In an effort to complete classes on campus, the fall semester will start a week early and wrap up the day before Thanksgiving.
“We are making every effort to maximize in-person learning and the student learning experiences that are a defining characteristic of an Iowa State education,” said President Wendy Wintersteen. “Adjusting the calendar will allow us to complete the semester before Thanksgiving and minimize the potential spread of COVID-19 due to holiday travel.”
Town hall on Friday
President Wendy Wintersteen and other senior leaders will hold their third virtual town hall June 12 (2-3 p.m.). The town hall is an opportunity to discuss and ask questions about fall plans.
Join the town hall virtually via Webex Events. Webex Events is limited to 1,000 attendees, and overflow viewing will be available on YouTube. To join by phone, call 415-655-0001 and enter event number/access code 120 692 5212.
Attendees joining via Webex Events and can ask questions by typing them in the Q&A box. Other attendees will not be able to pose questions live, but can send questions to COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org, and senior leaders will follow up with answers following the town hall.
The town hall will be recorded and posted on the campus safety page within a day or two.
In a June 10 message to the campus community, Wintersteen announced several initiatives recommended by the executive committee on fall planning. This includes changes to the academic calendar as well as plans for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, class size and delivery, and occupancy rates for the residence halls to limit the spread of illness on campus.
Fall classes will begin on Aug. 17. The semester, including final exams, will end Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving. Classes will be held on Labor Day. John Lawrence, vice president for ISU Extension and Outreach and chair of the fall planning committee, says the group has met daily since early May to develop a plan to safely reinstate teaching and research programs.
“We’ve made several important decisions, but our work is ongoing,” Lawrence said. “What we know about COVID-19 will change between now and when classes start in August. We are working through a variety of issues to make sure the university is prepared.”
Class sizes and delivery modes
Changes implemented this fall will balance the university’s academic mission with the need to keep students, faculty and staff safe and healthy. These include:
- Reducing the number of students in a classroom
- Expecting students and professors to wear face coverings
- Modifying time between classes to avoid congestion in campus buildings, walkways, buses, etc.
Many classes will be offered in multiple delivery options (in-person, online, hybrid) to meet the varied needs of students and faculty, including the need for individuals to self-isolate if they are exposed to the virus. Courses with labs, studio sections, capstone projects and other interactive experiences will largely be delivered through in-person instruction.
Lawrence says the committee is also looking beyond the classroom at the whole student experience.
“While campus will be different, we are making every effort to prioritize experiential learning opportunities,” Lawrence said. “We know that clubs and other activities are also important, so we have a group dedicated to the student experience.”
Residence and dining
Residence halls will offer single and double occupancy, supplemented by additional cleaning practices and other measures that prioritize the safety of students and staff. Students will be required to be tested for COVID-19 before moving in to on-campus housing. Some spaces will be reserved for students living in residence halls who may need to self-isolate or quarantine during the semester.
ISU Dining will modify operations to reduce capacities, eliminate self-service options in dining halls and expand takeout options, among other measures.
Testing, tracing and reducing spread
Thielen Student Health Center is working to develop plans for comprehensive COVID-19 testing for students, faculty and staff. This will include contact tracing to identify those who may have been exposed in offices, classrooms, residence halls and other facilities. These efforts will be done in collaboration with county and state public health partners.
All students, faculty, staff and visitors who are able are expected to wear a face covering or face shield while in the presence of others, and where other strategies such as physical distancing are not available. This same guidance is already in place for faculty and staff returning to campus this summer.
Students and employees also are encouraged to adhere to recommended health practices such as wearing face coverings and physical distancing while elsewhere in the community, such as when shopping at stores.
"Although it will not be possible to mitigate every risk, every person must contribute to reducing those risks," Wintersteen said in her campus message.
Email questions about fall planning to COVIDemail@example.com.
