We all know how much community support Wartell was given in his attempt to be granted just two more years to guide IPFW through its 50th anniversary celebration, an honor that I believe he so richly deserved. Students, faculty, politicians, business leaders, and others all came to Wartell's defense. In fact if there was any organized group opposing the extension of his contract, it never came to my attention.
Francisco dissects what went wrong and what could have been.
"If all went as expected, the 50-year history of Fort Wayne’s regional campus would end with an account of Wartell’s impending retirement from IPFW, noting that he led the university to its milestone anniversary and was preparing to hand it off to a successor. But Wartell and the university became victims of poor timing when Purdue President France Córdova’s five-year contract neared its expiration and pressure reportedly grew not to extend her tenure. The fact that she would turn 65 shortly after her term ended was a convenient excuse for replacing Córdova.
Wartell, however, was turning 65 in October. Purdue’s outdated and wrongheaded retirement policy requires top administrators to retire at the end of the fiscal year in which they turn 65. The trustees could have handled the situation deftly by announcing his tenure would be extended through IPFW’s anniversary commemoration in 2014. That would allow the new leader on the West Lafayette campus to have the final word on the regional campus appointment. There certainly was precedent for allowing an administrator to stay on the job. Purdue has granted exceptions seven times since 1996, including extensions for Presidents Steven Beering and Martin Jischke, and Purdue-North Central Chancellor Dale Alspaugh.
Instead, the trustees – at least three of them septuagenarians – stuck with the mandatory age 65 retirement rule and pushed ahead with a chancellor search process that ended in the selection of 64-year-old Vicky Carwein, chancellor of the 1,500-student Washington State Universities Tri Cities campus in Richland, Wash. Only the trustees seemed to think it wasn’t suspicious to push out a popular 65-year-old leader in favor of a 64-year-old, even as board vice chairman Thomas Spurgeon insisted Wartell wasn’t forced to retire for performance issues.
Carwein’s academic and administrative record is strong, but several IPFW observers suggest she’s been set up to fail.
'It’s a real slap in our face to bring in a 64-year-old woman – because, you know damn well they are going to turn around and this is going to be a revolving door for chancellors,' said Frank V. Paladino, professor and chairman of the IPFW biology department and member of a committee that reviewed Wartell’s performance just two years ago. 'If you refer to a corporate model, you don’t take one of the CEOs of your branch corporations who has doubled the enrollment, doubled the revenue and increased the plant size and then go ahead and replace him and bring in somebody who’s one year younger than him.'
'I don’t know the woman – I think she could be wonderful, fabulous, great, and I’m looking forward to working with her – but you don’t do that. It’s a slap in the face to us by the board of trustees and it’s a slap in the face to the Fort Wayne community. Because what they are doing is saying that Fort Wayne is not important – we don’t want you to have the long-term leadership and stability that’s good for a university.'
Susan Hannah, who stepped down as vice chancellor of academic affairs in 2008 but continues to teach in the political science department, praised Purdue’s choice of a woman as chancellor but said the trustees have made it difficult for her to succeed.
I don't know Vicky Carwein. All of this should be no reflection on her. I think we all hope and expect that she will do a wonderful job building on Mike Wartell's accomplishments as IPFW Chancellor for 19 years.
I believe that nobody is indispensable or irreplaceable. But this entire matter could have been handled so much better by allowing Wartell to stay the two additional years as he wished during which a successor could have been named with the cooperation of a new Purdue President (whom we know now will be Mitch Daniels) to work with him in a smooth transition to a new chancellor whom we could expect to direct IPFW into the next decade and beyond.
Point of pride | The Journal Gazette