A path less traveled

Male student crosses a snowy central campus

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

The shortest line between two points often is ... through the snow, as sophomore Brandan Ryan (in stocking cap) chose Monday morning. Ryan opted to leave the central campus sidewalks to get to class.

Coronavirus outbreak prompts ISU travel prohibitions

Iowa State is barring business travel to China and closely monitoring the outbreak of a new respiratory illness there, but the novel coronavirus poses little immediate risk in Iowa.

President Wendy Wintersteen announced the prohibition on university-sponsored travel by students and employees Jan. 28 in a letter to the campus community, noting that the U.S. Department of State and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are advising against visiting China for the time being.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said as of Jan. 29, 6,065 coronavirus cases have been confirmed, 68 outside of China. All 132 confirmed coronavirus fatalities have been in China. Five U.S. cases have been confirmed, none in Iowa. The outbreak is centered in the city of Wuhan in China's Hubei province. The Chinese government has prohibited leaving or entering the province in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.

In addition to the risk of infection, the potential effects of travel restrictions inside China played a role in the university's decision to restrict trips to the country until the situation stabilizes, said Shaun Jamieson, ISU international risk analyst.

Jamieson said university officials have been in contact with three Iowa State students who will miss the second half of a two-semester study abroad program based at Lanzhou Jiaotong University in Lanzhou, the capital of China's Gansu province. ISU will help arrange for spring classes or a different study abroad program for those students after they return, he said.

Five employee trips to China had been registered for the next 180 days, and about a dozen faculty and staff have reported being in the country within the past month, Jamieson said. Neither the recently returned employees nor the study abroad students have reported coronavirus symptoms, he said.

Thielen Student Health Center has fielded lots of questions about coronavirus and created a website devoted to sharing updates and advice, said Erin Baldwin, assistant vice president for student health and wellness. Echoing a point made in Wintersteen's message, Baldwin encouraged relying on trusted sources for information about the outbreak. ISU's response is rooted in recommendations from the WHO, the CDC and the Iowa Department of Public Health.  

"I just want to reassure people we're monitoring it. We're getting great information from the true experts in the fields so we can stay informed and evolve our university strategy as we move forward," she said.

Coronavirus symptoms include fever, coughing and shortness of breath. General health tips for limiting exposure to illnesses include regularly washing your hands, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and getting sufficient rest, exercise and healthy food.

Proposal would relax chalking rules, with some areas off-limits

A proposed policy change would permit sidewalk chalking on much of campus but prohibit it on a portion of central campus and in a handful of other specific areas, replacing an interim policy adopted in November that restricts who can chalk sidewalks and what they can write.  

The draft policy would forbid writing messages in chalk on sidewalks in the historical campus quad, defined as the area bordered by Osborn and Union drives, Morrill Road and Farmhouse Lane. The restriction also would apply at the Anderson Sculpture Garden, the plazas north of Carver Hall and the Memorial Union, The Knoll and near standalone and mixed-use health care facilities. The draft policy includes a map highlighting areas where sidewalk chalking wouldn't be allowed.

The policy -- which would apply to students, employees and visitors -- states that Iowa State recognizes chalking "is a way to announce programs, promote events, exchange opinions, share messages, and otherwise express ideas. This policy is designed to permit sidewalk chalking while also advancing important university interests, including but not limited to ensuring campus safety, safeguarding entrances and exits to and from university facilities, protecting university property and facilities, and maintaining the aesthetic appeal of campus."

Only water-soluble chalk would be allowed for sidewalk writing, which would be limited to horizontal sidewalks not covered by a roof or overhang. Steps, roads, bridges, monuments, fountains and all other non-sidewalk surfaces would be off-limits. Chalking that violates other university policies, the student code of conduct, or state or federal laws would not be allowed.

Overwriting, erasing, defacing or altering existing chalk messages would be prohibited, except by the person or organization responsible for the chalking or facilities staff cleaning and washing sidewalks in the course of usual and ordinary maintenance.

