Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie thanked members of IU Bloomington's Cabinet of Student Leaders for their role in helping keep campus safe during an academic year unlike any other.
The cabinet includes students representing several different groups on campus and typically invites McRobbie to meet with them at least once a year. During their Oct. 30 virtual meeting, McRobbie outlined the key role students have played in allowing some in-person instruction and activities to continue across IU's campuses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I want to thank and congratulate all of you and the whole student body for the seriousness with which you have taken the public health requirements of the pandemic," McRobbie said. "You've really proven that Indiana University students are responsible adults."
IU recorded its lowest positivity rate for the whole university during the week of Oct. 18-24, which McRobbie said was the result of people following public safety precautions and rigorous mitigation testing at IU. The first of three IU Pandemic Response Laboratories recently opened at IU Bloomington, and two more will soon be operational at the IU School of Medicine on the IUPUI campus.
"Our own testing facilities mean we can do a huge number more, plus we can scale it up if we have to," McRobbie said. "It's also quicker."
The labs will more than double IU's mitigation testing capacity, allowing the university to process up to 25,000 tests a week.
McRobbie also answered questions from student leaders about IU's anti-racism and equality efforts. In addition to welcoming its most diverse class ever this fall, IU has established the Pandemic Health Disparities Fund with $1 million of support from the Office of the President. The fund is designed to help address health disparities among students of color, and a committee recently presented recommendations for how to use some of the money.
"A significant amount of that funding has been going toward addressing mental health needs," McRobbie said.
McRobbie has also initiated a systematic review of all named buildings and structures on IU's campuses. Following a 60-page report from the Jordan Committee, the Board of Trustees voted to rename sites on the Bloomington campus named after former IU president David Starr Jordan. Jordan played a large role in the eugenics movement, which is a false theory that society can be improved through selective breeding.
McRobbie has said the names of places at IU must reflect the university's commitment that all students be treated with dignity and respect.
Student leaders also asked McRobbie about his proudest accomlishments during his more than 13-year tenure as IU president. McRobbie said he's proud of IU's efforts to support student success, including the endowment of more than 5,800 undergraduate and graduate fellowships over the last five years as part of For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign. These awards, which represent a more than 45 percent increase over the total created during IU’s entire 190-year history before the campaign, have helped many students from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to earn an IU education.