In June 29 emails, the university's 3,200 professional and scientific (P&S) employees will receive their job titles in the new classification and compensation system. University human resources (UHR) leaders announced this week a revised timeline for completing implementation of the market-driven structure. Included with each employee's title will be the related job family, job category (support contributor, individual contributor or management) and a job level indicating experience and work complexity and responsibility.
"We're grateful to university administrators for the green light to complete implementation," said Emma Mallarino Houghton, UHR classification and compensation director. "To resume the rollout, the classification/compensation team has been putting a lot of effort into preparing resources that introduce employees and managers to the new P&S classification structure and illustrate their placement in it."
- June 22: Managers receive their employees' job title assignments via email
- June 29: Employees receive their job title assignments via email and review with their manager
- July 24: Deadline to submit a job title review request (for employees or their managers who question their job title assignment)
- August: UHR staff and HR service delivery staff complete reviews and notify managers and employees of outcome
- Aug. 30: New P&S classification/compensation system goes live in Workday
The new timeline includes a deadline four weeks later -- Friday, July 24 -- for P&S employees who question the accuracy of their job title to request a review by UHR staff. Managers, who will receive notification of their employees' job title assignments around June 22, also may request a review for any of their employees. Mallarino Houghton said the early notice to managers is intended to give them time to understand the assignments and prepare for conversations with their staff members. Managers may share assignments with their employees before June 29, she added.
By mid-to-late August, UHR staff will complete all requested reviews and return their decisions to managers and employees.
The implementation end date is Aug. 30, when job titles are loaded into Workday and linked to the system's 15 new pay grades. Mallarino Houghton said separating job title assignments from pay grade assignments is intentional, to remove the inherent pay bias from the first phase. P&S salaries will not change when implementation is complete.
After Aug. 30, the new classification and compensation structure will be in effect. P&S promotions and reclassifications will remain frozen through October.
Introducing a new system
Newly posted to the P&S classification and compensation review website, a first set of resources will give P&S employees and managers an overview of the classification structure that's been built. Two aids -- a glossary and guide to levels -- went online this spring. Additional documents posted this week cover topics such as:
- P&S classification framework
- Job titling conventions
- Career progression guidelines
A second set of aids will provide employees and their managers with resources for assessing the accuracy of their job title assignments and requesting a review of a new job title if they believe it's not accurate. These documents will be posted online by June 22.
"Because we're adding a lot of information to the project resources website, we thought it would be helpful to P&S employees to share it in two parts," Mallarino Houghton said. "Our new system is market-based, so it introduces significant changes from the 30-year-old system we'll retire soon."
Launched three years ago, the P&S classification and compensation review project gives the university a system that reflects best practices and is intended to recruit, retain and reward exceptional employees.
During its June 4 meeting, state Board of Regents president Mike Richards reiterated the board's intent that the three regent universities offer a full campus experience when the next academic year begins, including in-person instruction, residence hall life, dining options, intercollegiate athletics and student activities.
He said fall planning committees on each campus will use the latest guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Iowa Department of Public Health and others to make "informed, fact-based decisions.
"We do believe we can open our campuses in a safe manner, so that is how we are proceeding," he said. "We know there are many questions, but we want everyone to know these plans are proceeding as quickly as possible."
He said as the universities complete their fall plans, each will share it publicly so everyone "will know what the guidelines are for the fall semester."
The board's top priority remains providing an affordable, accessible, high-quality education for students, Richards said.
The board approved tuition for the 2020-21 year for all students that matches this year's rates. The board could reconsider spring semester tuition depending on circumstances over the next five months. Mandatory fees for ISU students will decrease $4, reflecting a net $4 drop in the student activities fee. Before voting, board members heard comments from student leaders on the three campuses.
Student Government president Morgan Fritz, a junior in political science, told board members students are feeling economic impacts of the world pandemic -- lost jobs and tight family budgets on top of accumulating student debt -- and flat tuition will help keep the regent universities accessible to them.
"Iowa State students thank you, and we appreciate your commitment to our education," she said.
