Welcome to the first edition of the Indiana University Government Relations Newsletter. Our new, bimonthly newsletter will keep you up to date on the work IU is doing to support our numerous communities and the decisions being made to best serve our students, state, and mission. We are all facing difficult circumstances and heralding a call to action during these trying times. COVID-19 has brought with it significant challenges, but also opportunities for our institution to be at its best, and we have found that more often than not our Hoosiers go above and beyond.
IU’s COVID-19 Response
Indiana University established its Emergency Operations Center in late 2019 to address our response to COVID-19. With that foresight came the ability to provide key support and infrastructure to our wider system and community partners.
IU Donates Critical PPE to Communities Statewide
To date, IU has donated over 100,000 units of personal protective equipment to IU Health, local hospitals, and to local governments near our campuses, such as Bloomington, Gary, and Indianapolis. While ensuring that we reserve enough PPE for our own essential employees, we have been able to provide critical amounts of PPE to health care providers around the state. To see an exact breakdown of our donations click here.
Initially we were equipped to provide large quantities of PPE because of our expansive health science and research programs, but as we saw demand growing our faculty and staff from all divisions have stepped up. Take assistant chemistry professor JD Mendez of our Columbus campus center. Five years ago JD bought a 3D printer to fabricate models of atoms for his classes, now that printer--and two others--are running 24 hours a day printing PPE for Columbus Regional Hospital. There’s also Jiangmei Wu, an assistant professor of interior design in Bloomington, who was featured in the New York Times for developing an origami technique to craft face masks at home using a vacuum cleaner bag.
Of course, our efforts University-wide have streamlined the use of our technology for design and production at a large scale. Our 3D printing lab coordinator, Andrew Webb has been working to get approval for printing his designs of heavy-duty N95 face masks and face shields. Once he is granted the proper permissions, we hope to be printing at least 50 a week.
In an effort to counter the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic Congress has passed several relief packages. The third federal installment of Coronavirus relief, the CARES Act, appropriated funding to higher education institutions based on their percentage of Pell and non-Pell students. At least half of the money disbursed to the university must be allocated directly to students for expenses related to emergency operations, including food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care. IU has formed an internal working group to determine how to best disburse these funds, under federal guidance, to our students across our nine campuses in the coming weeks. While the appropriations from the CARES Act are much needed to sustain our emergency response to COVID-19, IU will continue to look for cost saving measures as public universities do not currently qualify for non-profit payroll relief under the new legislation.
Last week Indiana University saw its first teleconferenced Board of Trustees meeting. President McRobbie provided a succinct statement summarizing the challenges we face, measures we are taking, and our plan to move forward, which can be found here. Highlights include:
• Freezing new hiring and salary increases
• Calling for a 5% reduction in general fund expenditures
• Delaying non-essential capital plans
These are difficult and unpleasant decisions that we have had to make, and will continue to make, but they are necessary in the circumstances. But, our investments over many decades in basic infrastructure, key efficiencies, inter-campus collaboration, innovation, and fiscal responsibility have put IU in a good position to weather this storm—not easily, but with certainty in our ultimate success.