2020 State of the Campus

I address our community under extraordinary circumstances when most of us are away from the campus we love. I will use my time with you today to talk about how we came to this place, and what we are planning as we move into the end of the spring semester of 2020. Like all of us, I am looking forward through a glass, darkly, the end of this path still obscure. But that obscurity is brightened both by my confidence in the science and research that will lead us back to our campus and by the stories of grace and sacrifice that have gotten us this far. And I am confident that when this ends, we will look back on these days in gratitude for the people on our campus who have gotten us this far.

On January 24, 2020, Indiana University sent the first of what would become a series of increasingly urgent public safety advisories in response to the emergence of a novel and lethal coronavirus. From those earliest of days, the university continually evaluated and reacted to the threat, first as it affected our students and faculty abroad, then as it circled ever closer to Bloomington. In the space of two weeks in March, in response to what had quickly become a global pandemic, our campus moved all of our classes, our libraries, and most of our student services online. We emptied most of our residence halls, shuttered most of our laboratories and classrooms, and canceled or postponed all of our events, including, reluctantly, our cherished commencement ceremonies. Our auditorium went dark; our cinema closed; our performance venues fell silent.

And yet, despite this diaspora, despite the desperation of many of these days, and despite the profound disruption of our ordinary routines and work, I have never been prouder of our community. Through thousands of individual acts of leadership, grace, imagination, and creativity, the faculty, staff, and students of Indiana University Bloomington have preserved our core mission of teaching, research, and service. We have fought for our students’ academic progress, keeping them on the path to graduation. We have used our expertise and research to join the battle against this deadly disease. We have supported our state and our local communities through an outpouring of resources for our hospital system, our K-12 students, our first responders, and our rural and international communities. And we have kept whole the over 9,000 people who work for IU Bloomington, including our student workers, during this entire period, helping to support those whose positions were threatened and to stabilize the economy of our state.

We did this together under the most difficult of personal circumstances for so many on our campus. Faculty and staff, as well as students at our university, have worked in cars in our parking lots to access the internet services that are so vital to the continuity of our work. Faculty and staff members have juggled their teaching and research, and students have balanced their academic responsibilities, with care for children and for ill family members. Many members of our community have themselves been ill, or have had family members who have been stricken. And most terrible of all, we have lost treasured members of our families and community to COVID-19.

But as the Provost of Indiana University Bloomington, as I report today on the state of our campus, my overwhelming message is my strong gratitude and the gratitude of all of the university’s senior leadership for the professionalism all you have shown. In our time today, I will tell some of the stories of inspiring thoughtfulness and impressive creativity that have kept us moving forward during the circumstances created by this pandemic. For every story I share, there are hundreds more. The character with which so many faculty, staff, and students have addressed the difficulties we have faced, the resolve with which they have met those difficulties, and the heartfelt and determined ways in which we have attended both to our own mission and to the needs of our fellow humans, ensure that the 200 years of campus life we mark this year will be followed, with certainty, by many, many more.

Confronting the Emergency and Protecting Our Campus and Institutions

From the beginning of this crisis, Indiana University’s actions were driven by its values. Foremost among those was protecting the health and safety of our students, staff, and faculty. The success that we have had begins with three people who prepared for such an emergency well before it ever happened, framing the university’s emergency response from the beginning, and working tirelessly ever since: Superintendent of Public Safety Ben Hunter, Major Brad Seifers, and Graham McKeen, Assistant University Director of Public and Environmental Health.

In early January, McKeen was already closely tracking the virus, as he worried about the many faculty and students who regularly travel between Bloomington and the rest of the world. Thanks to McKeen’s work, by the third week of January, IU had begun to take action to protect our university from the risks of the novel coronavirus, and Superintendent Hunter and Major Seifers had started executing IU’s emergency processes. Superintendent Hunter’s daily, candid, insightful, and comprehensive briefings to IU’s executive leadership were critical in allowing us to make timely and important decisions in conditions of deep uncertainty. Major Seifers, leading the Emergency Operations Center now set up in Presidents Hall, helped navigate the safe evacuation of the campus buildings, and the process that allowed us to evaluate the needs of over a thousand students who were unable to return to their home countries or had nowhere else safe to go.

