The Purdue University of Fort Wayne faculty senate meeting Sept. 16 was not the knockout it was the week prior, but Chancellor Ronald Elsenbaumer certainly did not emerge as the victor of the matchup either.
Sept. 16 was the continuation of the Sept. 9 meeting that saw Elsenbaumer pelted with questions regarding the shutdown of College Access TV that he was not prepared to answer. For the following week’s meeting, Elsenbaumer showed up — alongside his vice chancellors who again remained silent for the duration of the questioning — equipped with a handful of answers to some of those questions.
Elsenbaumer presented data that showed how much money cutting CTV freed up in the budget. According to Elsenbaumer, CTV had a budget of about $528,000. Approximately $210,000 came from grant money from the city of Fort Wayne to support the public-access channel, and the rest was covered by PFW.
Elsenbaumer also presented an argument that in most universities, it is not the marketing departments that handle the public-access channels, but the academic communications departments.
“If cable-access television is deemed to be an essential educational element ... faculty members should champion the cause,” Elsenbaumer said.
The faculty senate immediately asked why the immediate reaction was to shut down CTV as opposed to finding other avenues to keep it alive.
They demanded to know why discussions hadn’t been held with academic affairs beforehand to shift the funds and responsibilities to somewhere else like the communications department. They also wanted to know if the administration had reached out to the other schools that provided content, such as Ivy Tech Community College and the University of Saint Francis, to pitch in money to keep the channel going.
“Wouldn’t it make much more sense to have a conversation about it before the whole thing was destroyed and the money is still available,” Ann Livschiz, associate professor of history, asked.
Both sides faced off again about the alleged 14-month period where the questions of CTV’s relevance and reach were explored. Elsenbaumer stuck to his prior statements, saying that CTV had not been able to present data showing there was an external audience.
Besides, Elsenbaumer said, he had not heard from anyone in the surrounding community ask about CTV going off the air. Livschiz did not let that comment hang for too long, and informed the audience that Andy Downs, associate professor of political science, had shared with her and others that he had received many emails from people in the community asking what had happened to the CTV programming.
Livschiz also referenced multiple incidents where faculty members like herself and Mary Ann Cain sent email to Elsenbaumer and Vice Chancellor Jerry Lewis and failed to receive timely responses or even a response at all.
Elsenbaumer redirected attention to Michelle Kelsey, chair of the PFW communications department, who has been involved in reviving the channel that he and the administration had eliminated.
The proposed plan to revive and operate CTV, according to Kelsey, would need to go through the Fort Wayne City Council approval process before they get back the money and access to the channel.
Although there was a plan in place to bring back CTV, Kelsey emphasized that the administration’s irreversible decision to shut it down would drastically change the way CTV looked and operated. For instance, since PFW had fired all four CTV employees, there would no longer be enough people to film all of the lectures, panels and other academic events planned to run on CTV.
Kelsey also pointed out an additional academic detriment that the shutdown has brought.
“Our students rely on the technology that is made available by the grant funding,” Kelsey said. “For us this means our journalism students, our media production students, all of our students who are learning how to do the broadcasting that don’t have the same access to that technology anymore. We’ve been able to maintain some access … with limited availability, and there is some technology that is no longer usable because it hasn’t been maintained.”
Soon, there were no more questions to be asked, and the meeting moved onto the rest of the topics pushed back a week for the sake of CTV.