Iowa State will take action in several ways to help address the critical shortage of affordable quality child care that employee and student parents face, including repurposing a little-used space to increase infant and toddler care on campus and seeking off-campus partners to boost access throughout the community.
The measures were recommended by the child care task force formed by President Wendy Wintersteen last fall to study the issue, which was identified as a priority in the wake of the campus climate survey conducted in 2017. Wintersteen approved moving forward with all seven recommendations for improving child care availability and affordability the task force suggested in its Sept. 16 report.
"Supporting our faculty, staff and students in their roles as parents and caregivers is very important. Certainly, the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have underscored the urgency of this issue. I am encouraged that your recommendations will allow us to make meaningful progress," Wintersteen said in her Oct. 14 response to the report.
Shortly after first convening in September 2019, the task force determined it would take a variety of strategies to counter the child care shortage. It met monthly through March to develop four short-term and three longer-term recommendations, which do not account explicitly for the heightened child care challenges COVID-19 has created.
"Nevertheless, the need for access to affordable child care has never been so great. We encourage the university to make child care access a priority in partnership with city, county, and local businesses," the task force said in the report.
Converting underused space
The Comfort Zone, located in the Family Resource Center building that also houses University Community Childcare, has provided child care for mildly ill children since 1993, but the program has been closed since the pandemic began. Even before COVID-19, The Comfort Zone was underutilized. From 2015 to 2019, it was closed 44% of its normal operating hours because no children were attending. Less than 1% of employees used the center during that time period.
The task force recommended converting The Comfort Zone to care for infants and toddlers. While the small space would only accommodate eight children, any additional capacity would help. There are more than 350 infants among the nearly 500 children on a waiting list for the three campus child care centers, which only have 58 infant slots. The average wait time for a slot in a campus center is more than two years.
Wintersteen asked university human resources (UHR) to proceed with the conversion.
Other short-term plans
The task force also suggested developing a program to promote flexible work schedules, a step expedited when COVID-19 struck. With many employees working from home due to the pandemic, Wintersteen has urged supervisors and employees to be creative about adapting employees' schedules as needed to deal with child care challenges, and a full-time online learning care program for K-6 students opened this week in Ross Hall.
UHR also is working on guidelines for flexible work arrangements that would apply after the pandemic passes, and Wintersteen encouraged that work to continue. The faculty work-life advisory committee will collaborate with the provost's office and ISU ADVANCE to raise awareness of flexible work policies and programs for faculty.
Wintersteen also approved recommendations to gather additional data on the needs of students who are parents and to ask the ISU Foundation to seek funding for student-parent scholarships. Even with the highest subsidy available based on income, a year of full-time infant care at an ISU child care center is more expensive than a year of residential tuition and fees, which is one of the talking points the task force offered for use in fundraising.
The lack of reliable and affordable child care in Ames isn't just an Iowa State problem. It's a community issue. The task force suggested working with the city, Story County, the Chamber of Commerce, United Way and area businesses to identify potential sites where agencies or providers could establish child care centers. Creating a standing leadership committee to work with community partners on expanding child care accessibility was another recommendation.
Vice president for UHR Kristi Darr will chair a committee that will seek to develop partnerships devoted to building child care capacity in the Ames area, Wintersteen said.
Wintersteen also asked UHR to take the lead on the task force's recommendation to increase the subsidy for student child care that comes from Student Government. That could involve incentivizing recruitment and training of new home child care providers, perhaps in exchange for reserving a certain number of slots for student parents.
With the Nov. 3 general election nearing and the Iowa legislative session starting in the spring, it's a good time for faculty and staff to review how constitutional protections, state law and university policies relate to politics.
Here are some tips from the university counsel’s office and the senior vice president and provost’s office:
Speech rights are personal
The most important thing to remember is that Iowa State employees may participate fully in political activities, provided they are acting on their own behalf and using their personal time and resources. They can support or oppose candidates and legislation, write letters to the editor or even run for office.
Early voting is underway
In-person voting in the Nov. 3 general election began this week at satellite polling locations and the Story County administration building in Nevada. Satellite voting will be available Oct. 19 and 21 at the Scheman Building from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. It's also available every weekday at the county administration building and on every Saturday in October at the Ames Public Library. All eligible Story County voters can cast an absentee ballot in person at any early voting satellite polling location.
Concerns arise if faculty and staff create the impression they are acting or speaking on behalf of the university or using public resources to engage in political activities. Unless explicitly authorized, faculty and staff do not speak for Iowa State and should not imply their opinions represent the university.
