June 15, 2020
I write with a series of updates for our faculty and staff. When I wrote several weeks ago, I noted both how critical the university’s work is to our country and the difficulty of trying to fulfill our mission of teaching, research, and service in the disassembled state that we have been in. Many people’s research has been disrupted by the inability to get to the specialized facilities, like labs and studios and libraries, (although let me thank Carolyn Walters and all our librarians for what they have made possible). And despite the enormous efforts of our faculty, our students—particularly our least resourced students, who are often disproportionately our students of color—have suffered from the lack of the campus structure and support that have made our graduation rates so high as a residential campus. There are tremendous equity concerns on the scale for bringing our students back—concerns that are particularly relevant right now.
I also want to recognize exactly how challenging this has been for our faculty and staff. Pandemic planning is requiring very large amounts of work, for all staff and faculty and for every dean and administrator. If you are a faculty member, you are likely engaged in a lot of course design work, with increased needs to be online, and to organize courses in formats like Canvas to adapt to the different configurations of the classrooms and the limited availability of classroom space.
Moreover, the most recent events involving the pandemic of racism has caused enormous distress, anguish, and an added emotional toll for every thinking person and particularly and especially for our faculty, staff, and students of color. President McRobbie’s statements at the Board of Trustees meeting on behalf of IU on this topic included concrete actions: naming the former intramural center Bill Garrett Fieldhouse in honor of that Hoosier pioneer; the review of all historical names on buildings and structures on all campuses to determine whether the names on the buildings belong to people who deserve that honor; and funding to support both research on racial justice and on the health disparities faced during COVID-19 by black and brown communities, focusing on our students.
Finally, I recognize that responding to both of these pulls on your professional time and your psychic well-being while you are also juggling uncertain child care and school schedules. Child care has been closed across Bloomington, as have the public schools, and the plans for the public schools are only now being finalized. As a mother, I understand the need to be a parent first, and how many of my colleagues have been doing their work around the need of their children.
And I also know that the need for accurate information for planning is very high, particularly with respect to the fall. On Friday, June 12, co-sponsored by the Bloomington Faculty Council, we held the first in a series of webinars about this fall, with the topic of academic planning and the calendar. We will host two additional webinars this week, both on Zoom. The first, “Keeping IU Healthy: Testing, Tracing, and Resurgence Monitoring: An Interactive Discussion” is scheduled for noon on Wednesday, June 17, and participants should register here. The second, “Keeping IU Healthy: Facility Preparations and Precautions,” is scheduled for Thursday, June 18, at 11 a.m., and you can register here.
This past week, the IU Public Safety and Institutional Assurance Office released Return to Campus: A Guide for Departments on the Fall2020.iu.edu website. That guide contains information on a great many topics, including the phased reopening of the campus.
The overarching theme of reopening, in keeping with the Hess Committee report, is to keep the density of the on-campus population as low as is consistent with the resumption of our research and teaching missions.
What this means for you is that if it is possible to continue to do all or some of your work remotely, we would like you to do that. Supervisors for staff and department chairs and associate deans for faculty are in ongoing individual conversations to balance keeping the density low and allowing return for things that must be done on campus.
I want to stress that those individual conversations are the primary mechanism for staff and faculty to work through their planning for fall.
In addition, you will be asked to sign electronically a Community Responsibility Acknowledgement before you return to campus. That document represents your acknowledgement that you will take the measures that are necessary for us to keep each other safe, such as wearing a cloth face covering in buildings or outside when social distancing is not possible; following the CDC guidelines on handwashing; monitoring your health and staying away from campus if you are sick; and other public health measures. All students will be required to sign a similar acknowledgement.
The Community Responsibility Acknowledgement includes a recognition that the university is subject to requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide accommodations for those with a documented disability who cannot, because of that disability, perform essential functions of their positions. This is done using a process that is well-established on all campuses. I want to stress that, while the university is required to let you know the conditions for which ADA accommodations with respect to COVID-19 will be made, and while the university will follow its usual processes, this is not the primary mechanism for discussing your work this fall. That is because the ADA does not include many of the considerations that we are working through individually, such as care responsibilities for children or family members you live with who are medically fragile or other life situations that might play a role in your work this fall. Individual conversations with supervisors and department chairs will continue to be the primary mechanism for those determinations.
Thank you for your patience as we all work together to reach the best solutions possible for the fall. Hang in there.
All my best,