In just one semester, Purdue University Global has trampled on transparency, shared governance, and academic freedom—foundational tenets of American higher education.
As a faculty member at Purdue University, I am deeply troubled by the recent revelation that Purdue Global, an “online branch campus” of our university system, is requiring instructional faculty to sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA).
The NDA states that any work product, including course materials “or other intellectual property that arises in any part in the course of … employment at Purdue Global, is commissioned and owned by Purdue Global as a work-for-hire and may not be used, duplicated or distributed outside of Purdue Global.”
The agreement also contains a sweeping gag clause that prohibits faculty members from disclosing “to anyone who is not specifically authorized to receive it,” even other Purdue Global employees, virtually any information received during the course of their employment.
Asserting ownership over the faculty’s teaching-related materials undermines standard academic practice, takes away our right to our own intellectual property, and violates our academic freedom. The gag order also violates academic freedom by seeking to bar faculty from speaking out about academic policies, curriculum, and budgetary matters.
The Century Foundation revealed today that, in addition to requiring faculty to sign nondisclosure agreements, Purdue Global also requires students to sign forced arbitration agreements as a condition of enrollment, a tactic used in the for-profit college industry to restrict students’ rights to join a class action when seeking restitution for injury by the institution.
Such agreements are unprecedented for a public university system like Purdue and speak to a larger trend of limiting faculty and student voices. Purdue Global was formed last spring when Purdue purchased the for-profit, online Kaplan University despite the strenuous objections of faculty and others who opposed merging a public land-grant university with the troubled Kaplan.
David Nalbone, PhD
Purdue University Northwest
Vice President, Indiana Conference of the AAUP
P.S. Want further background on the story? Check out the Inside Higher Ed article Who Owns Faculty Work at Purdue Global? and The Century Foundation’s Protected: Purdue University Global Is a For-Profit College Masquerading as a Public University