Faculty and staff should take care in political communications, such as writing letters to the editor or to elected officials, to use their personal computers and email accounts and not use university letterhead. State law prohibits public bodies and public employees from using public resources for political purposes, and Iowa State policy generally prohibits employees from using university property for a private purpose, such as supporting their personal political views.
Instances when a public university can prohibit speech based on the message it contains are rare and narrowly defined, due to First Amendment protections. Restrictions on expression must be limited to the time, place and manner in which the viewpoint is shared. Those restrictions must be consistent, imposed regardless of the view expressed. For instance, the university prohibits chalk messages in some areas of campus but not what the messages say. It can remove racist signs placed in areas where posters aren't allowed as long as positive and innocuous signs are removed, too.
In classrooms, instructors can require that students act in a way that maintains an environment effective for learning. Policies and procedures and training resources can help faculty manage disruptive students. But in the same way that chalking rules can't consider what's written on the sidewalk, classroom expectations for students must be reasonable, content-neutral and consistent. Instructors can't bar students from expressing opinions on topics discussed in class, even if those opinions are offensive to others in the classroom. Fact-based teaching and conversation are a good strategy for countering abhorrent views, university counsel Michael Norton said in his Oct. 13 virtual presentation, "Navigating the Public Classroom."
"Just suppressing the speech is not acceptable, and frankly, I don't think it's very effective," he said. "You can't say you're only going to allow a certain viewpoint."
Classroom discussions must remain germane and appropriate, so it's OK to prohibit discussions on matters unrelated to the coursework. But if instructors open the door by talking about an issue, they can't prevent students who disagree from sharing their views, Norton said.
Inviting political advocates to speak to a class may seem like a potentially beneficial opportunity, but there are several important factors to consider. First, discussions of political topics must be germane to the course, so candidate visits must be for an educational purpose related to the class and not for campaign-related activity. Talking about Medicare for All, for example, may be appropriate for a political science course, but it probably isn't in a course in engineering or agronomy.
The other consideration is balance. Federal law requires equal access to the university for candidates or their surrogates. If instructors allow a candidate to visit a classroom, they must allow them all. The same principle applies to advocates and opponents of ballot measures.
A voter registration drive may not seem partisan, but it depends on the sponsor. Some may look to maximize registrations from students, faculty, and staff who appear to be supportive of their cause, while avoiding others in the class who may not feel the same way. For that reason, the university discourages faculty from using class time for this purpose.
The university counsel's office released guidance earlier this fall on how First Amendment considerations impact student expression and related issues. Employees with specific questions regarding political activities on campus -- including what is permissible and prohibited -- should contact university counsel Michael Norton at 294-5352 or email@example.com.
The Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics created a Canvas module to encourage student voting. “Ask Every Iowa State Student to Vote” is current, politically neutral, accurate and available on the Canvas Commons. It provides information for registering and voting in Ames, Story County, elsewhere in Iowa or in another state. It also provides nonpartisan sources for students to research candidates and ballot questions so they can cast informed votes.
Information on student voter registration requirements also is available on the ISU Card website.
Campaign signs and stickers
While banners and signs are generally permissible in students' residence hall rooms, the same does not apply for faculty and staff offices and workspaces. State law generally prohibits displaying campaign signs on or within university buildings.
Displaying political messages in employee workspaces may be permitted as long as they're not conspicuously visible to the public or affixed to equipment owned by the university. The key idea is whether someone might reasonably interpret, correctly or not, that the message is representing the institution. For example, a political sign posted on an outward-facing window or door would be problematic, as would posting a political sticker on a university-owned laptop. Faculty and staff also should consider how displaying political messages may affect expression of diverse or contrary opinions in their offices or classrooms.
Senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert spoke about President Donald Trump's executive order at the Faculty Senate's Oct. 13 meeting. The executive order deals with diversity, inclusion and equity training and takes effect on Nov. 21.
"We are committed to offering and promoting diversity training programs. That is a very important part of our culture and our commitment to the campus community," Wickert said. "We are not instructing anybody to cancel any type of training."
Wickert said any planned training that falls under the executive order would be reviewed and adjusted only if necessary.
The executive order does not prohibit faculty and staff from teaching on the topics as long as they are presented in an objective manner and without endorsement, Wickert said.
"There is more flexibility in instruction than a workforce training program," he said.
