Holding a folded IU flag she had tucked in her folder, Provost Lauren Robel discussed the importance of IU’s positive global influence on people’s lives in her State of the Campus speech Tuesday.
“Yes, I carry it with me at all times,” Robel said as she held the flag.
Robel gave her address to a crowd of around 100 people at 3 p.m. Tuesday in Presidents Hall. Her speech was all praise for IU’s strides in diversity, civic engagement, programming and collaborations with surrounding communities.
Last year, protesters advocating for a sanctuary campus interrupted Robel’s speech. Threats of arrest by the IU Police Department prompted them to leave. This year, one IUPD officer stood outside Presidents Hall before the speech began.
No one protested this year’s speech.
Robel said this year’s freshman class was the largest and most diverse IU has seen, mentioning a record number of African American and Latino students. According to the Office of Admissions, the class of 2021 is 23.6 percent people of color.
Despite these strides, Robel said IU also confronts today’s challenges, which place obstacles in front of students and faculty.
“We continue to share the moral imperative to address their battles with mental illness and sexual assault and harassment," Robel said.
She also made mention of the greek system, saying while greek life is instrumental in forming lifelong friendships and philanthropic awareness, it also struggles with issues of identity and safety.
In civic engagement, Robel said she believes every student should leave IU with a commitment to engage with the democratic process. Robel mentioned the new polling stations to be placed in the Indiana Memorial Union in fall 2018.
“I also believe that we should take every opportunity we can to beat Purdue,” Robel said, reminding the audience that IU will be participating in the Big Ten Voting Challenge. The competition will determine which school can get the most students to vote in the midterm elections.
She also praised the newly established IU Corps, an initiative to connect and record service opportunities.
Robel said between the spring of 2010 and the spring of 2018, students have logged more than 300,000 hours of community service through classes alone. She said IU Corps will help students find the right fit to get engaged in volunteer opportunities.
Praising IU’s programming, Robel, wearing a yellow India Remixed button, said events such as the recent Holi festival, recognizing the Indian celebration of spring; Celeste Fest, which celebrated the 2017 solar eclipse; and the upcoming festival and conference, Granfalloon, which will celebrate the life and legacy of Hoosier author Kurt Vonnegut, have fostered the spirit of community.
Robel also spoke about the positive influence the coming IU Health Regional Academic Health Center will have on campus. She said it would create better opportunities for every citizen in south-central Indiana as well as students, faculty and staff.
"For the students who learn in those new programs and facilities, the results will be transformative," Robel said. "For those they will eventually serve, the results will be life altering."
Recognizing IU’s commitment to rural communities, Robel said IU’s Center for Rural Engagement promises to open new frontiers in cooperating and collaborating with rural communities. It is a single point of contact for these communities to pursue their challenges in partnership with IU, Robel said. According to the Center for Rural Engagement's website, some of these challenges include creating more sustainable communities, building healthier communities including responding to the opioid crisis, strengthening education and more.
Robel closed her speech saying when the IU’s Bicentennial Strategic Plan was adopted, she wrote that IU owes its existence to the vision and support of the state of Indiana, the constitution of which declared that knowledge and learning are essential to the preservation of a free government.
“Indiana made good on that promise in 1820 by laying the cornerstone of this very University and this very campus,” Robel said. "Since that time, IU Bloomington has fulfilled the promise of that vision and has extended its reach and Indiana’s connections to every corner of the globe.”