Faculty development and numerous construction requests go to regents next week

Professional development requests for 48 faculty members next year, renovation plans for the top three floors at the Memorial Union and a proposal to add a computer science marker to the Regents Admissions Index (RAI) are on the agenda when the state Board of Regents meets Nov. 13-14 at the University of Northern Iowa. Board committees will meet Wednesday, with the full board expected to complete its work Thursday morning. The agenda is on the board's website, and all public portions of the meeting will be livestreamed.

Professional development

Iowa State leaders will request professional development assignments during the 2020-21 academic year for 48 faculty members -- or 2.6% of all faculty. The list includes 32 semester-long assignments, 14 for the full academic year and two for the 2021 calendar year. The faculty group includes 26 professors, 16 associate professors and six assistant professors.

Admissions index

To align the regent universities with state goals to improve Iowans' preparedness for the digital economy, the regents' admissions study team has recommended adding a new category, computer science, to the RAI. The team asked three computer science faculty members to review all courses offered in Iowa high schools that meet K-12 standards set by the Computer Science Teachers Association and identify which had the depth to serve as college prep coursework. Four courses were selected for their rigor: IB computer science, computer science principles, AP computer science principles and AP computer science A.

The proposal doesn't yet indicate how computer science coursework would alter the RAI formula.

Leave donations for a catastrophic illness

Included in the consent agenda is a proposal to expand the regents' catastrophic illness policy (section 2.1.4.A) to allow faculty and staff working at least half-time who don't accrue vacation -- such as nine-month faculty -- to receive vacation leave donations for a catastrophic illness or injury. Currently, employees who don't accrue vacation aren't eligible to receive catastrophic leave donations. If the board approves the change, it would take effect Jan. 1, 2020.

Building projects

Iowa State leaders will present schematic designs and proposed budgets for a $5.9 million roof replacement on all seven sections of Friley residence hall and a $10 million renovation to floors 4-6 at the Memorial Union. The roof project will replace slate shingles with asphalt shingles (excluding flat areas), repair dormers and replace gutters as needed. The two-phased project would be completed over two summers, 2020 and 2021.

The MU project would convert 14,000 square feet of former hotel rooms to office suites on each floor for student-focused services. Scheduled tenants include the veterans center, student legal services, study abroad, LGBTQIA+ student success, NCORE/ISCORE planning, lectures series and international students and scholars. Restrooms would be centrally located near the elevators. This project also updates the heating/cooling, electrical, communications and security systems on all three floors. MU revenue bonds would cover the entire cost. As proposed, construction would begin in January 2021 and last about 20 months.

ISU leaders also will ask for board permission to begin planning to replace the 61-year-old LeBaron Hall (49,000 square feet) with a new facility (83,300 square feet) for the College of Human Sciences. An estimated 6% of the adjoining MacKay Hall would be renovated. The estimated project budget, $55 million, would be covered with private gifts ($15 million), university funds ($10 million) and state appropriations (a $30 million, three-year request will go to the Legislature in January). The university's evaluation of LeBaron Hall found it to be a poor candidate for renovation.

More ISU agenda items

In other business, the board is expected to:

  • Approve an expansion of completed renovations ($650,000, 3,800 square feet) in the Union Drive Community Center to include the Marketplace dining center. The revised budget would rise to $3.6 million and add about 16,000 square feet of dining and food service space. The proposal provides new seats and tables, new finishes for the ceilings, floors and walls and energy-efficient lighting. The work would be phased over three summers (2020-22) to minimize service disruptions. ISU Dining funds would cover the project.
  • Accept for Iowa State a land gift of 262 acres (three parcels) in Lucas County, two miles east of ISU's McNay Research Farm. Land owner Ronny Tharp's intention is that the land become part of the university's farms and not be sold for 50 years. The university would use the additional land for needed research plots.
  • Approve Iowa State's request to close two centers. The Industrial Assessment Center's most recent federal grant expired five years ago. The Center for Plant Responses to Environmental Stresses, part of the Plant Sciences Institute, has insufficient funding to operate as a separate center, but the faculty research continues in the plant pathology and microbiology department.
  • Approve the proposed name for the under-construction feed mill and grain science complex at the Curtiss Farm west of Ames: Iowa State University Kent Corporation Feed Mill and Grain Science Complex. Muscatine-based Kent Corp. provided the lead gift of $8 million for the $21 million complex.
  • Authorize board executive director Mark Braun to take the necessary steps to sell for $1 the Iowa Braille and Sight-saving School in Vinton (11 buildings and garages on 48 acres) to the city of Vinton. Since 2008 and due to declining enrollment (119 students in 1972; just 16 in 2008), the regents have leased 60% of the campus to the federal government as a regional site for AmeriCorps. The school's residential program closed in 2011 and sight-impaired students in Iowa now attend public schools. Board staff have been working since 2016 to find a buyer for the property, including several state agencies. Earlier this year, AmeriCorps renewed its lease for 10 more years.