Finishing touches

Groundskeeper Branden Geil

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Branden Geil, a groundskeeper with the campus services team, waters new plantings on the west side of the Student Innovation Center Monday afternoon. In the last week, about 200 low plants and several trees were installed around the building. Signage and other finishing tasks continue inside as the university prepares to open the state-of-the-art facility this fall.

Senior leaders offer first glimpse at fall instruction

Among popular topics during the June 12 town hall for faculty and staff, senior leaders answered multiple questions that offer a first glimpse at what instruction will look like this fall. In a June 17 memo to academic affairs division employees on the same topic, senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert emphasized that goals for fall semester haven't changed -- despite the uncertainty of these times.

"We will prioritize the safety of our university community; we will help students make progress toward their degrees; and we will conduct Iowa State's mission-oriented and operational functions as effectively as possible," he wrote.

This Q&A supplements town hall responses in some cases with additional detail Wickert shared in his memo.


How and when will decisions be made about which classes go online?

There is no "one size fits all" approach for how we'll deliver classes this fall. In collaboration with their associate deans, we'll be asking department chairs and faculty to determine the appropriate delivery mode for each class and to match faculty interests and teaching expertise with student needs and teaching mode. That process can begin immediately. In broad strokes:

  • Large, lecture-based classes will be online and supplemented by synchronous online sessions, in-person recitation sections or other in-person learning opportunities for students at least once a week.
  • Medium and small lecture-based classes, studios, capstone courses will be taught in blended formats (combination of in-person and online to promote safety and flexibility).
  • Lab courses will be taught in person, with appropriate safety measures.
  • Courses for which the mode is influenced by accreditation guidelines may be taught in person following safety measures.
  • All fall courses must be developed within Canvas. (Wickert)


If COVID cases in Story County have increased since businesses reopened at the end of May, why is the university being aggressive about in-person instruction this fall?

The approach we're taking is, how do we go about our business -- educating students, conducting research, serving Iowans -- while mitigating the risk. We can't eliminate all the risk, but the combination of testing, contact tracing, wearing face coverings, staying home if you're ill, hand washing and enhanced cleaning -- all of these together will help reduce the risk for all of us and allow our students to come back for an Iowa State experience. (Vice president for ISU Extension and Outreach John Lawrence, chair of the executive committee for fall planning)

Learn more

Provost Jonathan Wickert's June 17 memo shares updates on instruction-related topics participants didn't raise during the town hall, including:

  • No impact to faculty appointments
  • Labor Day specifics
  • Summer instructional support
  • Safety in fall classrooms, labs and studios
  • Back-up instructors


Why did Iowa State decide to not just stay online for fall semester?

We interviewed students after spring semester, and while they told us they understood why we went online, they also said they can't wait to be back on campus. Likewise, we hear from incoming students how much they value in-person classes. Some students are likely to take a gap year or seek an alternative closer to home rather than enroll in a substantial number of online courses. So, the fall priorities are the quality of first-year learning and experiential learning courses, which are the hallmark of Iowa State. (Wickert)


What did we remove from a fall semester that's a week shorter than normal?

The new fall calendar (Aug. 17-Nov. 25) means that students will miss only four days of instruction. By holding classes on Labor Day, we recovered one instruction day. The semester will have 14 weeks of instruction including prep week (Nov. 16-20). Final exams will be held Saturday, Nov. 21, and Monday-Wednesday, Nov. 23-25. This schedule meets federal requirements for a full semester and provides the best opportunity for students to complete the fall semester on campus. (Wickert)


What are we doing to help international students who may not be able to travel to campus?

We have created an international student bundle that focuses especially on incoming students. The bundle includes courses in four tracks based on where most of our international students register, and they'll take these courses while they're in their home country. We added a learning community component because we know our learning communities are important to creating a sense of community and belonging. The intent is to help students make progress toward their degree, and when they're able to travel to the U.S. -- hopefully in January -- they'll begin their second semester of courses. We're holding a series of webinars to alert students to this opportunity. (Associate provost Ann Marie VanDerZanden, chair of the academic continuity working group)


How is Iowa State ensuring that tenure-track faculty can maintain their research programs throughout the pandemic?

We continue to offer clock extensions to any tenure-track faculty who requests one because of pandemic-related disruptions to their research program. Other actions include:

  • The mandatory training for all college-level promotion and tenure committees will include a component to raise awareness of COVID-related disruptions.
  • ISU has implemented the flexibility offered by the federal Office of Management and Budget for faculty researchers related to how grants are managed.
  • The office of the vice president for research has extended the terms on its internal grants for research teams. (Wickert)


How will class schedules be adjusted to account for physical distancing?

Maintaining physical distances is one of the most complex challenges we face since it combines student schedules, class schedules and class locations. Our overarching goal is to keep the class schedule intact as much as possible. Passing times between classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays will be extended by 5 minutes, to 15 minutes. To accommodate this, classes on those days will begin 15 minutes earlier (7:45 a.m.) and end 20 minutes later (6:20 p.m.). Classes remain 50 minutes long and the 10 class periods will begin every 65 minutes.

