Indiana University Expands Statewide Impact to COVID-19 Response
As the new normal brought about by coronavirus begins to settle onto Hoosiers, Indiana University has been working tirelessly to provide support and infrastructure across the state to ensure a continued and effective response to the needs of our students and wider community.
While IU’s researchers have teamed up with the Indiana State Department of Health, IU Health, and other stakeholders to test an expanding number of Hoosiers, develop a vaccine, and trace infection rates, our faculty, staff, and students are making a difference across all of our campuses and communities.
The Center for Rural Engagement (CRE) at IU has mobilized community health networks in rural Indiana counties to address COVID-19. These health networks were built around Community Health Improvement Plans (CHIPs) in six rural Indiana counties over the past two years. CRE is also providing communities with information about resources that are available to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 by developing a custom-built map of food resources across the Indiana Uplands.
On our campuses, IU has dedicated the Briscoe Quad in Bloomington and University Tower at IUPUI to house medical personnel and (if needed) COVID-19 patients who need to be quarantined. Our parking lots across our regional campuses are not sitting empty either--we have transformed them into WiFi hotspots so that our regional and local K-12 students have guaranteed access to broadband wireless to complete their distance education. We’re also utilizing the I-LIGHT network to help other universities set up similar arrangements.
The Center on Representative Government at IU has proven to be a vital resource for social studies and history teachers across the country. Their innovative and fun app dedicated to civic education, Engaging Congress, has been used in over 3,000 classrooms across the country and saw an 818% increase over the previous month in downloads in March. CitizIN, a signature project of the IU Office of the Bicentennial, was created in response to Senate Enrolled Act 29 (2017), which required Indiana high schools to offer an Indiana Studies elective, has also been an important tool in distance education. The Center has hosted several webinars and participated in virtual conferences to help teachers use both apps and implement lesson plans for distance learning.
Indiana University High School, which offers a broad range of courses for online instruction, is also sharing its curriculum with schools across the state to help them transition to remote teaching and learning during the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s no surprise that IU students are lending a hand as well. Like IU South Bend Junior Mya Perry, who, with her friends, started South Bend Mutual Aid, a neighborhood collective designed to support South Bend residents impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Or the six IUPUI students who came together to create pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that collect and post resources for Indianapolis residentsduring the COVID-19 outbreak. Or IU Bloomington Junior Evan Catron who struggled with depression while having to quarantine himself during the COVID-19 crisis, so he started a program that matches people based on similar interests so they have someone for support.
After much preparation to ensure the most effective and efficient allocation of funds, Indiana University is currently in the process of distributing millions of dollars set aside for students in the federal CARES Act funding. Each IU campus will have the ability to choose one of two options that best addresses the needs of their student population. The first option allows campuses to implement automatic payments to students based on economic indicators like Pell status or the Expected Family Contribution number from a student’s FAFSA filing. The second option is an application process where students can apply for COVID-related funding. Because we recognize that not all students will meet the federal requirements for CARES Act funds, other sources of funding for students currently most in need can be identified by the University.
As Congress continues to consider new relief packages in response to the impacts of COVID-19, we remain supportive of efforts to assist higher education institutions and their employees and students. Despite being one of the largest employers in Indiana, IU (and other similar public colleges and universities around the country) are prohibited from receiving an employer/payroll tax credit to help offset the costs of paying for mandated sick and FMLA leave that we are required to provide under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The HEROES Act, currently under consideration by the House, corrects this inequity. Additionally, as we begin to contemplate reopening for the fall, we are working to ensure there is some form of liability protection for cases of coronavirus contracted on our premises so that we can continue to serve out our mission in the most cautious and prepared ways. Higher education is not alone in its advocacy for this sort of measure, as religious institutions and various businesses are also looking for some measure of protection from the threat of litigation that may slow our state and country’s ability to reopen the economy.