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Male student passes syllabi to a row of seated students

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Junior Dustin "Drake" Pratt (standing) helped distribute syllabi to his classmates in Michael Bootsma's Accounting 215 class Monday in the Gerdin auditorium.

Following a record number of December graduates, we'll learn the size of the student body this spring after Jan. 22, the 10th day of the semester and official "count" day.

Team responds to bias incidents

In 2016, a team formed to respond to noncriminal campus incidents that may include harassment, discrimination or bias. The campus climate response team (CCRT), coordinated by Nora Ryan, inclusion services coordinator in the office of equal opportunity, now includes a dozen members representing several units. It fielded more than 50 incident reports during the fall semester.

How to report an incident

How it works

Anyone can report an incident -- students, staff, faculty, visitors and community members. Reports can be about incidents that happen on campus or off-campus incidents that involve someone affiliated with Iowa State. Responses are almost immediate, Ryan said, and put into motion with the team.

"If we have contact information -- a name or email, for example -- there's always an outreach," Ryan said. "We say within two business days, but it's always sooner -- it's immediate, really."

Margo Foreman, assistant vice president for diversity and inclusion and equal opportunity, said CCRT members see all of the reports. The team assesses the incident, determines the appropriate lead(s) to handle the response and communicates next steps.

"CCRT is a team-based approach across campus. I really want us to hold a triage role for reporting," Foreman said. "We're always trying to make sure that we're consistent with the suggestions and advice that is given."

If information in a report points to serious misconduct, Foreman said an equal opportunity (EO) investigation could be more appropriate.

"A lot of times, our outreach is for people who want to be heard -- they'll be given the options and resources available to them," Foreman said. "Sometimes it needs more corrective steps, and sometimes we realize this really is an EO issue that rises to the level of investigation."

Responses are determined on a case-by-case basis. Foreman and Ryan both said empowering individuals to change the culture is a high priority.

Common reports

Incidents are classified by how they occur, for example, digital (email, social media) and verbal methods, or vandalism, which Ryan said is the top classification being reported. Most reports come from student affairs units. Messages left on whiteboards in residence halls and unauthorized flyers posted in/on campus buildings are common offenses.

"The most prominent issue we're seeing across campus is white supremacy propaganda," Ryan said. "Race and ethnicity are targeted most, followed by sexual orientation and gender identity."

Foreman said individuals who report incidents are grateful to have someone listen and care about what they have to say.

"That's the No. 1 thing I hear from individuals who do say yes to an outreach," Ryan said. "The fact that someone took time to listen to their experience and discuss strategies for addressing the issue -- especially from the university's administration. That can be really empowering."

Reporting, made easier

In August, a dedicated campus climate website went live with information about the response team, frequently asked questions and an online form to report incidents. Campus resources, including policies, also are provided.

A custom database system tracks the details, progress and outcomes of reported incidents. Ryan already has seen an increase in reporting as word spreads about CCRT and its resources. But that is not a negative, Foreman insists.

"When we do see the growth (in reports), people should not be alarmed," Foreman said. "We have problems, whether people know or not, and we need to be able to address them. What we're doing is collecting information and addressing the hurts as they're happening."

"Although we cannot always identify respondents, and CCRT incidents often don't rise to the level of a full investigation by the EO team, it's still vital that we know that these things are occurring and those affected are provided resources," Ryan said. "The data are powerful for painting that picture to departments and the administration about where we can target our outreach and education efforts."

Born of necessity

"The group itself came out of meetings we had earlier that spring to talk about how to respond to campus climate impacts," Foreman said. "We were in the middle of a political campaign cycle that was different than we had experienced and wanted to get ahead of how to productively respond when that cycle impacted the campus."

Foreman said vice president for diversity and inclusion Reg Stewart brought the idea for the task force to student affairs, where incidents are most commonly reported. The CCRT dovetails with Stewart's work as chair of a committee tasked with implementing Goal 4 of the university's strategic plan: "Continue to enhance and cultivate the ISU Experience where faculty, staff, students and visitors are safe and feel welcomed, supported, included and valued by the university and each other."

