Reviewed by John M. Glen (Department of History, Ball State University)
Published on H-Indiana (July, 2004)
An Inside Account of
Ralph D. Gray, Professor Emeritus of History at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), offers the first comprehensive, detailed version of his home institution's relatively young, incompletely documented, and mostly contemporary record. The result is a fairly traditional account of his university's past that pieces together its origins, extols its impressive growth and expansion, minimizes any attendant controversies, and projects for it an ever better and brighter future.
Much of Gray's narrative constitutes a mainstream institutional history, replete with stories about IUPUI's uncertain beginnings; the uneven addition of proprietary professional schools; the prominent role played by various deans and university chancellors; a steady growth in enrollment to the point where it rivaled both its parent institutions; the financial, administrative, and infrastructure issues such increases generated; various academic challenges posed and overcome; ambitious programmatic reforms; a cautiously hopeful investment in athletics; and a generally admirable record of accomplishment compiled since IUPUI's incorporation in the late 1960s. By the end of 2001, what IUPUI publicists regularly called "a model urban university" offered some 180 degree programs, the most extensive in Indiana. It attracted students from all 92 Indiana counties, 49 of America's 50 states, and 122 foreign nations. It received research grants amounting to more than $295 million, more than any other university in Indiana. Its billion-dollar campus included one of the nation's largest medical schools, a comprehensive nursing school, the state's largest law school, olympian sports facilities for swimming and track, and technologically advanced buildings and programs. The list of superlatives is a long one, and the author faithfully identifies all of them.
Distinguishing the IUPUI story is not simply its close parallels with the revitalization of Indianapolis--indeed, the university has been an integral part of the city's physical redevelopment--but also its heavily politicized experience as a hybrid academic institution. During the first half of the twentieth century Indiana University-Bloomington and Purdue University gradually expanded their presence in Indianapolis through extension centers, professional schools, and technical institutes. It was a confused and divisive effort. Virtually every initiative reflected the intense competition between the two schools to establish and jealously defend their own educational fiefdoms in the city.
Several interrelated developments in the 1960s combined to compel greater cooperation between Indiana and Purdue, though the academic rivalry and political intrigue persisted. State and university officials alike gradually realized that the two universities, centered in rural, relatively remote locations, needed to respond to the demands of a population increasingly concentrated in urban centers such as Indianapolis and buoyed by the education guarantees of the post-World War II GI Bill. Meanwhile, the Republican Party's success in winning control of important city, county, and state offices in the mid-1960s reflected at least in part a mounting public desire for a modernized, separate state university in the capital city. IU President Joseph L. Sutton and Purdue President Frederick L. Hovde managed to avert that campaign in late 1968 by improvising at "a still mysterious, unpublicized, and basically unrecorded meeting" an academic merger that would gather both institutions' facilities at a common downtown Indianapolis location while allowing each to maintain separate degree programs (p. 80).
This unprecedented, confounding plan was complicated even further by the controversies that came with the acquisition of land in the heart of Indianapolis's African-American community for both the new campus and two nearby interstate highways. Gray largely sides with his institution's approach to the subject, asserting that though university representatives may have made tactical mistakes, the overall effort to renew downtown Indianapolis, including historic Indiana Avenue, was worth the displacement of black neighborhoods.
Indeed, despite the consistent lack of support from Indiana's state government, the development of a semi-chaotic academic "mosaic" (p. 119), and the generally condescending attitude maintained by its parent universities, IUPUI has persevered and grown, becoming a full-fledged campus with the assistance of well-heeled, well-connected downtown Indianapolis movers and shakers. It continues to project the outlines of its own institutional and academic identity, and Gray understandably leaves open the extent to which that has been accomplished. Working with incomplete sources, confronting unaccountable circumstances and undocumented agreements--and marveling at the ability of IUPUI to demarcate its own physical, technological, administrative, and academic foundations in spite of all manner of constraints--the author ably describes how a modern urban university reflects and affects the renaissance of a major Midwestern city in the late twentieth century.
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John M. Glen. Review of Gray, Ralph D., IUPUI: The Making of an Urban University.
H-Indiana, H-Net Reviews.
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