As word went out that classes would remain online for the spring semester, the incredible staff of Residential Programs and Services answered thousands of panicked questions from students who had left the campus for spring break and quickly found that it was unsafe to return. Jocelyn Maul, who manages assignments for RPS, worked with the RPS team to skillfully manage moves, move-outs, and housing for students who had to be in isolation. Indeed, every single person at RPS deserves our thanks, from its leaders Luke Leftwich and Sara Ivey Lucas to the folks who boxed and mailed essential items to students to allow them to continue their academic work. And special thanks goes to Ranji Abraham of UITS, who led a team that built the technical infrastructure necessary for everything from move-out scheduling to meal ordering for students in isolation.

In the meantime, staff in the Office of International Affairs were working with the over 1,300 students who were abroad in 36 countries to help them return and to salvage the semester. They were aided by staff across the campus and around the world. Carlotta Vacchelli, a PhD student in Italian, accompanied the students in her department’s overseas program as they were evacuated to Malta, keeping the students’ spirits high. The Kelley School of Business alone had 731 students in international exchange programs, and Tia Trueblood and Britta Goetz, at Kelley, worked around the clock to bring our students back home safely from countries that spanned Europe to Asia.

Jenny Bowen, Director of International Student Advising for the university, came up with creative solutions to the challenges faced by over 5,000 international students from over 120 countries who are studying with us. Not only did Bowen and her team help students navigate the complex federal visa and immigration status requirements, they also remain accessible to those students, and keep close tabs on them to help them complete their academic work. Indeed, Bowen has emerged nationally as a key advocate for flexibility to meet the needs of international students in the United States.

Even while our buildings and grounds emptied, many essential personnel remained to watch over and protect our campus. In the cavernous Wells Library, Randy Lent and Jim Champion serve as the eyes and ears for the librarians and staff who worked quickly to move all their services online while working remotely. Denver Wrightsman, Director of Facilities for the Jacobs School of Music, has stayed onsite to oversee repairs and protect those important venues, as has John Morrow, who has carefully watched over the Simon Hall labs, allowing us to receive essential equipment, and Karen Rogers and her staff, who have cared for the lab animals.

The dedicated staff of Facilities Operations has been keeping our overall facilities and environment safe. Scott Hansel of Building Services is a great example. When there was possible Covid contamination in one of our facilities, Scott and other members of his team immediately performed detailed cleaning and disinfecting to make sure the facility was safe. Brian Walls has brought his top-notch electrical skills to bear on high-priority projects across the campus during this period, helping to keep renovation in the Lilly Library safely moving forward. Mike Williams did the same for Utility Services, spending many hours in the first two weeks after most people left campus completing critical improvements to the steam heating service, and providing a calm presence for his whole crew during this unsettling time.

When storms hit the campus on April 8, downing several trees and causing multiple power outages, Lead Arborist Brett Mominee was ready, having already gotten equipment into place before the storm. Joe Sheese, Gary Chrzastowski and their teams at the IU Health Center and the Indiana Memorial Union ensured that these critical facilities remained accessible.

The IU Police Department meanwhile have worked diligently to protect IU, increasing patrols of empty facilities, ensuring that physical distancing measures are observed in the student neighborhoods around the campus, and assisting with the management of PPE inventory to distribute to our first responder and hospital partners.

During the transition and to this day, our campus has adhered to its traditions of shared governance and student consultation. Led by its President Diane Henshel, the Bloomington Faculty Council Executive Committee has made itself available every evening as necessary, and moved quickly to support our faculty and students through such things as automatic tenure and promotion deferral processes and changes in our grading structure to accommodate this emergency.

And our wonderful student government leaders, Isabel Mishkin, Matt Stein, Lucas Adams, and Dakota Coates, have kept the needs and concerns of the undergraduate and graduate students front and center. Thank you to everyone who has ensured that our operations and institutions continue to function even during a crisis.

Supporting Our Students

As the faculty, staff, and graduate assistants on this campus moved an astonishing 8,000 residential classes online, they—and indeed the entire country—were greatly aided by the phenomenal work that had already been done by a team led by Stacy Morrone, an award-winning teacher in her own right, in anticipating what our needs would be in the event of a disaster. The keepteaching.iu.edu website, followed by its companions, keeplearning.iu.edu and keepworking.iu.edu, helped faculty, students, and staff continuously during the transition, and were widely cited and copied with our blessing at over 50 other institutions.

Greg Siering and his team at the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning provided endless support in the form of webinars, updated materials, answers to practical questions, and patient hours of consultations by knowledgeable staff, training faculty and graduate students to use technology and software many had never used before, including me. Over 2,500 faculty and staff members participated in more than 30 webinars on how to use all of the tools available to teach online.