Governor's budget includes cuts this year and next

Gov. Kim Reynolds' budget recommendations, released Jan. 9 in conjunction with her Condition of the State address, would take back $5.1 million in state support from the regents schools in the current budget year. Leaders at the state Board of Regents said the University of Northern Iowa and two special schools, serving PK-12 students with sight and hearing impairments, would not be subject to midyear cuts. Iowa State and the University of Iowa would share most of any reduction.

Reynolds' proposed $5.1 million cut to the regents enterprise is the highest among $27.1 million in proposed cuts to this year's state general fund budget. Data in the governor's budget indicates that 54 percent of 42,521 state employees (October 2017) work within the regents system.

Legislators receive the governor's budget recommendations but are not required to adopt them. The 2018 session opened Jan. 8, with adjournment scheduled for April 17 (reimbursed expenses for legislators end that day).

In a Jan. 9 message to campus leaders, President Wendy Wintersteen noted that the budget process is just beginning.

"We will continue to work with the Board of Regents to advocate strongly for adequate state resources," she wrote. "While we understand the challenges of the state's fiscal situation, we will urge the governor and the General Assembly to prioritize higher education."

Next year

Reynolds' budget recommendations for the year that begins July 1 don't include the three universities' request for $12 million in new funding for resident undergraduate financial aid. Iowa State's portion would be $5 million. Her recommendations add about $7.4 million to state support for the regent enterprise in FY19, most of which is unassigned. Proposed across-the-board 1 percent cuts to appropriations for Iowa State, University of Iowa, the board office and Iowa Public Radio to make permanent this year's $5.1 million reduction would reduce the net gain to about $2.3 million.

Reynolds' proposed FY19 general university appropriation for Iowa State, $170.9 million, is about $13.5 million less than what Iowa State received just 18 months ago, on July 1, 2016.

Building funds

Reynolds' FY19 budget recommendations do include capital appropriations pledged by previous Legislatures for in-process Iowa State projects. They include:

  • $4 million to complete the Bessey Hall addition and the Advanced Teaching and Research Building (for a total of $50 million in state support over four years).
  • $10 million for construction of the Student Innovation Center (the third of six years of state support totaling $40 million).

The governor's budget includes no state funding in FY19 for Iowa State's top building request, replacement of the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. But Reynolds includes $20 million per year in fiscal years 2020-24 for it. The university seeks a total of $100 million in state funding over multiple years for the estimated $124 million facility.

In her address to lawmakers, Reynolds' only mention of higher education funding was a new completion grant, one component of her "Future Iowa Ready" program, that would help Iowans whose efforts to complete a four-year degree stalled out.


Quick switch as gas prices soared saved ISU big money


Crews at Iowa State's power plant, pictured here last spring, saved nearly half a million dollars by temporarily reducing natural gas usage during the recent cold snap. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Utility crews scrambled to take advantage of the university power plant's new flexibility during the recent cold snap, temporarily reducing reliance on natural gas as its price skyrocketed -- a move that saved Iowa State nearly half a million dollars.

Jeff Witt, utilities director, said it was the first sudden fuel switch to dodge a severe price spike, a capability added in spring 2016 when the university replaced three of its five boilers with units that burn natural gas instead of coal.

"I'm pretty proud of the staff in the plant who responded," Witt said.

In normal conditions, the plant operates three boilers to heat, cool and power campus. Typically, two run on natural gas and one on coal, leaving dormant one gas boiler and one coal boiler. A fourth boiler is needed when demand increases, as it did when temperatures plummeted well below zero in the days before and after New Year's Eve. Because natural gas is usually cheaper and always greener, the plant was using all three gas boilers along with a coal boiler.  

But a company that monitors natural gas costs for the university notified utility officials Dec. 28 that prices were about to shoot up 20-fold in the face of a nationwide deep freeze, Witt said. Utility workers acted fast to start up the second coal boiler to limit the use of natural gas during the cost surge, a process that takes about 12 hours. (The time it takes to fire up a coal boiler is why one gas boiler is usually left off. A gas unit can start up in 45 minutes, so leaving one in reserve ensures reliable service if a boiler has to shut down.)