Senators will vote next month on a proposal to revise the Faculty Handbook to clarify term faculty ranks to ensure teaching faculty are treated fairly with multiyear contracts and notice of non-renewal. Lecturers are appointed for up to one year, but after three consecutive years they become a term assistant professor. Assistant professors are appointed from one to three years, and after completing three straight years the length adjusts to two to three years. Associate term faculty are hired for three to five years, while term professor contacts are from three to seven years.
Adrienne Lyles, associate director of the office of equal opportunity, presented changes to Title IX regulations approved by the U.S. Department of Education. The changes were significant and narrow the scope of Title IX.
"The conduct that is no longer considered under Title IX can still be addressed under other Iowa State University policies, handbooks and codes of conduct," Lyles said.
Senators approved three changes to their bylaws to ensure compliance with the Faculty Senate constitution. The changes address eligibility to serve, representative rights and length of term.
The senate will take action next month on two other proposals:
- A master's in artificial intelligence offered by the computer science department. The 31-credit program will allow students to compete for national jobs in a variety of fields that are in high demand. No other state Board of Regents university offers this graduate program.
- With enrollment down 90% since 2002 and no new students admitted in the past three years, the Graduate College requested discontinuation of its biorenewable resources and technology interdisciplinary program.
For many on campus, finding an outlet during a pandemic is important, and recreation services still provides plenty of opportunities.
Recreation services director Mike Giles and his staff have worked to find safe ways to continue many programs and new delivery methods for others. Student surveys provided ideas for what is needed, marketing coordinator Ray Schmidt said. The staff also is connecting on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with students looking for social activities during the pandemic.
"Reaching out to my staff at a minimum is key because we have a mechanism to get you connected to a team, environment or space," Giles said.
To deal with the impact of a pandemic, recreation services formed a committee to examine information at the national, state, county and university level as well as what other Big 12 institutions were doing.
The biggest change? Face coverings must be worn at all times inside State Gym, Beyer Hall and the Lied Recreation Athletic Center, with the exception of swimming pools. New rules require participants to keep a physical distance and, where applicable, clean equipment they used.
"Even though we have these restrictions, the students who are participating -- for the most part -- are doing what they are supposed to be doing," Giles said.
Although Gov. Kim Reynolds reopened gyms on May 1, State Gym didn't open until June 15.
"We did a lot of research to see what was feasible for us," Giles said. "Everything from spacing out equipment to taking reservations. The summer was a good dry run in preparing us."
Training student employees on new standards like enhanced cleaning procedures is key. Giles said before COVID-19, 90% of employee training took place in person. That training has shifted to Canvas.
"It has saved the staff so much time and effort and allowed them to shift their focus to programming," he said.
With the announcement that the spring semester will continue with in-person, hybrid and online courses, Giles expects recreation services' offerings and guidelines to be similar to the fall.
There has been a "significant" decline in drop-in use of the facilities, Giles said.
"With something like group fitness or intramurals, there is an automatic drop in numbers because of the restrictions on how many people we can have for in-person participation," he said. "It is a natural decline of about 50%."
That doesn't mean interest is gone for intramural sports, it is just conducted a little differently.
"I think our students who are participating are just glad there is an option, and it gives them something to do," Giles said. "Our enrollment is close to max of what it can be given the restrictions."
Many students also are branching out to find an activity they enjoy that's both social and safe.
"We didn't have the high-number intramurals this year like football, but people are gravitating to sports they wouldn't normally play," Schmidt said. "Things like volleyball, badminton and pickleball have become more popular."
Esports continue to grow in popularity across campus with the addition of more games even though the pandemic has slowed the construction of an esports room, now scheduled for a spring completion in Beyer Hall, Schmidt said.
Numbers may be down, but offering some activities online -- for example, group fitness classes -- has been successful. Instructors conducted classes from their homes last spring when much of the university was working remotely. There still are online options even as in-person classes have resumed, and attendance is stronger than in most years, Schmidt said.
On-demand fitness videos also are planned for the campus community.
"It will be a subscription streaming service with our instructors leading classes," Schmidt said. "It is something people can pay monthly or yearly and be able to stream pretty much anywhere."
"We will probably never go back to not having some kind of group fitness or intramural online program," Giles said. "We will always have some kind of hybrid model."
The first virtual 5K run had 350 participants who ran 3.2 miles sometime between Sept. 21 and Oct. 5 and submitted their times for prizes. Numerous workshops and outdoor day trips involving kayaking, rock climbing, hiking, horseback riding and biking still are offered. Not surprisingly, outdoor activities are popular this fall, and recreation services responded by offering community equipment rentals.
