Planning a safe return to campus in the fall

No immediate changes in university operations are in store for May 1, when a relaxation of Iowa's coronavirus social distancing directives would allow campus dining centers, recreation centers, retail stores and libraries to reopen with restrictions. And all summer classes will be delivered virtually, including the second session that begins June 15. Those developments in the past week show limitations imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19 remain necessary for now.

No changes May 1

Senior leaders shared these clarifications April 30:

  • Employees who have been working remotely should continue to do so.
  • Employees are still permitted to go to their office while practicing social distancing to perform necessary job functions they can't do at home.
  • Practice social distancing and other infection-mitigation strategies, including frequent handwashing.
  • Employees with questions should contact their HR delivery team or email

Planning a return to on-campus activity this fall also is a necessity. As President Wendy Wintersteen emphasized in messages April 24 and April 28, fall plans must consider how to safely reinstate teaching, research and student support on a residential campus -- a complex situation that will require innovation, analysis and expertise.

An executive committee leading the fall planning effort will be chaired by vice president for extension and outreach John Lawrence. Other committee members are:

  • Erin Baldwin, assistant vice president for student health and wellness and Thielen Student Health Center director
  • Kristen Constant, interim vice president and chief information officer
  • Kristi Darr, interim vice president for university human resources
  • Sam Easterling, Melsa Dean, College of Engineering
  • Pete Englin, assistant vice president for student affairs and director of residence
  • Carol Faber, Faculty Senate president-elect and associate professor of graphic design
  • Surya Mallapragada, associate vice president for research and Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in Engineering
  • Michael Newton, associate vice president for public safety and chief of police
  • Michael Norton, university counsel
  • Clayton Oliver, emergency manager, environmental health and safety
  • Jim Roth, Center for Food Security and Public Health director and Covault Distinguished Professor in Veterinary Medicine
  • Rob Schweers, communications director, office of the senior vice president and provost
  • Reginald Stewart, vice president for diversity and inclusion
  • Amy Ward, Professional and Scientific Council president
  • Bonnie Whalen, associate vice president for institutional financial strategy

University employees are invited to share any ideas or questions about the fall planning process with committee members by email,

Guiding principles released in Wintersteen's April 28 message outline how the committee will approach preparations and what it will consider. The fall plan needs to be concrete enough to communicate by midsummer but nimble enough to adjust for changing circumstances. Protecting the health of the campus community while fulfilling the university's land-grant mission will be the primary goal. Planning will consider the health care capacity of the campus, community and state, as well as the direction and guidance of health experts.

The committee will develop strategies for students, student-athletes, faculty and staff resuming their physical roles on campus. It's not expected that all risk will be eliminated. Risk mitigation may include:

  • Testing and contact tracing
  • Social distancing
  • Adjusting academic calendars and schedules
  • Considering class, lab and studio sizes
  • Using personal protective equipment
  • Protecting vulnerable campus community members
  • How residence halls and dining centers are managed
  • How facilities are managed and cleaned
  • Establishing procedures and restrictions for approving events
  • Responses to infections and exposure, including quarantines and isolation
  • Limiting university-sponsored travel
  • Managing campus visitors

Plans will include ideas for continuing online options to support student retention, an effort that will consider international students who may not be allowed to travel to campus. It also will outline steps for reverting back to fully online courses, if required.

The committee will consider the budget impact of its plan, including short-term and long-term ramifications. The university's short-term COVID-19 response must not irreversibly impact the institution's long-term financial viability.