The second coal boiler was in operation in place of one of the gas-fired units by Dec. 29, with a disruption of a few hours Dec. 30, when crews had to work outside in frigid temperatures to fix a bearing in the fan of a coal boiler, Witt said.

"Everything worked like it should. It wasn't easy, but it got done," he said.

By Jan. 5, the power plant resumed its normal fuel array, Witt said. The steep increases in natural gas pricing held for three days, Dec. 29-31, before tapering off last week. Switching one boiler over to coal for a week saved about $450,000 in fuel costs, Witt said.

Campus utility bills still will be a bit higher, but that increase is due to the extra heat needed to keep buildings warm during the extreme cold, not higher fuel prices, Witt said. Spikes in fuel costs are absorbed by utility services, meaning the money saved prevented a subsequent hike in standard rates next year, he said.

Most utilities hedge in some way against fuel cost spikes, so residential heating bills probably won't pass along the full cost of temporarily inflated gas costs either, Witt said. "It's all in how they manage their risk," he said.

Fuel flexibility was one of the anticipated upsides of the $42 million project to install the three gas boilers, completed to comply with new federal emissions standards. On environmental grounds, the new boilers have paid dividends already.

In fiscal year 2016, total coal consumption was cut in half to 75,000 tons. In FY17, coal accounted for 50 percent of campus energy use, with natural gas at 36 percent, a gap that will continue to shrink in FY18, Witt said. In comparison, more than 90 percent of energy usage came from coal in FY12. Emissions have fallen by more than 80 percent due to the gas boilers, Witt said.  

New tax law: A primer for employees

On Dec. 22, President Donald Trump signed into law a bill officially called H.R. 1 but referred to as the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act." It is the most comprehensive change to the U.S. tax code in more than 30 years. The law significantly affects individual taxpayers, including Iowa State employees.

Mike Bootsma, Dean's Teaching Fellow and senior lecturer of accounting, provided an overview of some changes ISU employees may want to examine more closely. For additional details about the new law's impact on individual taxpayers, he suggests employees contact a certified public accountant or attorney for specific tax advice. Summaries of the law are available from various sources, including the Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation and Journal of Accountancy


The new tax law took effect Jan. 1. That means most individuals won't notice the changes until filing their 2018 taxes in 2019. However, ISU employees should see changes in their 2018 paychecks by Feb. 28, but possibly as soon as Jan. 31, according to Doug Anderson, payroll manager.

Some of the new changes are temporary, running from 2018 through 2025 and then expiring. However, an act of Congress could extend them further into the future.

Tax brackets

The new law retains seven individual federal income tax brackets, but lowers the rates. The following tables detail the new rates for three common taxpayer groups.

Single taxpayers

Taxable income range

Tax rate (percent)















Married taxpayers filing jointly and surviving spouses

Taxable income range

Tax rate (percent)















Married taxpayers filing separately

Taxable income range

Tax rate (percent)















Source of charts: Journal of Accountancy

Standard deduction, exemptions and child tax credit

The standard deduction is going up for all taxpayers, nearly doubling in some cases. For example, the previous standard deduction for a single taxpayer was $6,500; the new standard deduction jumps to $12,000 in 2018. Those who are married filing jointly will see their standard deduction go from $13,000 to $24,000. However, all personal and dependency exemptions have been eliminated.

"Therefore, a married couple with two children will see their standard deduction rise by $11,000, but they will lose the ability to take a personal exemption of $4,050 for each spouse and a personal exemption for each child," Bootsma said. "So, the total loss of exemption deductions would be $16,200."

The child tax credit is increasing from $1,000 to $2,000 per qualifying child (under the age of 17) to help offset the loss of the personal and dependency exemptions. An additional $500 credit is available for qualifying dependents who don't qualify the taxpayer for the child tax credit. For example, a child 18 or older who doesn't qualify for the child tax credit could still be considered a dependent under tax law.

Itemized deductions

Many changes are afoot for taxpayers who itemize their deductions instead of taking the new, larger standard deduction. Here's a look at some of them.

