A listener asked City Limits: Coronavirus, “To what extent were city and county leaders consulted before finalization of the ‘IU Restart Committee Recommendations Report’?”
Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton says considerably.
“We work very closely with the university, meeting two to three times a week with (IU Bloomington Provost) Lauren Robel,” he says. “And we will continue to do that.”
But he acknowledged on the May 29 Noon Edition program that it may be difficult to get IU students to follow the same rules in the Bloomington community that they will be required to follow on campus.
“There may be a very strict regime on campus, mask wearing and other behaviors, but may be different rules off campus. How do you get a population to recognize both of these?” he asked.
Kirk White, IU’s assistant vice president for strategic partnerships, says the university has major plans to educate students about the need to follow safe practices when it comes to COVID-19. He says there’s discussion of a required class on IU’s digital learning platform (Canvas) and having students sign a pledge about actions they will take.
In a message to IU faculty and staff issued May 27, Provost Robel acknowledged this difficult question about bringing students back in August: “Can we can teach our students to take seriously the consequences of failing to act responsibly, particularly when the surrounding areas will be operating under a different set of restrictions?”
She says she has seen messages saying it is “naïve or foolish” to believe students can be adequately educated about risks of the virus. She counters that the university should embrace the opportunity to do so.
“… the campus has been largely physically closed and IU and our faculty and staff have not yet had the opportunity to engage in a serious effort to mount a comprehensive educational campaign directed at students, much less one that makes clear to students that the way they behave will directly affect whether we can remain physically open at all,” she wrote. “… Some colleagues I respect deeply have already urged me to give up on residential education altogether without trying to mount such a campaign.
“I will not do so. While I respect the views of those who believe this is too difficult an undertaking, I would ask in response what we owe to our students on this set of issues. Nothing in our students’ lives thus far has affected them in such a visible, direct, and life-altering way as this pandemic. The messages they are getting at the national level are confusing and contradictory. And those messages do not address the special circumstances of a residential college campus. We need to make clear that students’ access to the campus at all is something they will largely control through their behavior. We have had no reason yet … to draw on students’ powerful feelings of care and empathy for each other, and for the faculty and staff of the campus.”
She sees reopening presenting ”educational possibilities (that) are extraordinary” in terms of helping students understand about responsibilities of living together with people who may have different needs than they do.
“I am not ready to give up on our students and ourselves quite so quickly without enlisting the very best faculty and staff advice and knowledge we can muster,” she wrote.
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