March 26, 2020
We miss you and are looking forward to welcoming you back to class online on Monday.
Like the rest of our world and country, Bloomington has changed a lot since you left. I write today to give you critical information about Indiana University’s and the State of Indiana’s attempts to flatten the curve of the pandemic, and to provide important information about academics and how you can keep learning online.
Your generation has been given a once-in-a-lifetime challenge. You will meet it with determination, grace, and grit, and meet it you must. Lives literally hang in the balance. We can overcome this pandemic, but now is the time to follow every bit of public health guidance you are receiving.
1. If you are in Bloomington, stay in your home.
This is the most important thing I can say to you.
We are in a critical part of Indiana’s battle with this pandemic.
What we do today will make a difference in whether our doctors and nurses can care for the very sick and keep people alive.
- Indiana’s governor issued an Executive Order on March 23, 2020, which ordered Indiana residents to fight against an escalating curve of infection by staying at home and avoiding all but essential activities outside the home, such as getting food and medical care, until April 7. We have no way of knowing whether this time period will be extended.
- This extraordinary step was necessary because COVID-19 cases in Indiana have escalated. Our obligation to each other and our community is to work from home during this time unless it is essential to be out, and to maintain social distances of six feet from other people.
- We need to stay home right now in order to flatten the curve of infection. It is easy to make exceptions for ourselves, but doing so puts others at risk. Let’s all be hard on ourselves instead, and save lives by following this 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.
- How to keep going:
- It is important to exercise, and even with the governor’s order, you can do this outside by yourself or socially distanced from others.
- Stay connected to your family and friends virtually. Do that now more than ever.
- Seek help if you need it. Make a Care Referral for a friend you are worried about, or for yourself.
- Crisis mental health services are available at 812-855-5711, 24/7.
- CAPS is offering visits by phone/video. Schedule by calling 812-855-7688.
- The Health Center is open if you are ill, but call ahead at 812-855-4011.
2. If you are considering coming back to Bloomington, consider this:
- Instruction is all online.
- Student services are online.
- Our staff and faculty are staying home, in compliance with the governor’s order.
- The campus buildings are locked.
- The bars are closed and the restaurants are only available for take-out.
- All campus events have been canceled, postponed, or moved online. This includes Little 5 and graduation.
- Gyms, pools, and fitness centers are closed.
- Nonessential stores are closed. Groceries, pharmacies, and gas stations are open.
- Physical access to libraries is unavailable; services are online.
- IU housing is closed except for students who were caught here when borders closed or for those had no other place to be.
- The governor’s order limits travel except for essential purposes.
- Young people can get seriously ill, and you could be unable to travel or have your parents travel here to pick you up.
- Social gatherings are not permitted.
3. Summer Classes, Events, and Programs
Regretfully, our best projections about the arc of the pandemic in Indiana require that we continue our current online teaching during the summer sessions. Summer credits often include clinical placements, internships, and other kinds of courses that will require close work with the 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 be canceled or shifted to online.
Summer study abroad is also canceled.
For many of you, summer opportunities like jobs, internships, and travel abroad that you had planned will not be there. If that is the case, we hope you consider advancing your progress toward degree by taking online classes this summer.
4. Student Government
- I am incredibly grateful to IU Student Government, whose officers Isabel Mishkin and Matt Stein have made themselves available at late hours for Zoom calls to consult on student issues. Students have lots of questions, and your student government is working very hard to represent the student body as we make the many decisions that this pandemic has thrust upon us.
- I know that the IU Graduate and Professional Student Government President Lucas Adams and Vice President Dakota Coates are similarly working closely with Vice Provost David Daleke. The GPSG has created a GPSG COVID-19 resources page with a number of helpful links.
5. Online Instruction
- Keep Learning Website
The KeepLearning.iu.edu website has been created to help you transition to the online environment. It is terrific. Even if you think you are an online pro, it is worth reading carefully.
- Technical help
We recognize that students may run into technical problems along the way. Students can call the UITS Support Center (812-855-6789; firstname.lastname@example.org) for technical help 24x7.
- Knowledge Base
There are immense amounts of information on teaching tech your faculty members are using, working remotely, tech support, and related information at the Knowledge Base website.
6. Academic Matters
The pandemic required an abrupt shift to online for all of us. We are doing our level best to come up with the best answers we can to the many academic issues the shift has caused. No answer will be perfect, and they all require trade-offs with which reasonable minds could differ. Talk to your academic advisors, who are available online, if you have questions about your particular situation.
- The S Grade
- The campus has adopted the option of the S grade. It is intended for use when a teacher knows that a student has passed a course, but does not have sufficient information to provide a grade. The instructor must consult with the academic associate dean for permission to provide S grades.
- S grades will be accepted as fulfilling all requirements for a major or acceptance into IU programs.
- Some students require a letter grade for outside requirements, such as particular financial aid. We know this, and will provide such a grade if needed.
- Academic departments and schools are considering and discussing the applicability of the S grade to their particular context, courses, and disciplines. Please discuss your concerns with your academic advisor.
- Finals and Assessments
Deans and faculty are engaged in conversations about how to equitably grade assignments and finals under these new conditions. Please know we are giving careful consideration to the intricacies these assessments.
- Access to computer labs/Wi-Fi
There will be limited access to computer labs in the IU Memorial Union.
7. A Special Word to Our Graduating Seniors
We postponed graduation with very heavy hearts. You are, and always will be, our Bicentennial Class. Commencement is one of life’s most cherished moments. A committee is working on ways to celebrate your achievements in ways that truly match the importance of this milestone.
Finally … Pride and Hope
You should be proud of your university’s response to this pandemic. Our terrific faculty members have been providing their expertise to the country. 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 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 museums, cinema, and musical venues 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, dear students. We’ll stay connected through all of this, and in ways as yet mysterious and unseen, come out the other side stronger for it.