  • Itemized deductions will be limited to $10,000 for state income and real estate taxes, combined
  • The itemized deduction for home equity loan interest has been eliminated. However, interest from a loan used to purchase a home still is deductible with new limitations. The cap on the mortgage debt used to create the interest deduction is limited to $750,000, down from $1 million under prior law. But this applies only to mortgages taken after Dec. 15, 2017; previous mortgages are grandfathered in.
  • Medical expenses still qualify as an itemized deduction for taxpayers who have medical expenses in excess of 10 percent of their adjusted gross income (AGI). For tax years 2017 and 2018, that threshold is reduced to 7.5 percent of AGI.
  • Itemized deductions subject to a 2 percent of AGI cap were eliminated. Some examples include tax preparation fees, unreimbursed employee expenses and safety deposit box rental fees.
  • Certain charitable contributions to colleges and universities for the right to reserve or purchase seating at sporting events have been eliminated as an itemized deduction

Other eliminated deductions

  • Alimony payments from a divorce decree signed or amended after Dec. 31, 2018
  • Moving expenses for most taxpayers
  • Tuition and fees for higher education expenses (expired after 2016)


Some education deductions were slated for the chopping block in early versions of the tax bill. But the final version left those deductions in place, including the Lifetime Learning Credit, American Opportunity Tax Credit, student loan interest and the graduate tuition waiver.

Also as part of the final bill, Congress expanded the type of institutions eligible for 529 college saving plans. These plans usually are sponsored by states and allow individuals to save for higher education without incurring federal taxes. 529 plans may be used to cover tuition for K-12 private schooling and tutoring. The state of Iowa, however, may institute a "recapture" tax for individuals who use 529 plan savings to pay for primary and secondary education expenses. That's because the state already provides a tax deduction for certain amounts contributed to those 529 plans.

"This means a taxpayer who uses monies from a 529 plan that resulted in a state deduction may have to repay that tax deduction to the state of Iowa if they use those monies for private schooling and not higher education," Bootsma said.

W-4 changes on the way

With uncertainty about how the new tax law will impact individuals' income tax returns, it may be tempting to immediately update your W-4 forms, which designate how much federal and state taxes are withheld from your paycheck. But the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will not publish new 2018 W-4 forms or instructions on the new regulations until later in January. Anderson suggests ISU employees not rush to make changes.

"It might be a wise idea to look at your W-4 to see if it needs updating due to the tax regulations, but it's hard for us to give any advice other than that until the IRS publishes its instructions," he said.

Bootsma concurs, advising employees to "proceed with caution."

"When preparing their personal tax returns this spring, employees might ask their tax adviser to help them calculate whether or not they should have more withheld [from their paychecks]," he said.

To update the federal and state W-4 tax forms, log into AccessPlus, click on the Employee tab and select "W-4 Withholding" in the left column. From there, employees may update and submit their federal and state forms. 

P&S Council approves FY19 salary recommendations

Next P&S Council meeting: Feb. 1 (2:10-4 p.m., MU Gallery)

P&S Council professional development conference: Feb. 14 (8 a.m.-4:45 p.m., Scheman Building), register online

Professional and Scientific Council passed a motion on Jan. 4 to send university administration two documents -- its 2018 compensation and benefits report and FY19 compensation and benefits recommendation. The motion was passed after one reading, following a request by council member Barb Wollan, human sciences extension and outreach, to suspend rules requiring a second reading at the council's February meeting.

"Given the budget cycle and whatever might happen because of concerns about the current year's budget, we feel like it's worth suspending the rules in order to get this out there because it's urgent," Wollan said.

The report

The 2018 compensation and benefits report asks administrators to focus on four areas to ensure professional and scientific (P&S) employees are rewarded for their efforts and talented individuals seek employment at Iowa State. The four areas are:

  • Total compensation
  • Adequate performance-based pay increases
  • Annual and uniform employee evaluations to support pay increases
  • New revenue streams to pay for salary increases

The report concludes that, without attention to these efforts, the pool of talented P&S employees will diminish, decreasing the effectiveness of university programs and projects.