On the first day of class, University Information Technology Services logged 2.1 million minutes of Zoom meetings—the equivalent of four years of typical use—from 61,000 users in over 100 countries. The solid and durable foundation in IT infrastructure ensured we could, in fact, keep our students moving towards graduation.

Every school, every department, has its heroes—those people who took care of others and made sure we were able to address the many needs of our students. Carol Hostetter in Social Work, Adam Ward in the O’Neill School, Amaury de Siqueira in the School of Public Health, and Rowan Candy in Optometry were all cited by their colleagues for their generosity.

The ETS team in the School of Education, Joshua Wappes, Darrell Cooper, and James Sturgeon, have been outstanding. David Cartledge and Norman Krieger, co-chairs of the Piano Department, worked with Jacobs Dean Gwyn Richards to rent and distribute 80 digital keyboards for students. Rich Roland, Director of the Musical Theatre program in the College, rallied his students with virtual visits by guest artists when their New York showcase was canceled. Maurer School of Law faculty member and Associate Dean for Students Aviva Orenstein made a point of connecting with every J.D. student to determine what resources they might need. Joe Lovejoy in the College’s Walter Center did the same, leading an initiative to contact every College senior by phone.

Led by Martha Oakley, an entire cohort of faculty in Chemistry prepared videos and a best-practices guide for their colleagues. Amanda McKinney and Jim Handschy figured out how to deliver a version of the field experience of Geology’s Montana program online. Chris Parks, the Math department’s scheduling officer, transitioned the entire spectrum of summer course offerings, communicating in real time with affected students. Suzanne Schwartz in Molecular and Cellular Biology selflessly delayed her retirement to ensure the department could keep running through a pause in hiring. And Laura Plummer, Director of the Scholarly Writing Program, has provided support and comfort for faculty by moving the writing groups online and creating new virtual communities.

Our advisors have also been truly outstanding as they have taken a profession built on personal relationships and transitioned it to the virtual world. One example is Jen Shaw in University Division, who, on her own initiative, created a number of videos to help students navigate online tools, and shared them with her advising colleagues to ensure that students got the help they needed.

Indeed, as soon as the transition to online was announced, the entire Division of Student Affairs, led by Dave O’Guinn, immediately started working to move student services there, too. Denise Hayes, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services, recognized that our students would need mental health support and quickly navigated the complicated regulatory space of telemedicine to provide it. Maria Hamilton Abegunde in the University Graduate School continued her contemplative practices sessions online, to help graduate students and others maintain their equilibrium. Brandon Shurr, Assistant Director of Community Engagement, has been an incredible leader for our food pantry, Crimson Cupboard, ensuring we remain open by shifting our methods of providing meals. Rahul Shrivastav and the dining services staff, along with faculty member Carl Ipsen, conceived a takeout meal program for those dealing with food insecurity issues.

Tamir Hussain, Assistant Director of the IU Health Center, provided cheerful support and assistance for the medical providers, such as Dr. Beth Rupp, serving students during this pandemic. Hannah Laughlin brought a calm presence to students, staff, and parents as she kept them up-to-date, providing leadership in the Emergency Operations Center while she also got married in the midst of a pandemic. Leslie Fasone and Judy Downey from the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life, did an amazing job working with our Greek Alumni, house directors and house corporation boards to support the students moving out of sorority and fraternity facilities.

The Student Legal Services Attorneys, Stacee Williams, Holly Anspaugh, Kathleen Field, and Marc Abplanalp, met with dozens of students about off-campus leases, managed their cases, and helped to strategize their next steps, all with grace and professionalism. The Student Advocates Office, and particularly Andi Cailles, Sarah Hunt, and Annie Willis, created new systems and individual review for over 1,000 requests for emergency funding from students. Darrell Stone, Director of the Student Advocates Office and Jackie Fletcher-Kennedy, from the Office of Student Financial Assistance, worked with their small but mighty staff and others from their units to assist with a surge of incoming emergency fund requests. The teams have demonstrated the ability to be nimble, adaptive and responsive in order to overhaul the emergency funding process to support students experiencing hardships due to COVID-19. Thank you to all of you.

And of course, thank you for the wonderful generosity of 781 of our faculty, staff, and alumni who provided financial donations to the Beverly Warren Emergency Fund for Students. While the federal CARES Act relief will help, it will not begin to cover all of the need imposed by the financial emergency the country is experiencing. Your donations have and will be critical.