For the benefit of the state's economy, Fritz said state legislators also need to make public higher education a priority as they work through budget cuts in the resumed 2020 session.
"There's a positive return on investment for money spent on higher education," she said, while noting that since 1999, tuition at Iowa State has increased about 160% while state appropriations for public higher education have "effectively frozen."
Eleanor Field, Ph.D. candidate in entomology and president of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, thanked board members for supporting the state's graduate and professional students. She said access to education is more critical than ever, and the board's decision to not increase tuition "alleviates some of the stresses felt by students in financial uncertainty and may allow many to remain in school."
ISU standard tuition* and mandatory fees: 2020-21
Professional (Vet Med)
*Does not reflect differential tuitions
Regents advisory group
At the board's April 30 meeting, Richards appointed an advisory group to look for efficiency opportunities among the three regent universities. Co-chairs David Barker and Nancy Dunkel are joined by regent colleagues Nancy Boettger and Jim Lindenmayer. On June 4, the board approved appointments to two subgroups that will look at academic and administrative efficiencies, respectively.
"Public higher education was already evolving before COVID-19, but with the added pressure of the pandemic, we must begin to make systemic changes now," Richards said.
Noting Iowa's universities have survived many challenging times in their history, he said the board has a responsibility to make sure the regent universities "remain healthy so they can be here for the next 100 years or more."
The academic subgroup contains the provosts and faculty senate presidents from the three universities, including Iowa State's Jonathan Wickert and associate professor of graphic design Carol Faber, respectively. The senior vice presidents for operations and finance at the three schools, including Iowa State's Pam Cain, comprise the administrative group.
Richards said the advisory group could consider many options, such as:
- Students from one university taking online classes at another university.
- Creating new online programs for nontraditional students.
- Expanding the post-secondary enrollment option for high school students.
- Consolidating some administrative duties that occur at all three universities.
- Implementing a moratorium on new construction.
- Exploring new public-private partnerships.
Its recommendations are due at the board's November meeting.
Iowa State received board permission to begin planning a utility project to replace the last two coal-fired boilers in the power plant with natural gas-fired boilers. Three other natural-gas boilers are now four years old. The project includes dismantling coal-handling systems and returning coal pile sites to grassy fields, at an estimated cost of $12 million to $14 million. The conversion is expected to generate annual utility savings of $3.7 million.
Interim senior vice president for operations and finance Pam Cain said the conversion will enhance the value of the campus utility system. She said the university is studying the possibility of a financial partnership with a private utility company to operate the ISU utility system. In December, the board approved a 50-year agreement between the University of Iowa and a French energy firm that is managing its campus utilities.
Iowa State's approximately 1,300 merit employees will receive a 2.1% pay increase on July 1, according to the state's two-year collective bargaining agreement with the Iowa chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Minimums and maximums in the 19 pay grades of the merit system pay plan also will increase 2.1%.
As President Wendy Wintersteen shared with the campus community in an April budget update, Iowa State won't offer performance-based salary increases for faculty, professional and scientific and contract staff, and post-docs for the new fiscal year.
Other Iowa State items
The board also approved Iowa State requests for:
- A department name change in the Ivy College of Business, from management to management and entrepreneurship, to better represent the department's growing emphasis on entrepreneurship -- in curriculum, degree offerings and faculty specialization. The change took effect immediately.
- A new degree program in the Graduate College, a master of arts in teaching history, targeting postbaccalaureate students without teacher preparation who want to teach in a K-12 setting. It provides, in a formal structure, the state's prerequisites for licensure to teach history and other social studies subjects at the secondary level. The School of Education and history department offered this preparation on an ad-hoc basis.
- A 15-foot-wide easement to the city of Ames, extending about a thousand feet along the southeast corner of the Veterinary Medicine campus, for a paved bike path (it's currently gravel) to connect the ISU Research Park to South Fourth Street.
