BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The Indiana University Bloomington campus is bustling as students are moving in for the 2021-2022 school year.
“I think that we can all just come back a little bit more confident and excited to know that things aren’t going to get canceled,” said sophomore Melissa Colosante, a history major from Connecticut.
“It’s not like the beginning of last year where we were all kind of biting our fingernails waiting for all of them to send us home like they did the previous year, so I think it’s just, it’s exciting to see the school alive again.”
Move-in week commenced Sunday, with an estimated 4,000 students returning on the first day alone.
“It’s really a beehive of activity all over campus as everybody gets back here,” said IU spokesman Chuck Carney. “It’s certainly different than it was last year. The check-in process last year involved very specific time blocks where we were trying to limit how many people came all at once on the campus.”
The university is preparing to welcome back an estimated 43,000 students total for this year, including graduate and undergraduate. They expect to have the official enrollment number following the first week of classes, which begin on Aug. 23.
Several COVID-19 protocols also remain in place on IU’s Bloomington campus. There is currently a mask requirement in place to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, especially with the threat of the highly contagious delta variant. Everyone is required to wear a mask indoors in campus buildings. This includes all students, staff and visitors.
“That is to coincide with the local county requirements as well,” Carney said.
On Aug. 5, the Monroe County Health Department issued a new health order requiring masks be worn indoors in public places, regardless of vaccination status, with some exceptions.
Like many others returning to campus or moving in for the first time, Tyler Young, a freshman from Carmel, said he is glad to be back to school in an in-person setting.
“Even with the mask on it’s still better in-person, I guess,” he shared.
The university is also requiring all students, faculty and staff be fully vaccinated as the school year begins. IU announced this change back in May.
In order to meet the requirement, students, faculty and staff will have needed to have their first doses by July 1 and be fully vaccinated by Aug. 15 or when they returned to campus, whichever came first.
There is also an exemption process, but the school said it was strictly limited to a narrow set of criteria, including medical exemptions and documented and significant religious exemptions.
“We’re at 85% across the Indiana University campuses of students, faculty and staff,” said Carney. “We’re on the way to full vaccinations, so we’re very close to where we want to be.”
On campus Monday, students we spoke with said they were not opposed to being vaccinated if it meant they could return to some normalcy for the 2021-22 school year.
“When the vaccine first became available to people in our age group, me and all my friends were the first people, we were kind of fighting for spots, especially when the school started distributing them,” said Colasante.
“I felt like every student that I spoke to on campus was excited to get the vaccine because it was kind of the thing that we could do to contribute to bringing the campus back to normalcy,” she added.
Both Young and Luca Salmon, a freshman from California, said they did not mind getting the vaccine ahead of the school year.
“Everyone I know just kind of went and got it without any complaints, but it does kind of stink because when I got it I got really sick for like three days. But I had to get it,” said Young.
Salmon added, “I got mine like the first day I could, and I didn’t feel sick.”
Although many students on campus appear to be supportive of the vaccine requirement at IU Bloomington, eight IU students previously sought to block the requirement, challenging its legality and claiming that it would violate their constitutional rights by forcing them to receive unwanted medical treatment.
The lawsuit was filed after school officials announced the requirement in May, but the request was rejected by a federal appeals court and a Chicago-based appeals court, both which upheld an Indiana district court judge’s ruling that found the university was acting reasonable in its request to pursue public health and safety for its campus communities.
Carney said IU believes these requirements will be what helps keep students, faculty and staff safe as the new year kicks off.
“We do know from last year’s experience our students are up to the challenge, and with the vaccination in place and with a mask wearing indoors for a while, at least we think we’ll be able to stay safe because our students have shown that they are up to doing this,” he said.
Welcome week activities kick off in just a few days, and students said they’re looking forward to the opportunity they get to experience these traditions this year.
“It’s really exciting just cause I think especially coming in as a freshman during COVID, we didn’t know what we were missing, because we had never been to college before, but now getting to come in and see the campus kind of back at its full energy,” said Colasante.
“I think we all can agree that we had a lot of fun, but it kind of feels like, how can we build on that, and then coming back this year, it’s really fun to see the campus at its full capacity,” she added.
Part of what drove Colasante to choose IU Bloomington is the opportunity to be a part of a campus community that values school spirit and hospitality, she said. It’s something she’s looking forward to taking in even more than she had the chance to last year.
“Especially coming from so far out of state, one of the biggest pulls for me to IU was the spirit and the collective identity of being part of the school and being a Hoosier and going to football games and cheering on all of the teams, and so last year I think we all really missed that,” she said, “and so to come back this year, the minute those season tickets came out I was buying them.”
“There’s like freshman deal where you get season tickets to all of the basketball and football games, so we both got those and pretty excited about tailgating and everything,” Young added.
Colasante said the minute big events were planned, she started putting those on her calendar.
“It feels like you’re making up for lost time because we know how much fun it can be and how much fun it will be, so to not take the school up on it and all those events sort of feels like squandering such a good opportunity,” she said.
IU officials also said this year, dining halls will be back open for sit-down dining. Last year they remained on a grab-and-go status throughout the school year.
With just days until the start of classes, IU said this is the largest incoming freshman class in school history, something the university is looking forward to. There are expected to be around 9,500 incoming freshmen, and the school expects to have a more exact number after the first week of classes.
“47 states, the District of Columbia are represented just in the freshman class,” said Carney. “Even with the strange world that we’re still sort of navigating through, they seem ready for it.”