June 15, 2020
Three months ago today, I sent my first message to the IUPUI Council of Deans to let them know that we would be changing our modes of instruction for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, IUPUI faculty, staff, and students have gone to extraordinary lengths to continue doing the hard work of conducting research and continuing educational programs, many of us working remotely and often without the resources and support that we have come to expect and rely upon as members of our academic community. This transition has been especially difficult for our students, whose spring semester so utterly and dramatically changed, and our under-resourced students faced particular challenges.
It is heartbreaking that, at the same time as COVID-19 has turned our worlds upside-down, racism and racist violence continue to plague our nation, putting Black, Latinx, Asian, and Asian American people at great risk. I am proud that so many leaders at IUPUI have spoken out about what is happening. In addition, at last week’s Board of Trustees meeting, President McRobbie identified concrete actions the university is taking in response, among them funding to support both research on racial justice and on the health disparities faced during COVID-19 by minoritized communities.
Phased Campus Restart
On June 1, we began our phased return to campus with the restart of on-campus research. Over the next two months, we will be continuing the process of preparing for a fall semester that includes a blend of online and face-to-face classes. Currently, we are reviewing available space on campus and redesigning space use to allow for safe distancing. Concurrent with this process and with input from faculty, we are prioritizing classes that need to be held face-to-face and identifying ones that can go online. I know faculty members are still in the process of redesigning courses, and that takes a great deal of creativity and effort for which I am grateful.
With this planning in mind, earlier this month, I shared an update in our latest Faculty and Staff Zoom Town Hall meeting. We welcomed nearly 2,300 people on that update and fielded more than 240 questions covering a wide range of topics. In the event that you were unable to attend, a closed-captioned version of the video was recorded.
Fall 2020 Website and Keeping IU Healthy Webinars
An increasing number of IU resources are available to everyone in our community as we plan for the fall. The best way to access them is a new Fall 2020 website, which includes links to the available resources on a range of subjects, including the academic calendar, personal precautions, travel, cleaning procedures, and more. As we plan for our phased return to campus the Return to Campus: The COVID-19 Guide for Departments will help ensure that all of us understand what is expected of us. The guide includes information on a great many topics, including the phased reopening of all campuses.
Please note that many of these materials will be updated regularly, so please consult the Fall 2020 website frequently and whenever you have questions.
In addition, we have two webinars this week:
- Wednesday, June 17 at 12 p.m.: Keeping IU Healthy: Testing, Tracing, and Resurgence Monitoring
- Thursday, June 18 at 11 a.m.: Keeping IU Healthy: Facility Preparations and Precautions
Fall 2020 Work Plan
The overarching theme of reopening, in keeping with the Restart Committee report, is to keep the density of the on-campus population low, even as we resume our teaching, research, and clinical missions. This will require balancing individuals’ needs and preferences, with the needs of our campus to resume academic programs that will safely accommodate the desire of an overwhelming number of students for in-person educational experiences.
What this means for you is that if it is possible to continue to do all or some of your work remotely, we would like you to do that, in consultation with your department chairs, deans, or supervisors. In fact, supervisors for staff and department chairs and associate deans for faculty are in ongoing individual conversations to balance keeping the density low while allowing many campus activities to resume. I want to stress that these individual conversations and adjustments are the primary mechanism for staff and faculty to work through their planning for fall.
Community Responsibility Acknowledgement
In addition, you will be asked to sign electronically a Community Responsibility Acknowledgement. As I hope that everyone understands by now, a pandemic of a highly infectious disease like COVID-19 demands a community response. The actions we take, or fail to take, affect others as much as ourselves. COVID-19 truly tests our commitment to each other and to our community.
Because we cannot weather the COVID-19 pandemic by thinking and acting only for ourselves, the Community Responsibility Acknowledgement represents your agreement that you will take the measures that are necessary for us to keep each other safe:
- Wearing a cloth face covering in buildings or outside when physical distancing is not possible
- Following the CDC guidelines on handwashing
- Taking your temperature daily, monitoring your health, and staying away from campus if you are sick
- Other public health measures
All students will be required to sign a similar acknowledgement.
For faculty, staff, and students alike, none of the protective measures described above, by themselves, will be perfect preventatives. Taken together, however, they will significantly decrease the likelihood of transmission. I saw a great illustration of this in a video made by the University of Michigan.
Although I greatly prefer Jaguars to Wolverines, when it comes to our community's health, I feel strongly that we need to respect the great work that is being done by colleagues at universities across the country.
The Community Responsibility Acknowledgement includes a recognition that the university is subject to requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide reasonable accommodations for those with a documented disability in order for them to perform essential functions of their positions. The university provides those accommodations according to a well-established process. I want to stress that, while the university is required to let you know the conditions for which ADA accommodations with respect to COVID-19 will be made, and while the university will follow its usual processes, this is not the primary mechanism for discussing your work this fall. That is because the ADA does not include many of the considerations that we will work through individually, such as care responsibilities for children, or family members in your household who are medically fragile, or other life situations that might play a role in your work this fall. Individual conversations with supervisors and department chairs will continue to be the primary mechanism for those determinations.
The year to come, no doubt will be different from every year that has come before. That said, as challenging as the future may be, I am looking forward to the fall and to the spring beyond and to working with you to make sure that we at IUPUI do our best to create an environment where each one of us can succeed and support one another.
Take care and be well,
Nasser H. Paydar