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As Fall Semester Ends, IU President Explains Decision To Bring Students Back To Campus

image of 18th president of IU, Michael Mcrobbiel

Indiana University President Michael McRobbie. (Courtesy: IU Communications)

Indiana University President Michael McRobbie heard the critics when university officials decided to bring students back to campus in the midst of COVID-19.

“There was a lot of pressure not to open for in-person classes and the prevailing view in the media and many other places was that it was going to be the campuses that would become these hotbeds of disease,” he said in a recent interview. “In fact, as of now, the converse is the case. There is probably nowhere safer to be in the state than on an IU campus.”

The seven-day positivity rate has been 1 percent or lower most of the semester, before rising in this latest wave to 1.8 percent. That is much lower than throughout Indiana, which was 12.1 percent on Friday.

McRobbie cites as reasons a mask mandate, a social distancing mandate, and modified classrooms for those courses that did not go totally online.

READ MORE: Dr. Box To College Students Coming Home: Act Like You've Been Exposed To COVID-19

He says the fear that in-person classes would be dangerous has not materialized, saying there have been zero transmissions from classrooms on any of IU’s campuses.

Massive testing has helped. Every student was told to get a test within 10 days of returning to Bloomington last fall. In addition, every student checking in to a residence hall had to be tested when they returned to campus. And the university is testing about 12,000 students every week whether they have symptoms or not.

Students who test positive and those they may have been exposed are notified quickly.

“Normally our contact tracers are able to contact the person within about an hour of being reported,” McRobbie said. “We’ve been able to get people into quarantine or isolation very rapidly.”

Of course, the semester has not gone perfectly. Flare-ups shut down 75% of the fraternity and sorority houses at one point.

“Strong action had to be taken there,” he said. “That brought a lot of criticism from people associated with some of those houses.”

He said IU’s health experts had said the fraternities and sororities would be difficult to keep from being infected because of their communal living situations. He said they were not being targeted for anything other than the risk to public health when those predictions came true.

He said the university will continue to act if there are hot spots next semester.

For the latest news and resources about COVID-19, bookmark our Coronavirus In Indiana page here.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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