As the faculty worked through all of the issues of teaching online, offices on the campus were already thinking of the students who would arrive in the summer and fall. Our Registrar Mark McConahay and his team furiously recoded classes, waived change and late registration fees, and adjusted the transcripts for different Covid-related grading systems. Lily Oyarzun and her team from First Year Experience recreated summer orientation for new students, allowing all new students to connect virtually with current students, and to meet with an academic advisor in real time. The Groups program staff, led by Mary Stephenson, has our incoming students zooming in from their phones, and is supplying all incoming Groups students with a laptop to ease their transition.

While we believe deeply in residential education, and we long for its return, everyone on this campus with responsibility for students has gone above and beyond to ensure that our students are supported, know that we care about them, and are making progress towards their degrees. Thank you to every one of you.

Battling the Virus Through Our Research

Universities, and the academic freedom and concentrated research they foster, will be critical to subduing this pandemic. Our School of Medicine and its Dean, Jay Hess, and our Schools of Public Health in both Indianapolis and Bloomington, particularly their deans Paul Halvorson and David Allison and public health faculty member Shawn Gibbs, have been invaluable in supporting the State of Indiana’s modeling and mitigation efforts, and supporting IU Health with research and models. The pandemic has provided a grim confirmation of the wisdom of founding these public health schools only a few years ago, and their value now is incalculable.

Our faculty researchers are contributing to the scientific, social, and policy understanding that will move our country, and our world, out of the darkness of this economic and health disaster. David Wild’s work at the Luddy School is accelerating research and practice on the use of technologies on the front lines of emergency and crisis response. Brea Perry in Sociology expanded her person-to-person interviews on the physical and mental health of Hoosiers to include the effects of social isolation, stress or job loss, and other secondary effects of the virus. Wendy Miller at the School of Nursing is using machine learning to investigate the experiences, thoughts, and needs of nurses during this pandemic.

Elisheva Cohen at the Hamilton Lugar School is studying how public school teachers in the Midwest are responding to COVID. In Psychological and Brain Science, Anne Krendl is investigating COVID’s effects on social isolation in older adults, while her colleague Jonathon Crystal leads a group of behavioral scientists across North America to produce a series of infographics that enhance the public understanding of what is needed to slow the virus’s spread. And Kosali Simon in the O’Neill School is using Gallup survey data to track changes in respondents’ well-being since the pandemic began.

The independence and breadth of researchers at IU, and at other high-research universities across the country and world, will help us understand and recover from this pandemic and its effects. Thank you to all the faculty members who have formulated and are investigating these important questions.

Supporting Our Health Care System and the Communities Beyond our Gates

From the moment it was clear that we would be confronting the effects of the virus in Bloomington, the campus has mobilized support for the communities beyond our gates, with a primary focus on our partners at IU Health, but with thoughtfulness and care for all of our neighbors.

Dave Jent, Kirt Guinn, and Mark Spencer from the UITS Network team provided parking lot hot spots, not just for IU but for the larger Bloomington community to enable access to stable internet. Joe Husk from Executive IT found and repurposed iPads for patients who could not be with their families to permit them to see each other online.

Every hand that could be turned to meeting the needs for personal protective equipment was so turned. Cheyna Galloway, a student at the Maurer School of Law and a mother of two, began sewing masks for distribution to the homeless and has made over 200 already. She was joined by many on the campus, like Edda Callahan in the Hamilton Lugar School, in the effort to sew and distribute masks to those who need them. The faculty in the Eskenazi School—Kate Rowold, Carissa Carman, and Eve Mansdorf—and the wonderful Upholstery Department in RPS have also been sewing to provide the endless number of masks needed.

For those who don’t sew, Jiangmei Wu, assistant professor in the Eskenazi School, who is “known for her breathtaking folded artwork,” designed effective origami-folded masks out of vacuum cleaner bags and a building material called Tyvek, and made a video of the pattern and how to do it available online.

Kelley faculty members Jonathan Helm and Aaron Perry, with their graduate assistant Jeff Lim, coordinated with Purdue to help IU Health Methodist and University Hospitals build a workflow model on how the hospitals can react and adapt to the surge. Richard Ash, Sophie Bacq, Greg Fisher, Matt Josefy, Regan Stevenson, and Trent Williams used a minigrant from the Vice President for Research to launch the “Idea Sprint Weekend Against COVID-19” initiative. Coming out of that sprint, Amani Jambhekar, a doctor in her last term in the Kelley Direct program, worked with others to solve supply chain issues, finding and distributing over 25,000 pieces of sourced PPE.