"Previously, you had to have a gym membership to rent from our outdoor rec program," Schmidt said. "Now we are able to rent to anyone in the Ames community. Anyone can come and rent things like a tent, canoe or cooking set."
An effective session with a consultant at the Writing and Media Center can change the trajectory of a student's day, helping them break through to improve an assignment or project. The shot at providing direct influence is what drew Joseph Cheatle to the field.
"There's an immediate payoff that sometimes is missing from academic research," said Cheatle, the center's director. "You have the ability to see that change."
But students have to use and trust a writing center to see its benefits, which is part of the reason the Writing and Media Center is proactively courting faculty and staff to use the center's services, too. How faculty and staff view a writing center improves students' perceptions of a center more so than the opinions of parents or even peers, Cheatle found in research he conducted as a doctoral student. Using the center themselves can make faculty and staff more familiar with it and create goodwill.
Extending Writing and Media Center services beyond its traditional student audience also reflects an embrace of the ISU land-grant philosophy to serve the public, Cheatle said. In addition to looking to connect with faculty and staff, the center held some writing workshops at Nevada High School last year and is partnering with the Ames Public Library to provide services to the Ames community. Anyone can schedule a consultation with the Writing and Media Center on its website.
"We believe the Writing and Media Center should be for all people and support writers at all levels in the institution and in the community," Cheatle said.
Small groups forming
While the Writing and Media Center never restricted its services to students, the registration system for making an appointment was until fall 2019 linked to student email addresses. The ability to extend an invitation to others on and off campus came with a new registration system. Cheatle also held some workshops through the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching during the 2019-20 academic year that were designed for faculty writers.
This fall, the Writing and Media Center is taking another step to broaden its on-campus clientele by offering specialized small groups for faculty, staff and graduate students looking to improve their writing. So far, three groups have launched: two focused on group reviews of in-progress work and an accountability group to keep writing projects on track.
The groups of four to six people meet weekly with a facilitator in a virtual setting and are created and adjusted according to the members' needs. New groups will be formed on an ongoing basis when there is sufficient interest to organize around a particular theme or purpose. Participants can fill out the center's online form to create or join a group. Cheatle said while most interest in small groups has revolved around academic writing, they aren't limited to that.
In addition to the sustained practice small groups provide, eight of the center's 50 student consultants are graduate students available for consultations with faculty or staff on individual writing or media projects, Cheatle said.
Benefits for all
Bringing together faculty and staff writers can help create connections across the institution that otherwise wouldn't happen, Cheatle said. That can have unexpected upsides. For example, he said, it was interactions via the writing center that led to an upcoming Oct. 30 virtual event on publishing a first novel by Denise Williams-Klotz, assistant director of multicultural student affairs, and Rachel Mans McKenny, an associate teaching professor in English.
"You never really know what next thing is going to come out of it," he said.
Working with faculty, staff and community members on a wider variety of projects also enhances the experience of the center consultants, which makes them more able to help the students who remain the bulk of their clients, Cheatle said.
"They bring new techniques, strategies and ways of thinking to their work with students," he said.
Over the last 20 years, many universities in the United States and Canada have adopted official statements to recognize the history of the land on which the institutions were created and acknowledge the contributions of native people who lived on and cared for the land. Earlier this year, Iowa State developed its own formal land acknowledgement statement, a process that concluded about the time the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
"A land acknowledgement statement helps to recognize a legacy, including the history of the indigenous peoples who served as traditional stewards of the land," said Reginald Stewart, vice president for diversity and inclusion.
The statement was finalized in February and posted on the office of diversity and inclusion's resources website. It also was included under resources and in an update posted to the Campus Climate website, accompanied by a piece on the history of native lands in Iowa written by Sebastian Braun, director of American Indian Studies and associate professor of anthropology.
The statement reads:
Iowa State University aspires to be the best land‐grant university at creating a welcoming and inclusive environment where diverse individuals can succeed and thrive. As a land‐grant institution, we are committed to the caretaking of this land and would like to begin this event by acknowledging those who have previously taken care of the land on which we gather. Before this site became Iowa State University, it was the ancestral lands and territory of the Baxoje (bah-kho-dzhe), or Ioway Nation. The United States obtained the land from the Meskwaki and Sauk nations in the Treaty of 1842. We wish to recognize our obligations to this land and to the people who took care of it, as well as to the 17,000 Native people who live in Iowa today.
