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IU should be applauded for bold legislative effort

Bloomington Herald-Times
February 17, 2007

This guest column was written by Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan.

Indiana University is working hard to bring unique opportunity to Bloomington and Indiana as it embarks upon its most compelling and visionary proposed legislative initiative ever. And we can all help.

Having had the good fortune to serve Bloomington in the state Legislature for 16 years, I worked with four university presidents and five governors on eight different funding proposals — one for every biennial state budget session.

In addition to meaning that I'm getting older, that fact recently led me to reflect upon IU's legislative performance.

The John Ryan years (1971-1987) were marked by solid connections between Republican-dominated legislative and executive branches. IU was a "state-supported" institution. Behind-the-scenes maneuvering rather than public pressure was the strategy du jour. A handful of key legislators pulled the purse strings, and the university focused on them.

By the time Tom Ehrlich began his seven-year presidency in 1987, the political tide had turned, and the state financial picture had faded, necessitating a change of strategy. IU's "One University With Eight Front Doors" targeted every legislator. An outgrowth of this paradigm was the creation of Hoosiers for Higher Education, a group of thousands of IU alumni and supporters seeking to impact legislative decision making on university funding and policy issues.

IU by now had gone from being "state-supported" to "state-assisted." Investment in Indiana University and in Indiana, for that matter, waned, and Statehouse power was diffused. In the past 15-20 years, state funding slid from being nearly 50 percent of IU's annual budget to just 25 percent today.

Myles Brand's 1994-2002 era saw an attempt to engage the Legislature with a message of service to the state. Deeming IU "America's New Public University," it was clear the days of depending upon state funding were long behind us.

Nearly four years ago, Adam Herbert arrived at the helm and committed IU to being one of the nation's leaders in life-sciences research and oversaw the development of the Indiana Life Sciences Initiative.

During this year's Indiana General Assembly, Indiana University presents perhaps its most creative and aggressive legislative initiative.

The Indiana Life Sciences Initiative is IU's $80 million proposal to the Legislature designed to improve the state's life sciences infrastructure dramatically by investing in enhanced research capacity at the university. This stand-alone funding request complements IU's biennial budget request.

Some highlights:

  • IU's $80 million request will attract $2.25 for every state tax dollar it gets from the Legislature for this initiative;
  • The university will match state operating funding by more than $46 million;
  • IU, by 2019, will bring $2.4 billion to the Hoosier economy that Indiana wouldn't otherwise receive in new federal and private research dollars;
  • Within the next 15 years, IU plans to create 2,500 new life sciences research and development jobs at the university and stimulate an additional 11,500 new Hoosier jobs throughout Indiana, for a total of 14,000 jobs;
  • The plan plans to attract or create at least 100 Indiana-based life sciences companies;
  • New medical treatments to improve Hoosiers' health and reduce health care costs will be produced; and
  • Accountability is built in via progress reports and tracking of the return on the investment to the state's economy.
  • IU's strategy to achieve these goals includes:
  • Aligning the eight regional medical education centers to prevent doctor shortages and to strengthen regional life sciences industries;
  • Partnering with Indiana communities to develop life sciences and economic and work force development agendas;
  • Increasing technology transfer and spinoffs from faculty research; and
  • Expanding work with researchers at Purdue and Notre Dame.

(This information can be found at

You can play an active part in advocating for adoption of IU's proposal in at least two manners. Our local legislators are certainly supportive of the request, but please consider contacting your friends, family and colleagues in other parts of the state to ask them to lobby their state representatives and state senators.

Also, the 16th Annual Hoosiers for Higher Education Statehouse Visit will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 20. Everyone is welcome to attend this free event. Learn more and register for the event at the aforementioned Web site.

IU should be applauded for and aided in this bold effort.