As we prepare to reconvene on Monday, I welcome you back to a new semester at IU Bloomington after what I hope was a restful and restorative winter break. I wish, more than I can say, that I was welcoming you back with the pandemic entirely behind us. Unfortunately, while IU Bloomington is a highly vaccinated community, we must continue take COVID-19 very seriously. We expect that the omicron variant will make the coming weeks challenging in ways that are by now all too familiar.
Let me begin by stating unequivocally that protecting the health and well-being of the IU community is the university’s top priority, as it has been from the beginning of the pandemic. We must also assure the continuity and excellence of our core missions of education and research, as we serve the many constituencies who rely on us. You and the entire IU community received an email on Tuesday that describes how we are beginning the semester and some of the additional measures that we will take to protect health and safety as much as possible in a difficult situation.
I am also writing today to make some requests of you, as faculty, as you pursue your many responsibilities in classrooms, labs, studios, libraries, personal offices, and all other formal and informal settings on campus.
Enhanced masking guidance
First, masks continue to be required on campus, including in classrooms, and we encourage everyone to wear the most effective mask possible.
One change as we start the spring semester is that masks need to be worn continually in indoor spaces, both by students and instructors, including while you are teaching or presenting, and regardless of where you are in the classroom. Eating and drinking in instructional spaces, which requires removal of masks, needs to be avoided. I fully understand the challenges of teaching and presenting with a mask, but we must respect the increased transmissibility of the omicron variant.
Consideration of student circumstances
Second, throughout the pandemic, many of us have faced challenging personal circumstances, as have our students. Please continue to be flexible with and supportive of students as they navigate their personal and family health concerns. Moreover, since both students and instructors are strongly urged to stay home if they have COVID symptoms, absences can be expected to be more frequent at the beginning of this semester. Please consider recording or “Zooming” classes for those who should not attend in person; and even if you do not typically offer makeup options for tests or labs, please consider how to best incorporate those opportunities into your instructional plans.
Throughout the pandemic, I have been deeply impressed by your dedication, kindness, and willingness to adapt your teaching, research, creative activity, service, librarianship, and everything you do, to unforeseen circumstances – all the while supporting our students through an utterly unique moment in our history. It has been, quite simply, inspiring. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for all that you continue to do each day to ensure the safety and health of our campus community, while continuing to push forward the teaching and research that transforms for the better the lives of our students, our state, our nation, and the world.
Be well, take care, and please accept my best wishes for a successful spring semester.
John S. Applegate
Interim Provost and Executive Vice President
Indiana University Bloomington