A primary goal of Indiana University’s Restart Committee and response to the pandemic was to make it safer to be part of the IU community than not. We are pleased that actions taken—including extensive mitigation testing, general virus and vaccination education through university communications and weekly “Keeping IU Healthy: Ask Aaron” webinars, paid COVID-related leaves available to all employees, and large percentages of IU constituents receiving the vaccination—have made a robust return to campus a possibility.
Because IU Bloomington remains a primarily residential campus, the Department of Biology is eager to increase the number of in-person courses and resume standard administrative operations for fall 2021. Despite overcoming the many obstacles and challenges from COVID-19—though in some cases innovative and exciting contributions were achieved—nothing compares to being able to instruct, mentor, and support our undergraduate and graduate students through face-to-face interactions in class, lab, and beyond. Further, having the physical presence of our staff, many of whom have been working remotely for the past 16 months, will be a welcomed change. Along with students, their presence will certainly help counteract the stillness of our hallways. We look forward to again being able to make personal connections and have impromptu conversations with students in person as these interactions are so crucial to their collegiate experience and potentially impact their futures.
We would be remiss not to acknowledge that the pandemic is ongoing and that risks still exist. The department supports those who choose to wear a mask for personal convictions and will monitor and follow other university guidance on prevention measures and protocols. Surveillance testing will also begin this fall, and if and when new developments arise, Biology will be prepared to respond to the challenges with resilience and the leadership that continually guides us through this unfathomable journey.