Indiana University President Michael McRobbie joined other university officials on the Northwest campus Friday afternoon to survey the damage wrought by this week’s flooding, and to see firsthand the volume of floodwater that remains in parking areas and in some buildings at the Gary site.
After touring the affected areas of campus, McRobbie and IU Northwest Chancellor Bruce Bergland met with other campus officials to discuss an action plan for managing the situation and restoring the university to operational status as soon as is feasible. McRobbie promised to extend IU Northwest any assistance or expertise necessary from the main campus at Bloomington to aid in that effort.
“What President McRobbie wants, from the university’s standpoint, is to get the students back in their classes and remediate the damages just as quickly as possible,” said IU Vice President for Public Affairs and Government Relations Mike Sample, who spoke to the media on McRobbie’s behalf during the president’s post-tour meeting with Bergland and other Northwest and Bloomington officials. “The President is committed to providing whatever assistance can be provided from the university to this campus in order to get things back to normal as soon as is practical.”
IU Northwest suspended operations for the entire week after last weekend’s torrential rains brought floodwaters in from the Little Calumet River basin located just north of campus. By Tuesday, nearly the entire main campus parking lot along 33rd Avenue was under water, as were significant portions of the campus grounds.
By Friday, the water had receded from much of the campus interior, but the parking lots remained flooded with an estimated 18 to 24 inches of water. Also, several buildings had taken on water that campus personnel were still trying to pump out as of Friday afternoon. These included Raintree Hall, where flooding was primarily restricted to the mechanical room, and Tamarack Hall, where standing water remained in portions of Theatre Northwest. Two office buildings along 35th Avenue, Sycamore and Lindenwood Halls, had taken some water into their basements, and a modest sinkhole had opened up outside of Raintree.
Meanwhile, the main parking lot on the north side of campus continued to resemble a shallow lake.
“It’s a Mother Nature problem, as much as anything else,” explained Sample, who accompanied McRobbie on the campus tour. “You can pump the water out, but you tend to just be recycling it (back through the basin). We’re going back and assessing this situation with university experts who work on these kinds of problems at various campuses from time to time. But we’re going to need some cooperation from Mother Nature.”
Sample praised IU Northwest’s response to the flooding crisis and emphasized that the safety of students, faculty and staff members always comes first in dealing with such unexpected events.
“President McRobbie really feels that Chancellor Bergland has done a great job in making the initial decisions with respect to safety and the students’ welfare,” Sample said. “Chancellor Bergland and all the staff up here, we’re grateful for their efforts. The university really appreciates all that they are continuing to do.”
IU Northwest is closed through Sunday. University officials made no decision Friday as to the status of classes or campus operations next week. Those determinations will continue to be made on a day-to-day basis, Bergland said. A decision will be made sometime on Sunday about Monday’s status.
“I greatly appreciate President McRobbie’s support as we do our best to cope with these challenging events on our campus,” Bergland said. “The fact that President McRobbie, and others from the administration in Bloomington, took the time from their busy schedules to see for themselves what our situation is, and then pledged their assistance, I think that demonstrates how highly they value the regional campuses and IU Northwest. Everyone here is working diligently to address these flooding issues so that we can return the campus to normal operations as soon as possible.”
Students, faculty and staff are asked to monitor their campus email and the IU Northwest home page for additional information as it becomes available. Any announcements about next week’s status will also be made via text and voice messages through the IU Notify system.