To all members of the Indiana University community,
I write to share further immediate and necessary changes at Indiana University to help combat the spread of COVID-19. This is a rapidly changing public health situation, and it is now clear we need to go beyond the actions we have already taken. In less than one week since my first message to you on March 10, the World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, and the U.S. government has declared a national state of emergency. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb had earlier already declared a public health state of emergency. The number of confirmed cases across the U.S. and in Indiana is growing each day. As of my writing this, the total number in the U.S. is over 3,000 and rising rapidly.
At this time, we continue to have no confirmed cases on Indiana University campuses. But with the anticipated greater availability of test kits in the near future, this could change very quickly.
The health and safety of the IU community are our foremost concerns as we make vital decisions for the operations of the university. We continue to be advised by health experts, including those from county, state and federal agencies.
We had hoped our intermediate steps would be sufficient, but it is now clear that IU must take the set of actions as outlined below to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community. I know how deeply disappointing these changes will be for our entire community, and especially for our students. All of us regret deeply that we have to take these actions. Yet they are absolutely necessary, and we are asking all individuals to make deep sacrifices for the good of those in our community who are most vulnerable to the threat of infection.
Classes to be virtual for the remainder of the spring semester
IU is suspending face-to-face classes and transitioning to virtual learning for the remainder of the spring semester. Classes will not resume until March 30 (see extended spring break below).
Students in courses with a clinical component or field work will receive further instruction from the academic leaders in their programs as to how these will be addressed. Faculty can continue to find resources on the Keep Teaching website. Students can find more information on online learning through the Keep Learning class on Expand as well as campus specific information on coronavirus.iu.edu.
Residential housing to close
To reduce large concentrations of students living in on-campus housing with many shared spaces and dining facilities, IU will close most of its residence halls and on-campus housing on March 20. Procedures for an orderly move-out and transition policies, including retrieving essential items, will be provided by each campus to housing residents via email by Tuesday and on campus housing websites. These will include procedures for students with highly exceptional situations who do not have a permanent residence or cannot return to their permanent residence, including some international students.
Extending spring break one week
As noted, spring break will be extended by one additional week. It will now be from March 14 to 29. This additional week will provide more travel flexibility for all students given the stress on domestic and international travel systems. It will additionally give faculty time to prepare for completing the semester via virtual teaching.
Canceling and postponing events
Upon the recommendation of the IU Foundation and in the continuing interest of safety, the Men's and Women's Little 500 bike races are canceled for this academic semester. This includes all associated events, including the qualifications events. The possibility of holding the events at some future date beyond this semester will be reassessed at a later date. I recognize that this necessary decision is especially heart-breaking for those students who have invested months of training in anticipation of this great contest on the Bloomington campus, but again it is necessary in the best public health interests of the IU community and the public.
All other IU-affiliated events and gatherings should be postponed, canceled or conducted virtually for the rest of the academic semester.
IU will assess in the coming weeks the future of its commencement ceremonies that are scheduled to be held on each campus in May.
IU campuses remain open with limited operations as I described in my Friday letter.
Just as virtual instruction will continue for the remainder of the semester, staff and faculty who are able to meet their work obligations from home by telecommuting, and are in a position to do so, should continue to do this. Unit heads should continue to be as flexible as possible, considering the nature of the work and whether the necessary tools and technology are available to allow employees to fully perform their job duties away from campus.
As the worldwide situation with COVID-19 continues to change rapidly, it is vital that all students, faculty and staff check their IU email at least daily. Email from IU offices, along with the coronavirus.iu.edu website, will be the best way to stay informed as the circumstances concerning COVID-19 and the efforts to mitigate and control its spread continue to rapidly develop. This website includes campus-specific information, so please look for details pertaining to your campus on a regular basis.
These are extraordinary times. I know how very difficult and deeply disappointing these steps will be for many students, staff and faculty. We profoundly regret having to arrive at this place, as I know that it means further disruption for all of you and your families. We do so now to enable everyone to better plan for the remainder of March and April. We are taking these necessary actions to support the health and safety of the IU community and the communities around our campuses. These steps will enable both our public health goals and continuity of our research and education mission in these circumstances.
Even in trying times like these, IU continues to join with many other scientists at America’s leading research universities and those around the world to help find a cure and to refine effective practices of combating disease. I thank the researchers in our Schools of Medicine, Public Health and many others who are contributing to the analysis and public policy that help advance our well-being.
I am deeply grateful to everyone in the IU community for your understanding and your willingness to navigate the disruptions caused by this virus. Personal responsibility and swift collective action are essential as we work together to protect the health and safety of our community.
Michael A. McRobbie