We're not all coming back to campus the same week or even the same month, but the focus has shifted from shutting down campus to opening it up again. There's lots of information to help managers and employees figure out what needs to be done before we return to our campus offices -- so much, in fact, it can get a little overwhelming. Inside staff pulled some of the key pieces onto a single page.
Not without a plan
Designated employees in each office or unit were tapped last month to consult several guides (guide for returning to the workplace, supervisor expectations for phased increase of operations) and complete a planning document specific to their workspace. The template is available as editable PDF or Word documents.
Research supervisors should complete the same document for all laboratory and research workspaces, whether they were temporarily closed or remained open during spring semester. In addition, environmental health and safety staff have developed illustrated guides specific to research spaces: a laboratory ramp-up checklist and physical distancing guidelines for ISU laboratories.
Workspace plans need to be approved by department or unit leaders before employees begin to use them. Supervisors should give employees at least two weeks' notice before requiring them to return to the office; employees may voluntarily return earlier. The intent is that employees will return to their offices in phases, allowing time to adopt their workspace plan as additional colleagues arrive.
All employees are encouraged to complete "Returning to Iowa State University," a 12-minute training available in Learn@ISU (see UHR course offerings) that summarizes personal health and safety protocols based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Other things you should know
- Employees with health considerations that make the coronavirus more dangerous -- or live with someone at higher risk -- can request an alternative work arrangement that limits potential exposure.
- University leaders have asked units to coordinate all pandemic-related cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) purchases through central stores. They should use the department detail worktag DD11790 for any expenses, credits and refunds directly related to COVID-19.
- Your building is ready for occupancy. Building heating, cooling and ventilation systems, which were switched to setback mode in mid-March, have been back to normal mode since mid-May.
- Buildings will be opened/unlocked in phases over the summer. Building supervisors will make these decisions as departments in their buildings become ready. Changes to campus buildings' closed/open status will be updated in the building information website.
- Cleaning will be a shared task. While custodial teams will continue their daily and weekly tasks, employees should clean and sanitize their own workspaces regularly as part of their workforce plans, and office colleagues should clean and sanitize shared spaces (such as break and conference rooms) when they use them.
- Fall semester teaching faculty who will require students to purchase PPE should share their requests with the ISU Book Store so these materials can be included in the student book list on AccessPlus. Contact assistant director Heather Dean with questions.
A few reminders
- Employees returning to campus will be required to wear a cloth face covering whenever physical distancing is not possible. Medical masks and N95 respirators should be reserved for health care professionals. Campus units (not individual employees) may reserve a supply (up to two face coverings per employee) through central stores, at no cost to the department or employees. The ISU Book Store is selling individual face coverings in the Memorial Union or online.
- Fill out the online effort reporting form, available on the operations and finance division website, for any month your work time includes activities related to COVID-19. This will help the university's efforts to recover costs from federal or state emergency funds.
- Employee parking permit renewals and purchases for the fiscal year that begins July 1 opened in AccessPlus on June 10. Department permit purchases opened June 9 on the parking division website. Rates are not increasing.
The pandemic canceled campus functions and ISU-sponsored events planned elsewhere. Now, as the state and university gradually reopen, help is available for organizers planning and hosting campus activities.
The large events work group, activated as part of the university's emergency operations team, developed a resource document with input from venue managers, organizers and other experts across campus. The document provides guidance for planning university events held on and off campus, and for external events held in ISU venues -- for example, the June 21 Ames High School commencement ceremony at Hilton Coliseum.
Guidance includes recommendations -- physical distancing, personal hygiene and signage considerations, for example -- and restrictions currently in place, such as occupancy limits and food service options. Organizers must register their campus events in ISU's online authorization system.
Differences in the phased reopening timelines at the state and university levels provide an added challenge for planning campus events. Kurt Beyer, senior analyst in the risk management office and work group chair, said the document, available on the COVID-19 website, will be updated as needed.
"We anticipate the guidelines document to be updated regularly," he said. "Information released from the governor's office, Iowa Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is evolving almost daily."