Under the interim policy put in place Nov. 11 and still in effect, chalking on campus is restricted to registered student organizations publicizing an upcoming event open to all students. Chalk messages must include -- and are limited to -- the event title (seven words or less), location and time, and name of the sponsoring organization. Before the interim policy, Iowa State didn't have a policy with specific chalking provisions. The interim policy was prompted by an increasing volume of sidewalk chalking on campus.

Feedback on the draft policy will be accepted through Feb. 5. Email questions and comments to policy@iastate.edu.

Parking increases, Estes naming request go to regents next week

A request to name Music Hall for opera vocalist and music and theatre department artist-in-residence Simon Estes is on the agenda when the state Board of Regents meets Wednesday, Feb. 5, at its Urbandale office. The board also will take a first look at proposed parking increases for the year that begins July 1, and receive five annual reports from the universities -- covering graduation and retention, distance education, student financial aid, human resources and residence systems.

The agenda is on the board's website. A live videostream of all public portions of the meeting also will be available Feb. 5.

An adjunct professor at Iowa State since 2000, Estes, 81, has helped attract world-class students to the department and mentored many of them for admission to prestigious music schools following their undergraduate years. Estes also is a renown humanitarian and philanthropist, using his platform to serve less fortunate populations and bring awareness to worldwide issues. Despite a full performing schedule of his own, he has made it a priority to sing at Iowa State's spring and fall commencement ceremonies.

Naming the building Simon Estes Music Hall will require the board to waive its policy that mandates a two-year wait following retirement before a building may be named for a regent university employee.

FY21 parking rates

Iowa State leaders will ask the board to consider increases of 3% to 3.3% on employee parking permits in fiscal year 2021 -- a $6 increase for general staff permits, $17 for reserved permits and $30 for 24-hour reserved spots. Employee motorcycle permits would go up $2 next year. Permits for the Memorial Union ramp would go up about 2.5%, as proposed. The MU changes would vary from a $5 increase for a summer permit to a $15 increase for an annual permit.

ISU parking services uses the revenue to maintain or upgrade parking lots and equipment.

Hourly parking in the MU ramp would go up 25 cents per hour, as proposed, with the daily maximum rising from $13 to $15. The price of the first hour would rise to $2.25, additional hours 2-5 would rise to $1.75 per hour, and hours 6-8 would rise to $1.50 per hour. Special fees, for example illegal exit or lost ticket charges, will remain at current rates.

MU leaders use ramp parking revenue to maintain the structure and replace aging equipment. Revenue also will be set aside for an assessment of the structure's condition.

Final approval on proposed increases to parking rates will come at the board's April meeting.

July 1: Proposed parking increases




24-hour reserved






General staff*









Motorcycle (employee)



Memorial Union ramp






    Fall or spring









*Includes lots designated for residence department and Ames Lab

Stadium gateway bridge

Athletics department officials will present to the board's property and facilities committee a request to begin planning a pedestrian bridge over University Boulevard east of Jack Trice Stadium. The project would include an elevated walkway all the way to the stadium's east concourse to create a safer pedestrian route between the stadium and parking, and enhance the south entry to campus. Its estimated cost, $8-12 million, would be funded with athletics department operating funds and private gifts.

FY21 student housing, dining rates

The residence department proposes no increases to residence hall or apartment rates for summer 2020 and the 2020-21 academic year. It is asking for a 2% increase to hall and apartment rates for summer 2021. If approved, increases would range from $24 to $35 for summer residence hall rates and from $21 to $39 for summer apartment rates.

ISU Dining will ask for 1% increases to its semester student meal plan options and academic year flex meal plans. It is seeking a 10-cent increase to its breakfast "door" rate in the dining centers (to $10.60), and a 15-cent increase to the lunch and dinner door rate (to $13.65)

Final approval will come at the board's April meeting.