Class start times on Tuesdays and Thursdays won't change; passing times on those days already are 15 minutes. (Wickert, VanDerZanden)


Will there be a fall commencement?

We've received many inquiries on this topic. The commencement advisory committee is exploring all options for fall commencement and college convocations. Their work includes reviewing the virtual events we held this spring and analyzing capacity and safety options for in-person events, if feasible. (Wickert)


Are there conversations yet about adjusting spring semester?

Right now, we're working hard on fall semester planning, but it's never too early to start considering what might happen in the spring, too. We're going to learn a lot during that first week of fall classes and we'll probably have to adjust our fall plan. We think the fall semester will inform decisions about spring semester. (Wickert)

Policy, review planned for reconsidering historical honors

Iowa State will establish a formal way to reconsider its facility names and memorials that honor historical figures and, once a policy is adopted, will review all campus naming decisions for potential concerns.

President Wendy Wintersteen announced the plans in a June 11 campus message, appointing vice president for diversity and inclusion Reg Stewart and Faculty Senate president Carol Faber to co-chair a committee to develop a recommendation for a renaming policy and process. She asked the committee to examine renaming principles at other institutions, specifically citing Stanford University's guidelines as a good example.

"I look forward to this important work developing a procedure that allows a thoughtful and consistent approach to reconsidering historic naming decisions," Stewart said.

After the committee is selected, Faber and Stewart will work on developing the best possible plan for Iowa State, she said.

"I am sure this will be challenging work. If we are thoughtful in our approach, I am confident we will develop a positive solution," Faber said.  

The lack of a process for reconsidering historical naming decisions and memorials was highlighted after recent social media posts drew attention to an ISU plaque honoring former student William T. Hornaday, the first director of the Bronx City Zoo. In 1906, Hornaday set up a zoo exhibit in which a Congolese man, Ota Benga, was displayed alongside an orangutan. After protests, the zoo closed the exhibit, but Hornaday was unapologetic.

"Hornaday’s actions and attitudes that he expressed in response to the controversy are indefensible, reprehensible and racist," Wintersteen said.

A bronze plaque recognizing Hornaday's contributions to conservation was dedicated on campus in 1926. As an interim step, the plaque has been removed from the rock where it was mounted just south of LeBaron Hall and is being stored in university archives at Parks Library. The University Library will research the reasons it was created to help better understand Iowa State history. The library also will play a crucial role in the review of all naming decisions.

"Our university archivists, where possible, will provide the review of honorific naming on campus with records that document the historical naming process," said Hilary Seo, interim library dean. "These materials and decisions around renaming will remain part of the archival records and history of ISU, attesting to the racism that permeates society and how the university responded to its own historical involvement and complicated past."

A permanent decision about the plaque, and the honorary ISU master's degree he received in 1903, will come after the renaming policy is adopted. 

"The policy developed will allow us to examine the Hornaday plaque and other historic naming and honoring decisions in a consistent and well-thought-out process with well-defined standards that can be applied when issues arise," Wintersteen said.

An assist on understanding the new P&S job titles

By month's end, professional and scientific (P&S) employees will know their job profiles in the university's new market-based P&S classification and compensation system. To help them understand their placement and assess whether it's accurate, classification and compensation staff added a second set of resources to the project website this week. The five new aids join five posted previously.

Additionally, employees will be able to see the 29 job families, containing 580-plus job profiles, as part of their assessment. By June 22, a new job aid on the project resources page will show employees how to access this information in Workday.

Implementation dates

  • 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 managers
  • 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

June 22 is the date managers of P&S employees will receive emails announcing new job profiles for the employees they supervise. Employees will receive similar emails June 29, though managers may share the new job profiles with employees anytime. Managers and employees should discuss the assigned job profile, and the new aids are intended to help guide those conversations. If they decide the job profile assignment doesn't accurately reflect a majority of the employee's work, they may decide to request a review.

From March through May, leaders at a local level (unit or department) decided what job titles their employees should hold. HR delivery staff provided coaching, as needed, to keep the jobs framework intact.

"We believe the large majority of our P&S employees are appropriately situated," said Emma Mallarino Houghton, director of classification and compensation in university human resources (UHR). "But since we first began discussing implementation last fall, we've talked about the importance of employees reviewing their own job profile -- and the opportunity to request a review if they think it's not an accurate fit for the work they do.

"We're finally at that point in implementation," she said.

Employee title review resources

The new title review resources managers and employees may use are:

  • Title discussion talking points. A summary of reminders, online resources and questions to ask when considering an assigned title.
  • Title review guide (separate but similar versions for managers and employees). A step-by-step checklist for assessing the accuracy of a job profile assignment.
  • Title review process chart. A summary of what should occur between June 29, when P&S employees know their new job profile, and July 24, when forms are due for those who request a job title review.
  • Title review FAQ. Answers to about 20 common questions on the new classification/compensation system, what changes because of it (and what doesn't), and how to request a review.

