Faculty/Staff Communications

Flatten the Curve and Carry On

March 26, 2020

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

On Monday, we begin teaching again. I am supremely grateful to every person who is teaching this semester for the tremendous thought you are giving to how to do this as well as we can, from all of the myriad of ways we engage in instruction. I write to update you on a number of developments since my last message.

1. Stay at Home Order and Public Health

We are in a critical part of Indiana’s battle with this pandemic. The governor’s Executive Order on March 23, 2020, ordered Indiana residents to join the fight against an escalating curve of infection by staying at home and avoiding all but essential activities outside the home until April 7. This extraordinary step was necessary because COVID-19 cases in Indiana have escalated. Our obligation to each other and our community is to work at home during this time if we possibly can in order to flatten the curve of infection. It is easy to rationalize exceptions for ourselves—I need to be in my office, studio, archive, lab; I’ll be by myself, etc.—but doing so puts others at risk. In this instance, let’s all be hard on ourselves instead, and rigorously interrogate our reasoning before we let ourselves off the hook of complying with an extraordinary order in an extraordinary time. Being vigilant and working from home unless it is absolutely necessary is the ethical thing to do right now.

2. Summer Classes, Events, and Programs

Regretfully, the continuing pandemic requires that we continue our current online teaching during the summer sessions. Summer credits often include clinical placements, internships, and other kinds of non-didactic courses that will require close work with individual academic units. Please look to your deans and academic units for additional guidance on how to approach those credit-bearing experiences.

In addition, both residential and non-residential events and programs that were currently scheduled for the summer will need to be canceled or shifted to online. Again, please work with your academic units on those events. 

3. Shared Governance

I am grateful to the leadership of the Bloomington faculty for its tremendous dedication at this unprecedented time. I am working closely with the Bloomington Faculty Council Executive Committee on all academic policies that we are adopting to cope with the ongoing pandemic issues. The BFC bylaws permit the Executive Committee to provide for such approval in emergencies. The BFC leadership has been wonderful in its willingness to meet regularly for this purpose. 

4. Extensions of Time for Probationary Academic Employees

The suddenness of the actions we have been required to take in response to the pandemic, coupled with the disruptions in faculty research and the move to online teaching, have presented challenges in particular to our academic colleagues who are in probationary status.

After discussion with our campus academic leadership and the Bloomington Faculty Council Executive Committee, and approval by President McRobbie, IU Bloomington is instituting the following procedures:

  1. All currently employed tenure-track faculty who are due to go up for tenure in 2020-2021 or later have the option to extend their tenure clock by one year. The additional year extension would apply equally to faculty who may have received previous extensions for other reasons, such as family formation as well as those who have not previously been given an extension.

  2. All clinical and lecturer-rank faculty in their probationary period and due to go up for promotion to long-term contract in 2020-2021 or later have the option to extend their probationary contract by one year.

  3. Faculty wishing to file an extension will fill out the “Understanding on Probationary Status” Form, and write “COVID-19” on the form. These forms may be circulated to the Chair, the dean, and the Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs (VPFAA) electronically in order to document the request, but the request will be automatically granted. All of those requesting the extension who are eligible will be granted an extension. Once approved, VPFAA will notify faculty of their new tenure/promotion decision date.

  4. Academic personnel who would typically be considered in 2020-2021, and would like an automatic extension, should submit the form by May 1, 2020. Faculty due to go up in 2021-2022 or later, are asked to submit requests by Dec. 31, 2020.

  5. Questions should be directed to Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs Eliza Pavalko at vpfaa@indiana.edu.

5. Teaching Information

  1. Teaching:

    1. If you plan to teach your class synchronously using Zoom, please make sure that you meet at your regular class time. This will ensure that all students can maintain their current class schedules.

    2. You should not use the VPN connection to teach your classes in Zoom.

    3. Classes taught synchronously in Zoom should be recorded and made available for students in distant time zones or those with connectivity or childcare issues, illness, or other hardships.

  2. Knowledge Base
    There are immense amounts of information on teaching, working remotely, tech support, and related information on the Knowledge Base website.

  3. Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning and KeepTeaching.iu.edu
    The CITL website is your go-to resource for all things teaching related, including keepteaching.iu.edu. webinars on teaching technology; humans who will talk you through it (and how to contact these humans); and blogs on staying in touch with your students. CITL is developing boot camps for specific needs. I urge you to spend significant time with the information on this site. I am deeply grateful to the CITL team, which has extended availability to assist you with questions. To talk with a consultant directly, please contact citl@indiana.edu

  4. For your students:

    1. Keep Learning Website
      The KeepLearning.iu.edu website has been created to help your students move to the online environment. It is worth connecting in your Canvas courses and reading through yourselves.

    2. Technical help for your students:
      We recognize that students may run into technical problems along the way, and you shouldn’t have to solve them. Students can call the UITS Support Center (812-855-6789; ithelp@iu.edu) for technical help 24x7. Also, you can import tech support modules into your Canvas courses that are designed to give students the instructions they need to use key technologies; just import the modules and tweak them slightly for your class context.

  5. Equipment
    If you need tech to keep working from home, your schools and departments should be able to help you check out equipment.

6. Research

The Vice President for Research has issued research hibernation guidance. Please contact the research office with questions.

7. Building Information

During the period of the governor’s order, most academic buildings will be locked, and available only to the building’s occupants who have card or key access. Buildings will have signs that direct people without keys or cards to the person who can help them gain access.

Finally … Pride and Hope

You should be proud of your university’s response to this pandemic. We have donated large amounts of personal protective equipment to IU Health and to emergency first responders from our own supplies and from our science departments, and have offered our 3D printers for their needs. We are working particularly closely with IU Health Bloomington on contingency planning for their needs. We have opened free Wi-Fi in the parking lots of our campuses across the state for the K-12 students and others who need it. Our volunteer student organizations are mobilizing remotely. We have continued to house our international students who could not get home and our domestic students who had no place else to go. Our cultural institutions are figuring out how to make art available remotely. I have absolute confidence in our ability and creativity, not only to weather this, but to thrive.

Emily Dickinson’s wonderful poem, “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers,” has been much in my mind this week. It is a beautiful spring, and hope, like in the poem, “perches in the soul.” Keep your hope alive, friends. We’ll stay connected through all of this, and in ways as yet mysterious and unseen, come out the other side stronger for it.

With deep gratitude,