Other Iowa State items on the agenda include:

  • A 10 a.m. bid opening for an estimated $63.8 million in athletic facilities revenue bonds to construct and equip a four-story sports performance center east of the Bergstrom football facility and a one-story addition on its west side, and to construct a plaza and other improvements north of the football stadium. The actual estimated project cost is $60 million.
  • Project description and budget ($3.8 million) for improvements to four parking lots: 54 and 66 in the Richardson Court residence neighborhood, 18 along Morrill Road on central campus and 74 on Union Drive north of Lake LaVerne. The project also replaces select underground utilities. The work is scheduled for summers 2020-21. Funding sources are ISU parking, $2.1 million; ISU utilities, $1.4 million; Institutional Roads Fund (Iowa DOT), $200,000; and university funds, $150,000.
  • Project description and budget ($16 million) to replace the ISU power plant's central control system. It will occur in 12 phases over eight years in order to maintain steam, chilled water and electricity service to campus throughout the transition. The university's utility repair and utility infrastructure funds will cover the cost.

Report presentations

The regent universities' joint reports on distance education and student financial aid will be presented to the board's academic and student affairs committee, which meets at 9:15 a.m. The residence system and graduation/retention reports are scheduled near the end of the full board meeting, which begins at 1 p.m. The annual human resources report is included in the board's consent agenda, with no oral presentation scheduled.

Some campus venues will serve as caucus sites

Participants from seven of the 20 Ames precincts will convene in campus locations for Iowa's first-in-the-nation presidential caucus on Monday, Feb. 3.

Registered Republicans and Democrats eligible to vote in the 2020 general election can participate in their party's caucus. Individuals can register or change party affiliation at their caucus sites by completing a voter registration form. On-site registration opens at 5:30 p.m. for Democrats and 6:30 p.m. for Republicans. Early arrival is recommended. Participants will not be admitted when caucusing begins at 7 p.m.

The campus venues hosting Democratic caucus groups include:

  • Fisher Theater
  • Hansen Agriculture Student Learning Center
  • Memorial Union (Sun Room and Great Hall)
  • Scheman Building (Room 167 and Room 240)
  • Stephens Auditorium

All Story County Republicans will meet in the Oakwood Road Community Center (2400 Oakwood Rd., Ames).

Student attendance, resources

University policies and state law provide guidance for employee political activities. Instructors with Monday night classes are reminded to make attendance decisions based on the excused absence policy

The Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics emailed caucus details to students this week. The center developed a student FAQ that includes information about voter registration, caucusing and elections (in person and absentee).


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Interlibrary loan is fast and effective for patrons of Parks

Gone are the days of waiting weeks for an article or book. In the time it can take to drink a cup of coffee at Bookends Cafe, University Library may be able to fill an interlibrary loan request.

"We have agreements with other libraries where they have to fill requests in 72 hours at most," said head of access services Dawn Mick. "Most of it is very fast. I think there is this misconception people have that interlibrary loan is going to take weeks."

How fast is fast? The quickest response to a request filled at the library to date is 12 minutes. Most articles are sent electronically, dwindling wait times to just hours.

Wait time

The importance of the internet in our daily lives means information in electronic form is readily available, making it easier for libraries to access files and send them off.

Over the last decade, cheap, quality scanning became more prevalent, and increased bandwidth allowed large files to be sent through email. Books usually take a few days to reach a destination, but even that has become more reliable with agreements between libraries.

Loans go beyond books and articles, to include items such as 3D-printed models, microfilm, DVDs and CDs.

"You don't know unless you ask," Mick said. "People are always surprised by what we can get, so it never hurts to try."

How it works

Interlibrary loan requests can be made and renewed online, where their progress is monitored.

The interlibrary loan request process has been streamlined over the years. Mick and the loan staff -- resource sharing supervisor Anders Runestad, borrowing coordinator Jason Carpenter and lending coordinator Miranda Cantrell -- use software called ILLiad to communicate with WorldCat, the world's largest network of library content that serves as a master catalog of library materials.

"Our software talks to that database. We can see who owns what, and from there we have an idea of where to borrow," said Runestad, who began working at the library as a student in the '90s when requests were still handwritten and faxed. "We can then make a decision on who to get it from based on time, distance or availability."

In Iowa, an informal cooperative of eight libraries at Iowa State, University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa, Drake University, Grand View University, St. Ambrose University, Wartburg College and Hawkeye Community College form FastTRAC. Partner libraries are able to search one another's catalogs.