The recommendation

The council's P&S compensation and benefits recommendations for FY19 are:

  • Annual salary adjustments should be based on employee performance as part of the university's stated policy, and employees who perform at a satisfactory level should receive an increase at least equivalent to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
  • University human resources (UHR) should require universal compliance with the employee performance policy, making sure each employee has an annual appraisal. Supervisors who fail to give performance appraisals would be held accountable by UHR.
  • Employees who perform at or above a satisfactory level should receive an average salary increase of at least 3 to 5 percent, and the minimum increase should at least match the CPI for the year.
  • The university should develop and communicate a strategy for improving and developing new revenue streams while continuing to advocate for increases in legislative appropriations.
  • Administrators should satisfy these salary needs before pursuing funding for other projects and new initiatives.

Councilors discussed the motion at length, offering minor revisions and expressing appreciation to the council's compensation and benefits committee for its work.

Class/comp review update

Emma Mallarino-Houghton, UHR director of classification and compensation, told members the classification and compensation review project team will spend January collecting and evaluating benchmark market data to determine if university employees' salaries are competitive with similar positions in other organizations.

Council president Jessica Bell asked Mallarino-Houghton when employees will know if their positions are changing as a result of the project. Mallarino-Houghton said it's too soon to talk about specific impacts.

"That much more robust conversation on what we've developed will come later," she said.

Mallarino-Houghton also told councilors reclassifications and hiring should continue as usual.

"It's business as usual. Keep going. Despite all these big initiatives, we're still processing requests, we're still filling jobs," she said. "Don't discourage people from that."


Grawe named interim director of Study Abroad Center

Scott Grawe, the Robert and Jane Sturgeon Faculty Fellow in supply chain management and associate dean for strategy and engagement in the Ivy College of Business, has been named interim director of the Study Abroad Center. The appointment, which is in addition to his existing duties in the college, will extend through June 30.

Trevor Nelson, the center's previous director, left Iowa State last month for a similar role at the University of Delaware.

Scott Grawe

Scott Grawe

In making the appointment, associate provost for academic programs Ann Marie VanDerZanden said the combination of Grawe's business expertise and his passion for study abroad programs made him an ideal candidate to lead the center.

"International experiences, whether they last two weeks or an entire semester, provide a global perspective that is increasingly desired by employers," she said. "Scott will do a great job making sure we deliver the best service to students, as well as enhance coordination with study abroad programs in the academic colleges and departments."

Among his accomplishments at Iowa State, Grawe developed one of the university's most innovative study abroad programs -- working with the Target Corporation to track everyday items, such as kitchen spatulas, from a store shelf in Ames to manufacturing plants in China.

"It's a great privilege to be selected to lead the Study Abroad Center during the search for a new director," Grawe said. "There is much more we can do in terms of providing opportunities for students to study abroad, including scholarships and other support that make the experience accessible for all students."

As interim director, Grawe will work with staff to review the center's core functions, benchmark its operations with peer institutions and incorporate feedback from a 2015 external review.

Grawe earned a bachelor's degree in finance from Iowa State, an MBA in supply chain management from the University of Minnesota and a doctoral degree, also in supply chain management, from the University of Oklahoma. He joined the Business faculty in 2010.

Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.

Civil rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King Jr. will be honored at Iowa State and in the Ames community throughout the month of January. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is Monday, Jan. 15, a university holiday.

All events below are free and open to the public.

January events

  • Monday, Jan. 15, Community birthday celebration (6 p.m., Ames Middle School, 3915 Mortensen Rd.). Head to the annual community celebration of King’s life and service with songs, stories and birthday cake. An hour-long program begins at 6:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, Jan. 18, Martin Luther King Jr. legacy convocation, "Balancing Freedom of Expression and Diversity: Campus Conversation" (6 p.m., Memorial Union Sun Room). Join a discussion about balancing First Amendment rights with the concerns of diverse populations on university campuses.
  • Monday, Jan. 29, Lecture, "Race and Justice in America" (8 p.m., Memorial Union Great Hall). Equal Justice Initiative founder and executive director Bryan Stevenson will discuss the history of race in America's criminal justice system, as well as EJI's "Lynching in America" project. Stevenson's memoir, "Just Mercy," tells the story of a young lawyer fighting against extreme punishment and careless justice.