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Last modified: Friday, May 1, 2009

Letter from IU President Michael A. McRobbie

May 1, 2009

To all Indiana University faculty, staff and students:

Since last Sunday (April 26) when the federal government declared a public health emergency in response to the outbreak of Influenza A (H1N1) in the United States, key members of my administration have been working to ensure that Indiana University is taking every precaution to protect students and employees on all eight campuses from unnecessary risks.

Today, I am writing to report on what we have done so far and what other actions you might anticipate should the situation worsen in Indiana or any of our students or employees test positive for infection with Influenza A (H1N1).

Michael McRobbie

Michael A. McRobbie

Print-Quality Photo

I have activated the University Emergency Planning Committee, whose members have expertise in all areas of crisis management, and this group has been meeting daily to assess and monitor the health threat to our campuses and make recommendations on protective responses. The committee is co-chaired by Paul Sullivan, deputy vice president for administration, and Mark Bruhn, associate vice president for information and infrastructure assurance.

Two physicians are serving on the committee -- Dr. Diana Ebling, medical director of the IU Bloomington Health Center, and Dr. Stephen Wintermeyer, director of IUPUI Health Services. They are maintaining daily contact with local and state public health officials on the situation, and all campuses are closely monitoring their student and employee populations for signs of flu infection.

To date, we have seen no suspected or confirmed cases of infection among IU students, faculty or staff. However, I urge all IU students and employees to stay informed by regularly looking at our Emergency Preparedness Web site, Well-informed and aware students and staff can aid our efforts to protect the university and the community.

This site is updated several times daily with announcements and status reports for each campus, and you also will find convenient links to all major state and federal sources of information about the spread of this virus.

Given the global nature of Influenza A (H1N1) outbreaks, we are monitoring conditions in all foreign countries where IU students and faculty are known to be taking part in study-abroad programs.

On Wednesday (April 29), Vice President for International Affairs Patrick O'Meara suspended all IU summer 2009 study programs in Mexico because of the increased health risks associated with the influenza outbreak there. The decision, which was in keeping with travel advisories issued by both the State Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will affect some 50 to 60 students at IU Bloomington, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and IU South Bend, as well about 20 high school students.

Given all that we know about the spread of the virus today, I believe it was a wise and responsible decision.

In the days to come, we may be faced with more difficult decisions. As we reach the end of the spring term, we are preparing for a large number of visitors coming to our campuses for commencement events.

As of today, there is no reason to consider curtailing any of these activities, but that situation could change if the state should suddenly experience a significant outbreak of flu infections. Should that happen, I will carefully weigh the guidance from state health officials -- and especially the recommendations of our own medical experts -- before deciding on how to proceed. If any changes are made, we will use all available means, including the IU-Notify system, to inform students and their families as quickly as we can.

In the meantime, I have already made one decision that will visibly change our traditional commencement ceremonies.

In keeping with Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Judith Monroe's recommendation to minimize contact that results from shaking hands, I have directed that all campuses eliminate the shaking of hands as graduating students are recognized and called across the stage. An explanation will be incorporated into commencement scripts and programs so that all members of the audience are aware of this change.

It is important to remember that the current situation in Indiana falls well short of a crisis. We need to be careful and watchful, but on the other hand we should not overreact. Safety is our number one concern, which is why we will continue to intensively monitor the situation until it is resolved.

Yours sincerely,

Michael A. McRobbie