On This Day in IUPUI History: January 19, 1976

January 19, 1976. 

On this day, the IUPUI Sagamore, the student newspaper, published a front-page story about bills introduced in the Indiana General Assembly to detach IUPUI from Indiana University-Bloomington. The article, titled "Born to be Free?" and written by M. William Lutholtz, quoted two legislators from Indianapolis who were then pushing for autonomy for IUPUI. They were Rep. Robert Jones, Jr., and Rep. Donald T. Nelson, both Republicans. Nelson had introduced bills for a separate state university in Indianapolis since 1968. Both legislators voiced their frustration in failing to move bills through the legislature. They vented that Democrats in control of the state House of Representatives would not allow their autonomy bill to advance out of committee.

Both legislators stated their reasons for supporting autonomy for IUPUI. "Indiana University is set on taking over the post-secondary education system in Indiana," said Jones. IU opposed autonomy for IUPUI because it was afraid of losing budgetary allocations based on university enrollment. For his part, Nelson said decentralization of the university system would benefit the state. "'It is my feeling that government closest to the people who are being governed is best,' said Nelson. 'Absentee government is not good government and that is basically what we have with the present arrangement.'"

Jones complained that IU hired a public-relations firm to lobby legislators to oppose IUPUI autonomy, resulting in pro-autonomy votes suddenly switching sides.

The Sagamore reporter asked the proponents of IUPUI autonomy what were the best arguments against a separate IUPUI. Nelson replied that the best opposition point was the weakness of the library at IUPUI: students and faculty needed access to the large collection in Bloomington to do their research. "'[T]hey say IUPUI doesn't have enough books in its library. But they're the ones who make sure that that condition continues. They're the ones who control the library budgets and they use the budgets to make a truism out of their own arguments.'"

The Sagamore continued its reporting on the IUPUI autonomy issue. In the January 26 issue, reporter Jo Ellen Meyers-Sharp noted that while the autonomy bill was not likely to advance, the issue was far from dead in the General Assembly. She quoted several legislators to the effect that improvements in IUPUI budgets, facilities, and programs came because outside pressure overcame IU resistance.

State Rep. Julia Carson, an Indianapolis Democrat, said she supported "the philosophy of autonomy but has not voted for autonomy because she feels that the proposal has its base in politics:" namely, advancing Republican Indianapolis mayor Richard G. Lugar's bid for U.S. senator.

The 1969 merger did not silence calls for an independent state university in Indianapolis. For many years thereafter, political leaders pressed for an autonomous IUPUI.

Sagamore headline January 26 1976

To learn more about IUPUI history, please visit IUPUI Special Collections and Archives speccoll@iupui.edu.

Updated Jan 19, 2019 by Editor Name Missing