May 27, 2020
This spring and summer have been unlike any other that most of us can remember. It’s not just that we have shifted to online teaching and learning. It's that for many of us, our worlds have been turned upside down at home and at work. Now, one step at a time, we are working to turn them right-side up again.
Even with all that unfolded this spring, IUPUI students finished incredibly strong with 7,078 graduating in May. Our summer credit hours have increased since this time last year, which demonstrates the great value our students place on higher education even at a time that is far from normal.
Now, I am pleased to share with you that—after careful planning—we have determined that we will resume courses in the fall using a mix of in-person and online instruction.
This decision is the latest step in the process of building a new normal for our campus. Of course, until a vaccine for COVID-19 is widely available, it will be difficult to return to what we used to consider normal.
When it comes to matters of great complexity like a global pandemic, we don't have just one pathway forward or one solution that will return us to full and smooth operation, and people may disagree on the best course of action to take. However, with careful planning, working with experts, following CDC guidelines, and cooperation and support of the IUPUI community, we can build our new normal starting with the 2020-21 academic year. The plan that we are constructing is aimed at maximizing the health and safety of our community while at the same time preserving as much of the core essence of our students' experience as possible.
We have arrived at this plan after the careful review, study, and discussion by 12 task forces at IUPUI focused on various Fall 2020 scenarios and their impact on academic programs, student affairs, enrollment, equity and inclusion, facilities, auxiliary services, and other key areas. I would like to thank the 122 task force members, including all of our deans and many others who have contributed to this thorough and thoughtful COVID-19 Scenario Planning effort.
I am also tremendously grateful to the members of the Restart Committee, led by Executive Vice President and Dean of the IU School of Medicine Jay Hess. Fairbanks School of Public Health Founding Dean Paul Halverson served on that committee and has been working closely with our state's public health officials to model the trajectory of this virus and to guide our path forward. Our community benefits from the collective expertise of our faculty leading change in health sciences to defeat this virus, and we are grateful to them for their vital contributions.
THE PLAN FOR 2020-21 ACADEMIC YEAR
The AY2020-21 plan includes adaptations to the academic calendar for most schools to safeguard the health and well-being of our faculty, staff, and students by minimizing face-to-face instruction during the months when flu and COVID-19 seasons overlap. I am grateful to the IUPUI Faculty Council for their support of this modest adjustment, briefly outlined below:
- Semester start and end dates remain the same.
- August 24: start of fall semester
- May 9: end of spring semester
- Fall courses either conclude by Thanksgiving or shift online following Thanksgiving.
- Spring courses begin one week later than originally scheduled with the first three weeks of instruction online followed by on-site teaching starting on February 8.
- New online Winter Session will allow students an opportunity to take classes between Thanksgiving and February 5.
- Fall and spring breaks have been removed from the calendar to accommodate the new schedule.
Health and Safety Procedures
Guided by public health experts, we will implement a number of strategies designed to mitigate risk and prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in Fall 2020 and beyond. Those strategies focus on cleaning protocols, managing room capacities and schedules, maintaining safe distancing, wearing masks, modifying food service, regulating personal health checks, and quarantining when necessary. We are drawing on CDC, state, and local guidelines as well as our own medical and public health experts as we work to maintain a safe working and learning environment when we return to campus.
We recognize, as the CDC states, that some members of our campus community—individuals over 65 years old and people of any age who have certain serious underlying medical conditions—might be at a higher risk, and we are putting in place procedures for adjusting duties and expectations where needed and feasible.
At IUPUI, we have done everything possible to safely maximize the number of rooms available for students wishing to live on campus. All rooms in IUPUI's residence halls will be single occupancy with a rigorous exemption process available for students who may wish to choose their own roommate.
As in previous years, students may choose their own roommates. Those who sign a housing contract and do not select a roommate will more than likely live in a single occupancy room if one is available.
Dining services will be available and will follow CDC guidelines.
We realize that success in all of this depends on the campus community following public health guidelines to keep all of us safe. Without a vaccine, any return to campus will involve a certain level of risk. Monitoring, testing, and case tracking will become part of our everyday lives. A recent agreement with IU Health to screen and test faculty, staff, and students who are symptomatic for COVID-19 will help us manage this process.
In addition to this, each one of us will have to take personal responsibility for following CDC and university guidelines. Those guidelines will be useless if even one of us ignores them.
As I think back over this crisis, I have seen members of our community bring patience, compassion, and a willingness to work together to this very challenging situation, and I greatly appreciate all that you have done. Let's continue working together as we build our new normal and see the dawn of brighter days.
Flexibility and Ongoing Communication
By design, this plan is open to change. If the Indiana Department of Health or the Marion County Public Health Department issue new directives, we will comply. If our medical and public health experts identify new or different ways to safeguard our community, we will follow the science even if it tells us that we need to move away from campus again.
Your ongoing feedback will enable us to continuously improve this plan, and we will integrate your input to the extent possible. We will learn every step of the way and will make adjustments with your safety and health always at the forefront of our decision making.
Regular communication is going to be vital as we work through this process and prepare for the Fall 2020 semester.
Please mark your calendars for a Town Hall meeting on Thursday, June 4 from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. An invitation will be delivered in the coming days. Other campus leaders will join me to answer your questions and to share any new information that has become available.
Thank you again for all that you are doing as we move towards the fall semester. While this unprecedented time has been challenging, pushing us to our limits, it also reveals to me the depth of our shared commitment. You help me remember the spirit of our campus that brings us together in the interest of making this world a better place. I so look forward to the day that we will all be together on campus once again.
Take care and be well,
Nasser H. Paydar