Who is Mitch Daniels as Purdue's President becomes a legitimate question to ask when there is little knowledge of the Daniels commitments on the issue of higher education in Indiana or the Nation. This becomes especially true for Republicans and Conservatives because the Hoosier higher education establishment is almost 100% liberal and Democratic. As President, what Constitutional and Hoosier values will the university stand for?
Can Mitch Daniels be an independent Hoosier voice in a sea of progressives?
Is the Hoosier Daniels going to be President of Purdue; or is it going to be the internationalist Daniels, i.e. Lugar's former chief of staff? It is true that financially Mitch Daniels, known as "the blade," for his slashing of budgets, is against waste and misuse of taxpayer funds and supported the concept of outsourcing when possible and to get greater competition. These things worked well and and served Daniels well in politics. Although, to be fair, almost none of the "the blade's" cost cutting and other financial proposals ever went anywhere in Congress.
Which Daniels shows up is important for the future of Indiana's Higher Education values, Indiana's economic development, and in many ways the direction of the United States. The latter will be like judging Al Gore for most Hoosiers. We now know how closely we came to the disaster of electing Gore for president instead of George Bush. In the same way, how Daniels implements Hoosier values as university president will inform us if the best thing for Americans was his in-defensible private life so that Daniels could not be U. S. president or alternatively did America miss a great one and consequently he should be drafted for 2016.
In Indiana politics, Daniels was served well by having the dominant support of the majority of the Indiana legislature. He does not have that at Purdue University. The higher education community is already socializing him into their way of thinking and their belief about their invincibility, superiority, and of their unquestionable truth. Here "the blade" does not work and here the former GOP Governor of Indiana comes into direct clash with the new Governor of Indiana Mike Spence and the new Hoosier Republican legislature. Mitch Daniels' call, following Lugar, for a moratorium on debating values to focus on money issues will not fly. (If it does, the progressives liberals will own the Counrtry.) To a great extent this stand has been rejected by thinking Republicans and they argue that the two, values and money, are intertwined. It is the lack of values in education that has resulted in Republican values being rejected in elections over and over. This is why for Hoosiers, Lugar does seem to be a RHINO, and may very well be one.
So far it has been clear that the only values in higher education that Mitch Daniels holds are those which were provided by the university community, and the bigger the campus the better. About a month ago, Mitch Daniels gave an interview concerning the regional campuses in Northwest Indiana. He wondered why Purdue Calumet and Purdue North Central were so close to each other, physically, and why their graduation rates differed. I am sure he would have included Gary and Indiana University Northwest in that if he could have. These are all fair questions; but as incoming president he should have had the real answers; not the old Democrat institutional answers. That is the part that is of concern -- is Daniels the RINO is coming to Purdue?
Why do I say that?
In his answers, Mitch Daniels never indicated his knowledge of the fact that there was a mountinous discrepancy between the tax dollars per student that West Lafayette receives to educate a Hoosier student and what PUC, PNC, and IUN receive in tax dollars. Why? What is the rational? If one looks at it closely, there are two possible answers. One, the historical racism aginst NWI. Two, keeping a lot of money for yourself and your friends. Mitch Daniels came to NWI and un-equivocally stated that he fully trusted, supported, and had full-faith in Chancellor Tom Keon of PUC. He does? Why? What is the rational? For the second time, PUC has somehow misplaced $3.5 million. This is coming out of the academic hide throught the reduction of classes available to students. So the Chancellor, wholly trusted by Daniels publicly states that he does not know where the $3.5 million went or why it was lost. It is a good thing that Hoosier voters are not as smart as Daniels because he understands.
One of Daniels' claim is the State achieved the ending of credit creep that had been threatening graduation of Hoosier students. He even actually got the Hoosier Legislature to limit degree credits to 120, unless there was a good justification, accreditation and/or State certification. Sounds as though this is really good and productive. The only problem is that no one had ever heard about a credit creep until Daniels decided to tackle it. It is the Hoosier higher education establishment that came up with this distraction so that they would not loose funds. By the way, who appointed Terresa Lubbers as Head of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education (ICHE)? Purdue President Daniels did. Need I say more.
Neither Lubbers, ICHE, the Hoosier legislature, nor Governor Daniels ever questioned what the economic value of any of these universities is. Especially considering the $ billions tax dollars and Hoosier's parents funds spent. The reality is that universities have little economic development impact Look at where most of them are: in economically depressed areas, e.g. John Hopkins University -- Baltimore, University of Chicago, Hyde Park, Indiana State University -- Terre Haute. John Hopkins University receives the most Federal funds of any university and its economic consequences for Baltimore have been marginal. Why is the Hoosier Legislature and its citizens not asking why? Why was Governor Daniels always afraid to ask why? Does anyone think that he is going to do that now?
The most likely scenario is that it is going to be the milk-toast Daniels that will be the President of Purdue University. I truly hope I am wrong. But, as Governor of Indiana, there is no record that he really tried to improve the economic development from universities or question their values in supporting the work of engaging Hoosiers to be American citizens. Now in his short period of interaction with the Hoosier higher education establishment, he seems to have bought the justification that "all we are saying is give more money a chance." There does not seem to be any independence left in Mitch Daniels.