Jacob Leistner

Jacob Leistner, a senior majoring in Nuclear Medicine Technology at the IU School of Medicine, said he felt the split was long overdue. “IUPUI has the habit of tucking the Purdue classes in the basement,” he said. “I think that Purdue needs one of their major schools on campus. IU has the School of Medicine and Kelly School of Business, but the only thing I’ve really heard about at Purdue is the engineering robotics team, which is more of a club.”

The decision comes after the announcement of Daniels’ retirement as President of Purdue University, as well as the departure of former IUPUI Chancellor Nassar Paydar last March and his subsequent appointment as the assistant secretary for postsecondary education at the U.S. Department of Education by President Biden. It is unclear whether another Chancellor of IUPUI will be appointed until 2024 or if Andrew Klein will continue as Interim Chancellor.

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Former Indianapolis Mayor Richard Lugar | Photo courtesy of IU Archives

The partnership between the two universities began in 1969 after then-mayor Richard Lugar called for the formation of a “great state university” in Indianapolis. 

They then began the process of integrating their facilities around the city into their current, downtown location.

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Clipping from the Sagamore (October 5th, 1971)

“There was a lot of debate about it among the students and few were in favor of the merger,” according to retired Indianapolis Public School teacher Sherry Bennett, the last editor of the Component, the Purdue University-Indianapolis extension’s student-run newspaper, and founding editor of the Sagamore, IUPUI’s first student-run newspaper. As an English major at the former Purdue extension, she felt “the English program and the administrative staff were superior to the IU school.” The initial merger was also much more rushed than the current scheme, which created a number of issues for students.

Forming a unified university culture and image proved difficult. The school did not get a statue of their mascot until twenty years after adopting the Jaguar, and 51 years after the two universities merged, while many of their facilities have only ever borne the IU name and logo.

This prompted Matt Shrum, former editor of the Sagamore, to publish an editorial titled “Whose facilities are they, anyways?”

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Clipping from the Sagamore (1985)

Former state senator Lawrence Borst was also unhappy with the arrangement at IUPUI, and introduced multiple bills starting in 1968, including S.B. 239 (1985) which would have made most of IUPUI independent from both flagship campuses, and given the name “The University of Indianapolis.” A year later Indiana Central University was renamed the University of Indianapolis. 

Breaking up IUPUI while retaining affiliation with the two flagship universities, however, will provide students with significantly more resources and “brand recognition,” according to Berghoff.

The two universities celebrated the accomplishments of IUPUI over the past half-century, and its service to the greater Indianapolis community, but made it clear they look towards greater things to come.

Whatever happens moving forward, The Campus Citizen will be here to cover the latest news for all students on our campus. Whether that’s IUPUI, IU-Indianapolis, or Purdue. 

While there are many questions left by this split, at least IUPUI students will finally know who to root for at their next IU vs. Purdue basketball game.

Update: We reached out to Interim Chancellor Klein for more information about the status of IUPUC after the 2024 split and included it here.

Jacob Stewart is a junior majoring in neuroscience at IUPUI, and the campus editor of The Campus Citizen. He has also written for the Chalkboard Review, and predicted something like this would happen in an unpublished letter to the Indiana Daily Student back in June. Not that he is biased or anything, but he is very happy he will still be getting a Purdue degree (go Boilermakers!).

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