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McRobbie announces scenarios for how COVID-19 might shape next academic year



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Tulips planted by the Sample Gates are pictured. IU has five scenarios planned for the 2020-2021 academic year in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Aelia Hassan

IU has planned five scenarios for the 2020-21 academic year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Thursday email from President Michael McRobbie.

“It would not be realistic or even responsible to promise a full resumption of in-person activity in the fall,” McRobbie said. “This, of course, is the scenario all of us would most prefer, but it is also highly unlikely.”

In order to resume university operations, there must be a combination of continued social distancing, virus and antibody testing, therapeutics, temperature monitoring and contact tracing, McRobbie said in the email. He stressed the importance of social distancing until a COVID-19 vaccine is developed.

The five scenarios

The first scenario would require reconfiguring courses and activities involving a large amount of people or close physical contact, according to the email. Laboratory classes and studio practices would also need to be modified to ensure proper distancing, numbers of people in gatherings and cleaning.

McRobbie said the second scenario, a combination of in-person instruction and virtual teaching, is most likely, but that could change with new developments. This scenario has several variations, and IU officials will take into consideration students and faculty who are unable to attend class in-person, whether due to illness, self-isolation, special vulnerability to COVID-19 or travel restrictions.

This scenario could involve classes offered both in person and virtually, according to the email. Some classes may be prioritized for in-person or for virtual instruction based on their size, content or other characteristics. Other options include creating classes designed to include both in-person and virtual elements, or classes that can switch from one mode to another very quickly. IU officials may also rethink the weekly schedule, possibly spreading out larger classes to allow for smaller sections.

The three additional scenarios, mentioned briefly, include a completely virtual fall semester and hybrid classes in the spring, returning to virtual operations in the spring after hybrid classes in the fall or virtual operations for the entire academic year.

“These are, of course, scenarios that we hope we can avoid,” McRobbie said in the email.

There may be a mixture of scenarios across the IU campuses depending on how the pandemic affects different regions, according to the email. If virtual instruction continues, students should expect a higher quality of instruction than that of this spring semester.

Future decisions

None of these scenarios are concrete yet, and IU professor and University Faculty Council member Paul Sokol said Monday he thinks the final decision will likely be made mid-July at the latest.

McRobbie said the timing of the decision will be determined partially by the governor’s decisions, but he hopes to begin the phased restart in May, although there are no guarantees.

IU has formed a Restart Committee which is chaired by Jay Hess, IU executive vice president and IU School of Medicine dean. The committee is meant to recommend when IU can restart its normal activities. A Laboratory Research Restart Committee has also been established to restart university research activities as soon as possible.

“Even under the best of circumstances, academic and research life at IU will not be the same for some time, and we will feel the repercussions of this pandemic for many years,” McRobbie said in the email.

Tuition

McRobbie's email did not include plans for 2020-21 tuition. Many students have been calling for tuition discounts for virtual semesters.

Senior and outgoing student body president Isabel Mishkin said Saturday while she hasn’t participated in any discussions about a tuition cut if classes were to go online for the fall semester, tuition is set in two-year increments. The tuition for the 2020-21 school year was set last June, she said.

“In my opinion, it’s very unlikely for tuition to change,” Mishkin said.

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