Departments across IU, from the Luddy School to the Wells Library labs, to the Jacobs School and the Theatre Department, are putting our technology to use creating PPE and plastic face shields. Todd Reid of Warehouse Services scoured our warehouses for PPE, eventually uncovering boxes of supplies that could be used by hospitals and first responders. Mary Lynn Davis-Ajami, Associate Dean of the School of Nursing in Bloomington, led the effort to loan our hospital beds, IV poles and pumps, and other supplies to IU Health Bloomington.

Residential Programs and Services, at IU Health Bloomington’s request, readied Briscoe residence hall to serve as a respite home away from home for health care workers who did not want to risk exposing their own families to the virus.

Our students, faculty, and staff have also brought their particular expertise to populations with special needs throughout the state. When Governor Holcomb issued Indiana’s stay-at-home order, IU Bloomington graduate and undergraduate students in linguistics sprang into action, translating the order and other important health information into Hakha Lai for the large Burmese population in the state.

The Center for Rural Engagement, led by Kerry Thomson, quickly launched a COVID website specific to rural areas, connecting residents to resources ranging from free WiFi to free and reduced-cost services. CRE and IU’s Sustainable Food Systems Network put together a three-part COVID-related webinar on making local food available using online platforms, and launched a virtual poetry workshop with IU Provost Professor Cathy Bowman called Writing Our Lives in Troubled Times.

In hundreds of ways, many of them out of sight and quiet, our community has honored its relationship with our neighbors. For all who are working so thoughtfully and selflessly to ease the burdens of others, thank you.

Rekindling Our Campus Life

Even with the enormous amount of creativity required to continue our work, our campus’ intellectual and cultural life has begun to rekindle. All of our cultural institutions have made imaginative programming available during the last few weeks.

The IU Cinema has made spectacular art house film available broadly online. The Jacobs School has released performances from the past for us to watch now. The IU Auditorium is hosting live events on social media with the director of Les Miserables, one of the last shows to grace our stage. The African American Arts Institute shared a documentary on its three student performing arts ensembles live on Facebook. The Media School has continued incredibly useful podcasts on topics ranging from household finances to anxiety and depression. And the wildly creative and affirming Arts and Humanities Council, led by the indomitable team of Ed Comentale and Joe Hiland, has launched a variety of new series with contributions from dozens of departments and units around campus. Meant to keep our community connected in this period of essential physical distancing, this wealth of content includes reflections from campus leaders on the importance of the arts and humanities; a live variety show featuring faculty and student poets, musicians, actors, and dancers; COVID-related discussions with humanities faculty, and a compendium of weekly curated content around our campus.

This is a campus that has always thrived on its arts and humanities, and thank you to all of the people responsible for ensuring that our campus life remains as rich as possible during this period.

Mourning Our Friends

During this pandemic, many members of our community have lost family members or been ill themselves. Before I close, I want to recognize the loss of Dennis Peters, the Herman T. Briscoe Professor and a shining beacon in the Chemistry Department. Dennis was a tremendously gifted teacher, author of no fewer than five textbooks in chemistry who won every award at our university and in his field for his ability to bring chemistry alive for all levels of students, from high school through graduate school.

His gifts and vast knowledge were recognized as well by his election as a Fellow of the Electrochemical Society. And he was devoted to Indiana University from the time he joined us in 1962 until he died on April 13. Dennis was recognized for his devotion to our campus with both the Distinguished Service Award and the W. George Pinnell Award for Outstanding Service to Indiana University. His colleagues in Chemistry remember his warmth and good humor, and our entire campus’s condolences go to them and all of his former students.

Graduation when we meet again

Finally, I want to say a word to our graduating seniors. You will always be our Bicentennial Class, special and cherished. None of us could have predicted the hurried rush that ended your time on the campus this year, but know that we look forward to celebrating you when the time is right. I salute and honor your good humor, patience, and persistence in the face of this extraordinary challenge.

Conclusion

The story of our campus’s journey through this difficult period is the story of thousands of dedicated professionals doing their best to keep the important mission of our university moving forward when doing so takes imagination, effort, and sheer doggedness. We will survive this and come out the other side stronger.

No one knows when the residential education and collegial encounters we value so deeply will resume, but resume they will. We are planning now for all of the contingencies that will make it possible to be together again. Among the many lessons of this devastating pandemic is the reaffirmation that Indiana University’s mission, and that of all of the country’s research universities, is critical to our nation’s health, spirit, and prosperity. The stories of Indiana University Bloomington’s faculty, staff, and students during this time—of your grace, character, and creativity—will be the foundation on which our next 200 years is built.

Thank you.