Exemption status

In addition to title and level, managers and employees will receive information about the FLSA (federal Fair Labor Standards Act) exemption status of their new job profile. As she has communicated throughout the project, Mallarino Houghton said FLSA exemption is a critical regulatory component of the job title development process.

"By sharing additional information with employees and their managers on the FLSA exemption status of their job profile, we are providing time for review and additional training for employees on what it means to be exempt and nonexempt," she said.

Resources related to FLSA can be found on the classification and compensation website. Mallarino Houghton said newly nonexempt employees will not be required to track time until their title assignments are official on Aug. 30. UHR will communicate with impacted employees leading up to that date.

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.


Related stories

Reserve cloth face coverings on central stores website

The word is spreading that campus units should work with central stores to reserve cloth face coverings for employees who will need them when they return to their buildings later this summer. Central stores supervisor Bill Spratt said earlier this week the special cloth face coverings website received reservations for nearly 17,000 cloth face coverings -- and that number continues to grow. He said central stores is receiving between 3,000 and 5,000 pieces per week from the vendor and delivering orders in the sequence they were received.

The Iowa State-branded cloth face coverings are provided at no cost to the unit, up to two face coverings per employee. Reservations should be for an entire office, unit or department; individual employees are asked to not reserve for themselves.

Employees' face coverings don't have to be university branded; they may sew or purchase other cloth face coverings, too.

Cleaning supplies, too

Central stores also is the designated supplier of cleaning and personal safety items for employees. The website features a COVID-19 "back to work essentials" page that's populated with products handpicked collaboratively by staff from central stores and environmental health and safety. It includes products such as disinfectants, gloves, goggles and face shields, infrared thermometer and hand sanitizer.

Spratt also noted:

  • Reservations placed now should be just for employees (faculty, P&S, merit, contract), but not student employees. He said a second reservation phase is planned when units can order face coverings for student employees, including graduate assistants. Central stores carries disposable face masks units can purchase for summer student employees.
  • Please respect the two-per-employee limit.
  • The branded face coverings are offered in three colors (white, black and red), but central stores has no control over the colors it receives, and therefore can't fill color requests from campus units. Essentially, you get what you get.
  • As it fills reservation requests, central stores is working with staff from postal and parcel services and central receiving to deliver face coverings to campus buildings because many still are closed. In most cases, that's to the building's mail room.

Two offices will reorganize to form new research ethics office

Effective July 1, the office of the vice president for research will debut a new office of research ethics (ORE). The change merges its former office for responsible research (ORR) and office of research integrity (ORI).

Until this point, the two research offices functioned collaboratively but independently to oversee university research operations. As a single unit, it will represent all research ethics activities to better serve the campus community and ensure ethical research. Staff will remain in the second floor of the Kingland Building.

"By combining these units, we will create a one-stop-shop for researchers to assist in meeting the ethics and security aspects of carrying out their research," said Jerry Zamzow, assistant vice president for research. "Implementing this organizational change will allow researchers across campus to more easily navigate the myriad institutional, state, and federal policies and regulations.

"This restructuring also will provide the office of the vice president for research an opportunity to provide more wholistic messaging around responsibilities associated with ethical conduct of research" he said.

Functions and leadership

The new ORE will include all components of research regulation and policy administration, including:

  • Training and prevention programs
  • Compliance activities for human subjects, animals, biohazards, radiation safety, conflicts of interest and commitment
  • Export controls
  • Unmanned aircraft systems
  • Foreign influence
  • Research integrity

Sarah Kaatz, director of ORR, will lead the new unit. Brooke Langlitz, director of ORI, will serve as associate director. Individual points of contact university researchers may have previously engaged with will not change.

"Our vision is that this change will streamline all programmatic aspects of administering regulations and policies that pertain to the conduct of research," Kaatz said. "The reorganization provides increased clarity for Iowa State researchers to ensure they are aware of and complying with non-financial regulations for conducting research."

Full-time research integrity officer

In addition to combining the functions and staffs of the two existing units, the office also will serve as the administrative home for the university's new research integrity officer. Since 2017, associate vice president for research Guru Rao has fulfilled this role in a part-time capacity. The position has been restructured as a full-time role dedicated to handling allegations of research misconduct on campus. A search process to fill the position is underway.

A new website will be developed for the ORE in the coming weeks. In the interim, information regarding compliance matters and ethical research practices can be found on the existing ORR and ORI websites.

Transportation FAQ updated with latest recommendations

The latest set of recommendations from Iowa State's emergency operations team includes information about university vehicle use and employee commuting. Updates to the frequently asked questions about transportation services also provide links to related guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The updates apply to van pools, car pools and traveling in vehicles for university business. Among the recommendations:

  • Limit occupancy to one person per vehicle when possible

  • Wear face coverings and sit as far apart as possible if there are other occupants

  • Use university (not personal) vehicles for business travel

  • Wash or sanitize hands before and after each trip

  • Clean and disinfect vehicle after each trip

Cleaning and disinfecting procedures from Iowa State and the CDC are included. Physical distancing procedures for CyRide bus passengers also are available.