The HawkEye interview: Michael Driscoll

IUP President Michael A. Driscoll gestures during an interview in Sutton Hall on Sept. 14. Photo by Jake Williams.

IUP President Michael A. Driscoll gestures during an interview in Sutton Hall on Sept. 14. Photo by Jake Williams.

INDIANA — In a wide-ranging Sept. 14 interview, Indiana University of Pennsylvania President Michael A. Driscoll addressed an array of issues, from energy-industry drilling in the Marcellus shale to students carrying guns on campus.

Driscoll, 51, an electrical engineer by training, took over the helm of the State System of Higher Education’s largest of 14 campuses on July 1. In his 10 weeks on the job, he had become a prominent and familiar figure to news media and community groups alike.

Driscoll’s half-hour interview with The HawkEye, led by journalism student Sean C. Yoder, took place in a spare, high-ceilinged board room down the hall from the president’s second-floor Sutton Hall office.  He sat back in a cushioned chair and gave brisk responses to questions on a half-dozen topics of campus and community interest. Occasionally Driscoll alluded to the University of Alaska, where he presided before arriving in Indiana, and to government policy makers in Harrisburg and Washington.

Driscoll’s remarks included:

Marcellus shale drilling.  Driscoll said natural-gas drilling in the region represented a “terrific potential” for the university in a role he described as “monitoring.” He cited ongoing faculty research on water-quality monitoring and in safety sciences to ensure “sustainable resource development.”

“I don’t think it’s reasonable for us to say we’re never going to touch this resource, but rather for us to be an independent, neutral party that has a great deal of information, knowledge and expertise.”

He added: “It’s a great opportunity for us to help ensure that we’re doing things in the right way.”

Driscoll said he doubted that an expansive industry-funded engineering program like the one he mounted at Alaska would be replicated at IUP.  But he cited small-business-development programs at Eberly College of Business that he said would seed “small business growth around major drillers.”

On tax policies surrounding Marcellus gas extraction, Driscoll said IUP employs experts who can “ensure that Pennsylvanians get the right return on the extraction of this resource and we don’t end up sending all the money outside the state as the resource leaves.”

Graduate programs.  Driscoll said IUP is not receiving the level of appropriations from the legislature that “we might want to support advanced graduate education.”

He continued: “We’re going to have to decide how much graduate education we want to do within the resources available so we can maintain quality. There’s no doubt we need more funding there. The question is where we’re going to get the funding, because we’re not going to get additional funding from the legislature.”

Fundraising. “It’s a key component of my job,” he said. He praised the Foundation for IUP for doing “exceptionally well” at managing its funds and enhancing campus facilities, including new residence halls.

Public safety.  Alluding to mass-shooting incidents at such places as Virginia Tech in 2007, Driscoll urged IUP campus community members to “tell someone” if troubling behavior comes to attention.

“None of these incidents have come completely out of nowhere,” he said.

He expressed opposition to efforts to arm students to defend against threats seen elsewhere.

“I have to say to you that I have not been a supporter of active carry on campus,” Driscoll said. “Some would say we could protect ourselves if we were all armed. What concerns me about that is in a horrific situation … the police have to act to ensure safety. And that means anyone with a weapon is a target. I would hate to see more people hurt.”

Athletics. The president said he was a “strong supporter” of NCAA Division II athletics. “My affinity is with that,” he said, while promising “no blank check” for sports programs.

To hear an audio recording of the interview, click here: Driscoll Final Edit.mp3

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