Indiana University Northwest Chancellor Bruce Bergland announced today that the Gary campus would reopen for normal business on Monday, Sept. 29, following intensive cleanup efforts in the wake of last week’s flood.
In a statement that was emailed to all students, faculty and staff, Bergland assured the campus that the university would be ready for business on Monday, and that current plans call for the Fall 2008 semester to conclude on schedule. The Chancellor thanked the many university personnel who have worked diligently for the past two weeks to counter the effects of the flood and ensure that classes could resume as quickly as possible.
“The effort to reclaim those areas of our beloved campus and community that were directly impacted by the flood has been ongoing since the flooding began,” Bergland stated in the announcement. “I am grateful to the members of our staff who have worked tirelessly in an effort to restore our campus to normal operations as quickly as possible.”
“The spirit of support and cooperation is extremely high, and I am pleased to share with you the optimism I see in everyone who is working to repair the damage caused by the flooding,” he added.
As of Thursday, remaining water in north parking lots 1 and 2 had dropped significantly, and Physical Plant personnel were working to pump what little water remained back into the Little Calumet River basin. Contractors were working to power-wash sidewalks, parking areas and access roads, work that is expected to be complete by Saturday. Buildings that were affected by flooding continued to be drained and cleaned in preparation for full operational use by Monday, and all heating, cooling and lighting systems had been tested and were verified to be working properly.
The campus grounds will be sprayed for mosquitoes this weekend in order to curb the influx of pests that is a natural by-product of voluminous standing water. Additional spraying is scheduled for the following weekend. Even so, students, faculty and staff are asked to avoid walking on grassy areas of campus until all lawns have been mowed and mosquitoes are brought under control.
Bergland stated in his announcement that food service at IU Northwest would be fully operational at both the RedHawk Café and Library Café sites on Monday.
Also, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Diane Hodges told the media on Thursday that the university is planning a festive Welcome Back celebration for students next week. IU Northwest will host a barbecue on campus on Monday and Tuesday, and box lunches will be available on Wednesday and Thursday. The university will have a disc jockey on hand to provide entertainment, and students will be able to obtain information on relief services, for those who also were affected by the flood, or information on volunteer opportunities, for those who want to help others who were.
“Some of our students will feel better if they can volunteer and help someone else,” Hodges said. “We’ll also have greeters on campus. Administrators and students will be out making sure that the students really feel like we’re starting afresh and getting things going again. We want our students to have the sense that we know they have been through some stresses and that we’re glad that they’re back.”
IU Northwest faculty have been asked to address the issue of making up class time with their students on Monday and Tuesday of next week, according to Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Kwesi Aggrey.
Aggrey said that his office has extended a variety of options to the faculty with the expectation that each instructor will choose the method that best suits the course material and the needs of the students. One choice might be to schedule additional class time on Fridays, when most classes do not meet, he said. Another option would be to extend the class period by 15 minutes per class. Or, faculty might assign additional out-of-class work.
“As much as possible, if we can stay away from extending the academic year, that is what is going to be good for everybody, because the faculty and students may have plans that depend on how the academic year was set up,” Aggrey said. “So we’re going to try to stay away from that.
“Each faculty member has been asked to come up with a way in which they will be making up the classes, and they will give that in writing to the dean so that we all know what’s going to be done to make up for lost time,” the vice chancellor explained.
Amidst the good news that IU Northwest would resume normal operations next week, Bergland on Thursday did announce one unfortunate consequence of the recent floods: the majority of Tamarack Hall, the oldest building on campus and home to Theatre Northwest, will be closed for good as the result of water damage sustained during the flood. The building’s 600-seat performance auditorium was particularly hard hit, with floodwater reaching six rows up from the low-lying area directly in front of the stage. One wing of Tamarack, that which houses the fine-arts studios, is expected at this time to remain functional, but other areas of the building, which is approximately 50 years old, will be closed.
“The truly unfortunate part of it is that we have a wonderful theatre program here,” Bergland said during media interviews on Thursday. “That theatre ... except for maybe Valparaiso’s theater, it’s probably the best academic theatre in northern Indiana in terms of what’s there and how well it can be used to prepare people. Arts and culture is one of our focus points here. Consequently, this is something we’re very concerned about.
“It’s already on our request to the (Indiana) Legislature for a replacement,” the Chancellor said. “Our legislative delegation has expressed strong support for it already, as has our (university) president.”
In his statement to the campus and in his remarks to local media, Bergland expressed gratitude to McRobbie and to other members of the IU administration in Bloomington for their support during the recent crisis. McRobbie and members of his staff visited IU Northwest on Sept. 19 to survey the damage, and McRobbie pledged to support and assist the regional campus in any way possible as it recovers from the flood. Bergland noted that IU has committed to conducting engineering studies to determine what actions or improvements might be undertaken to protect IU Northwest from another such flooding event.
“President McRobbie made it clear that the university would engage engineering firms to do a hydrological study to determine, first, why this happened, and second, if there’s anything we can do about it.,” Bergland said.
In response to concerns expressed by some students in recent days about an apparent lack of activity by campus personnel during the worst of the flooding, Bergland explained that, due to the complete saturation of the Little Calumet River basin, there was no advantage to be gained by trying to pump water out of the north campus parking lots.
“There was absolutely no place to pump the water until the Little Calumet started to recede,” he said. “Once that happened, we were able to pump out some water.”
Until that point, the Chancellor said, much of the important work on campus was done inside or beneath various buildings, where crews cleaned carpets, pumped out crawl spaces and mechanical areas, and completed other tasks out of sight of passers-by.
“It may have appeared to people that no one was doing anything, but our staff has been doing unbelievable work here,” he said. “A lot of it was in crawl spaces and under buildings, where people wouldn’t have seen it. There is much more work going on than one might think if you just drove by the campus.”
Bergland said that health concerns related to standing water and to possible contaminants contained in floodwater that had backed up through the university’s storm sewers required that IU Northwest undertake detailed and extensive cleaning procedures, including pumping out and drying out any sub-surface areas of buildings that had taken on water, prior to reopening the campus. These cleaning and disinfecting measures continued in earnest on Thursday, and Bergland said the process remained on schedule for Monday’s resumption of classes.
“That’s a serious issue, and we are going to be able to assure everyone that all the health issues will have been addressed by Monday,” the Chancellor said.
Bergland said the university would issue a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document to students on Friday, Sept. 26, that would address more of their most common queries about the flood, the cleanup, and its impact on the university and the academic semester.
“Again, I wish to express my deepest gratitude to all involved in the recovery efforts,” Bergland concluded in his statement to the campus. “I, along with the entire Administration -- Vice Chancellors, Deans and Directors -- would like to express our appreciation to the entire campus community for your patience and support during this most difficult and challenging time experienced by our campus.”