UIndy’s Coronavirus Task Force works hard during crisis

On Feb. 29, the University of Indianapolis announced in an email to students, faculty and staff the creation of a task force “to manage the university’s response to the virus outbreak,” University President Robert Manuel said. In an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, the task force developed various plans and methods of communication to continue the function of the university, according to the email. 

There are eight subcommittees that are tasked with handling different aspects of the university’s response to the virus, but as a whole, they make up the coronavirus task force at UIndy.

Kelly Hauflaire, vice president for marketing and communications and chair of the communication subcommittee, said her stakeholders are the entire community, so it was important for her team to be able to put up the coronavirus website. The website is where all of the information regarding the university’s response, as well as external resources can be found. Having this information housed in one area, with specific sections describing the response was important from the communications standpoint. 

Hauflaire said she also encourages students, staff and faculty to submit any questions not answered in the FAQ section to the forums. These forums are monitored by 30 people and will respond in a matter of hours. So far, Haulfaire said numerous questions have come in, which is great. 

Stephen Kolison, executive vice president and provost, was announced to be the chair of the academic functioning subcommittee of the task force. Kolison said while his position was expected, the spread of the virus was something he did not expect. 

According to Kolison, viruses typically gradually spread and then they are controlled, but the growing number of cases weekly is enough to prove this is unlike other diseases he has seen. Kolison said  COVID-19 is a “very violent” disease. While keeping the fast spread of the disease in mind, Kolison said that the university’s response, such as extending Spring Break another week, moving to online classes and limiting who is on campus, was appropriate in the interests of the UIndy community. 

According to Kolison, the two main goals he has in mind when making decisions with his committee is one, figuring out how to continue the function of the university and two, figuring out how to keep the community safe. While he realizes the other members of the task force may have other goals, these were the ones he said he personally saw as driving forces for the decisions being made. 

Kolison said during the extended Spring Break week, his subcommittee used that time to prepare for continuing classes remotely, and the whole task force was waiting on what to do next, looking to powers such as the governor’s executive order, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other trusted sources. 

Working with students and sending them updates, Kory Vitangeli, vice president of student affairs and dean of students, is chairing the student well-being and support subcommittee. Her subcommittee works closely with David Selby, UIndy chief of police and director of campus safety, as they both are focused on maintaining student health and safety.

Vitangeli said that throughout the year she tries to support students, but now that has moved completely to virtual assistance. She is still giving support to  residents who need to stay in dorms, but one of her current focuses is to help continue schooling from afar. 

“I think we always stressed on a regular basis the importance of community and the UIndy family, so I think in times like these it’s not only important to follow the guidelines [set by CDC and UIndy], but also support our campus community,” Vitangeli said. “Because to me, it’s continued to show that even though we’ve had to go to virtual learning and most students aren’t’ around on campus anymore, we’re still continuing that community, we’re still continuing to support one another, were still continuing all of our meetings, all of our classes, they’re in different formats, but to me it shows that UIndy community and UIndy family remains strong even in times of crisis.” 

Andy Kocher, associate vice president of alumni engagement, was tasked to chair the municipal and local organization coordination subcommittee. With this role, Kocher said he gives daily updates to the task force from trusted sources. As well as giving the community and alumni information, such as links to the counseling center and various other resources around campus. 

“We are providing [alumni] with access to the Professional Edge Center, since some of those folks may have been laid off,” Kocher said. “And we’re providing them with links to our fine arts page. So if they’re at home and they have an opportunity to watch some of our fine arts performances that are up on the website from this past year. Just things like that can provide some relief and comfort to our external communities at this difficult time.” 

One of the things Kocher said the university is particularly proud of is the alumni.  Several alumni, Kocher said, have been so kind as to make a gift to support the student emergency relief fund.. Kocher also said that the university’s motto is “Education for Service” and he sees alumni practicing this during this time of hardship. 

“We know a lot of our alumni, whether that be in the healthcare field, or the social work or business, they’re out serving the community every day right now,” Kocher said. “And it’s great to know our alumni community, in particular, is really out there making a difference for those communities that they serve with their UIndy education as sort of the background for that service.”

Graphic by Ethan Gerling