Faculty, staff and students may consider using the statement for lectures, special events and other gatherings, especially those that include visitors to campus. It also can be used anytime it is valuable for the intended audience and fits well with the goal or intent of any activity. An abbreviated version of the statement is in the same document. The two versions may be used interchangeably according to time or other limitations.
"Our statement is one way we can honor and respect the history and culture of indigenous peoples," Stewart said. "It's one way we can acknowledge that we're only the latest in a series of peoples and institutions throughout history who have taken care of the land. That reflects Iowa State's land-grant university mission."
Evolution of the ISU statement
In recent years, some students and faculty had been reading a similar kind of statement to open meetings, or had inserted it as part of email signatures or in other forms of communication.
Last year, senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert proposed developing a formal land-acknowledgement statement to senior leaders working on campus climate and diversity, equity and inclusion issues, who agreed to proceed.
Braun, who teaches a course on American Indians of Iowa, agreed to draft a statement. He studied many existing statements from around the country, and drew on his own experience and study of the history of native people of the state of Iowa.
Braun's draft was reviewed by the senior leaders working on campus climate, as well as the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Council and the American Indian Studies advisory council. Tribal historic preservation officers from American Indian tribes linked to Iowa also were provided a copy of the draft for their input.
Opportunities for learning
Much more can be learned about American Indians and their lives on the land through the American Indian Studies program, the oldest ethnic studies program on campus.
"We encourage our students to think thoughtfully and critically about history and its consequences," Braun said. "Hundreds of students do so by enrolling in our American Indian Studies courses, which have participation from several academic departments across colleges."
Iowa State is beginning its search for the next dean of the University Library.
Senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert said the library has maintained its positive momentum and adjusted its budget in important ways since associate dean Hilary Seo became interim dean in July 2019.
"As interim dean, Hilary Seo has worked with the library's faculty and staff and partners across campus to continue creating innovative programs and serving the needs of our community, even amid a global pandemic," he said.
Recent library initiatives include adopting additional open educational resources, opening the collaboration commons on the first floor, negotiating new publisher agreements, collaborating with student financial aid and information technology on a laptop loaner program for students and serving as a campus leader with regard to diversity, equity and inclusion.
The search committee, co-chaired by Laura Jolly, dean of the College of Human Sciences; and Bill Graves, dean of the Graduate College, will begin its assignment immediately and work with a search firm to identify candidates. Penni Bryant, administrative specialist in the provost's office, will assist the committee. Additional members of the search committee are (all are library employees unless noted):
- Erin Anderson, librarian I
- Ellie Field, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate
- Morgan Fritz, president of Student Government
- Jesse Garrison, librarian II
- Brad Kuennen, library specialist
- Jeff Kushkowski, professor
- Lorrie Pellack, professor and interim associate dean
- Nacuya Rucker, communications manager
- Geoff Sauer, associate professor of English and chair of the Library Advisory Committee
- Steph Scherbart, library assistant IV
- Lisa Smith, IT systems senior manager
- Jonathan Sturm, professor of music
- Brent Swanson, budget and finance manager
Eight students will perform during a 20-minute carillon concert in the Sukup Hall atrium on Friday, Oct. 16, at 12:30 p.m. They will perform on the one-fifth scale campanile and carillon portable model designed and created over the last five years by students in cross-disciplinary courses.
The concert, part of their coursework for the class taught by university carillonneur and Cownie Professor of Music Tin-Shi Tam, will be livestreamed on Facebook. Spectators are welcome to attend within capacity limits; Cyclones Care protocols for face coverings and physical distancing are required. Another concert is planned for Friday, Nov. 13 (12:30 p.m.).
Carillon concert program
The students, and the music they'll play, are:
Cavannah Yap, senior, genetics
"Intermezzo," Herman Dreher
Carolyn Riedel, graduate student, aerospace engineering
"Sarabande," Francis Poulenc
Brian Kempa, graduate student, aerospace engineering
"Clock Music, Set II, No. 1," G. F. Handel
Rebekah Veldboom, freshman, environmental science
"Clock Music, Set II, No. 4," G. F. Handel
Megan Goodhue, junior, public relations
"Simple Gifts," Joseph Brackett
Macklin Derscheid, senior, music
"Nuka-World" theme from "Fallout 4," Inon Zur
Annemarie Lemme (flute) and Ola Carnahan (carillon), seniors, aerospace engineering
"New World Symphony" theme, Antonín Dvořák
Medley: "You're a Grand Old Flag," "Yankee Doodle Dandy," "Give My Regards to Broadway," George M. Cohan