The Irony of IU Day at IUPUI

IUPUI’s standing as a double satellite campus is undisputed. But for all that IUPUI is an extension of other schools, it is still its own entity. Its student body lacks a strong, central sense of community, but can’t help but notice that IUPUI is more than a mere limb in the body of Indiana University schools.

So some students wonder why IUPUI even has events like IU Day, especially when Purdue is here, too. How does IUPUI reconcile being two schools with one campus?

“It’s the IU structure. We’re an IU campus. We just have Purdue schools. That’s what it’s starting to feel like,” Mosopefoluwa Ladapo, the soon-to-be former president of IUPUI’s USG, said,“I really want to be proud that I’m an IUPUI student, but I don’t know how to necessarily represent it, because I wear IU colors.”

Navigating the space IUPUI belongs in starts with knowing that IU and Purdue do not have an even split of property. IU is the managing partner; it pays the bills and administration. There are 16 separate IU schools and dozens more departments, while Purdue consists of its school of engineering and technology.

Purdue doesn’t seem to put much into fostering school spirit and identity. This imbalance may reflect the actual presence of the two schools, but sometimes it can feel as though the Bloomington identity is encroaching.

“I think that IUPUI’s identity is pretty unique,” Willie Miller, the librarian for the department of journalism, said, as he tended to an IU Day booth in the library. “I think one of the things that’s happening across campus is a more strict adherence to an IU brand, which in some cases waters down our IUPUI identity, and it’s not great.”

But IU Day is still fun for students and staff. Both Miller and Ladapo were happy to participate on Wednesday. It’s an annual celebration of studenthood and campus identity; it helps “incentivize school pride” by giving out free merchandise and food, and hosting open air games and scavenger hunts across IU campuses.

The hole left by Purdue just lets that strong Bloomington taste creep in.

“So as much as I am positive about an IU Day, I think I’m even more positive about a Purdue Day. Or, you know, even greater than that, an IUPUI Day,” Ladapo said. “If we can do an IU Day, we can survive an IUPUI Day.”

Considering that Purdue majors consist of a much smaller chunk of IUPUI, and the schools is very hands-off, a Purdue Day is unlikely. The question of how IUPUI fosters and protects its own identity remains. Take the crimson card situation, for instance.

Ladapo has previously spoken against it for several reasons; Miller cited a faculty council meeting where attendees demanded that a jaguar be present on the IUPUI-issued IDs. Even as IU doubles down on uniformity in its system, satellite schools find ways to stand out.

“I think that Bloomington, particularly like with the big IU brand, wants to wash away individuality in a way that’s uncomfortable for us, but people at IUPUI fight that whenever we can,” Miller said.

The balancing act is delicate. IUPUI depends on IU for money and leadership, but it also has a separate urban environment and completely unique degrees, like the school of philanthropy and the school of motorsport engineering. The chancellor still answers to the president.  

“I do feel like IU has an overwhelming grip on IUPUI, in the sense that we are, as a satellite campus, run by the administration of the IU board of trustees,” Joshua Bell, a sophomore public safety major, said. “However, even though IU Bloomington does have jurisdictional control of IUPUI, that does not mean that IUPUI is powerless.”

Although it may feel as though Bloomington dictates everything to IUPUI, breaking away from IU appears highly unlikely. The least students can do is embrace their downtown campus and enjoy what makes IUPUI unique.