by IU President Michael McRobbie

One year ago, on the heels of celebrations of the 200th anniversaries of the founding of Monroe County and the city of Bloomington, Indiana University began a celebration of its own bicentennial that would run through the whole 2019–2020 academic year. Regrettably, the COVID-19 global pandemic forced the cancellation of a number of much-anticipated IU bicentennial events commemorating this unique and major milestone in the life of the university. But in spite of this, the extensive events that had already been held clearly underscored the fact that IU and the Bloomington community are, in so many ways, inseparable, interdependent, and interconnected. Ours is a partnership that has thrived since the university’s inception in 1820.

After many months of planning and preparation, Indiana University–Bloomington is now embarking on a new academic year that will be unlike any other in the university’s 200-year history. After having transitioned to online instruction in March and through the summer due to the pandemic, with the advice and guidance of medical and public health experts, we have restructured IU’s current academic year to incorporate a blend of in-person and online instruction.

Campus life will be very different this fall. Many IU staff members will continue to work from home. Students, faculty, and staff will be required to wear face masks in public spaces and to practice physical distancing. In partnership with IU Health, we have also put into place a comprehensive plan for testing symptomatic individuals. Every member of the IU community will need to adapt their personal behaviors to help ensure the health of others, respect the necessity of some inconveniences, forgo some favored activities, and demonstrate flexibility and resilience should conditions change.

While IU will be delivering education in a different manner, we are preserving, as far as possible, the most important elements of the in-person experience. And the outstanding members of our faculty are fully committed to delivering the high-quality education for which IU has long been known, whether it is in person, online, or a mix of the two.

We also enter this academic year at a time when the nation is experiencing deep anguish over the far-too-long list of Americans of color who have lost their lives in acts of violence. Even in our own community, which we regard as compassionate and tolerant, people of color continue to suffer from racial discrimination, harassment, and cruelty. As members of a diverse educational community, we must always do all we can to ensure that our campus communities are places where hatred, bigotry, and intolerance will be powerfully condemned.

IU has recently taken a number of major steps to help address racial disparities, including the establishment of
a research fund for IU faculty focused on racial equity and justice. These may be the most difficult times the university has ever faced, with the enormous challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, compounded with the tragedy of the death of George Floyd and its aftermath. But I remain confident that the university community fully understands the gravity of
the present situation and is committed to surmounting these challenges in partnership with the people of this great city.

In strong partnership with the Bloomington community over 200 years, IU has grown from its humble beginnings in
the wilderness into a powerhouse global research university that has delivered great benefits to the city, the state, and the nation—and promises to do even more in its third century. We celebrate not only our two centuries of shared history, but also the cooperation that takes place on a daily basis between IU and the government, businesses, schools, and citizens of this great community at every level. We look forward to even greater cooperation in our next century together.