University Library lends more books than it borrows with a high concentration of requests coming in agriculture, engineering and veterinary medicine.

"There are not a lot of places that have a good veterinary medicine collection," Mick said.


Interlibrary loan may not be used as much as it was pre-internet, but it still is key for hard-to-find resources.

"A lot of libraries have been cutting down their collections and removing items. It is something we have done recently -- weeding stuff out that is not used very much," Runestad said. "That means if someone wants something few libraries have, they have to use interlibrary loan."

Space and technology have become as much an asset to libraries as the books, journals and articles they house. This is the case at Parks Library where a renovation on the main floor was completed last fall.

"Interlibrary loan has allowed libraries to make their collection the most active it can be for their patrons, and to use the most space for what people are using it for," Mick said.

Who can use it?

Graduate students and faculty use interlibrary loan the most, followed by undergraduates.

Interlibrary loan is available to all active ISUCard holders. Those without an ISUCard can get a library visitor card, but it may be easier to go through their local library. Ames Public Library utilizes interlibrary loan.

There is no cost to use interlibrary loan for faculty, staff or students unless the item comes from overseas, which has a $5 fee to offset shipping costs.

Items can be picked up at the Parks or veterinary medicine libraries or mailed within 25 miles of Ames for $5. Since 2015, distance learning students have used the service without charge.

"We ship them the book via FedEx, and we provide a prepaid shipping label, so all they have to do is ship it back," Mick said.

An overlooked option: Big 12 faculty fellowships

Faculty members seeking to continue a collaboration with a colleague at one of the other nine universities in the Big 12 athletics conference -- or perhaps hoping to launch one -- are invited to apply for a Big 12 fellowship. Over 22 years, Iowa State has provided more than 80 awards to ISU faculty. That's fewer than four awards per year.

"It's one of our most underutilized faculty professional development programs," said associate provost Dawn Bratsch-Prince. "Faculty are always looking for funding to support their endeavors, and we'd like more faculty to consider this one."

The Big 12 Faculty Fellowship program is open to all ISU faculty. The maximum award is $2,500, which is used to cover travel, lodging and meal expenses for visits typically of less than a week and sometimes just an overnight. Applications are reviewed three times per year, on the same overlapping cycle as the faculty Foreign Travel Grant program. The next deadline, for campus visits between March 1 and Oct. 31, is Friday, Jan. 31. The April 3 deadline considers visits between June 3 and Jan. 31, 2021.

What is it?

The crux of the fellowship is a visit to another Big 12 university to learn from, or collaborate with, a faculty member who has formally invited the Iowa State faculty member. The visit tends to include some combination of research activity, student interaction and perhaps a department-level research presentation.

2019-20 Big 12 Faculty Fellows

Benjamin Ahn, aerospace engineering, to U of Texas
Joey George, information systems and business analytics, to Kansas State
Kim Greder, human development and family studies, to Oklahoma State
Robyn Lutz, computer science, to U of Texas
David Peterson, political science, to U of Texas

"Sometimes that other faculty member has expertise in pedagogy, or perhaps a university has a piece of equipment or a data set that would be useful to our faculty member," Bratsch-Prince explained. "Or, if a faculty member collaborates with another faculty member at a Big 12 institution and they can agree on a timeline for a visit, this program could assist them."

A Big 12 faculty fellowship isn't intended as annual support for an established collaboration among faculty at two schools, she noted. Reciprocal visits are not a program requirement. However, Iowa State welcomes departments to invite Big 12 faculty fellows to campus, she added. The host department assists with logistics which, depending on the length of the visit, might include temporary housing, parking, office space or research space.

Senate role in selection

As with the foreign travel grant applications, the Faculty Senate's committee on recognition and development reviews all Big 12 faculty fellowship applications and provides a recommendation to the provost's office. If necessary, the committee prioritizes applications in the set. The final decision on funded applications and award sizes comes from the provost's office.

"We hope to help as many faculty as possible while maximizing the pool of funds for this program," Bratsch-Prince said.

The other member schools in the Big 12 are Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Christian (TCU), Texas Tech and West Virginia.