Friday, April 17, 2020

A message from President Harreld and Provost Fuentes

Part of the reason we ask our students to study history is so they can better contextualize the present. Three months ago, we could not have imagined the situation we find ourselves in. Similarly, in April 2008, we couldn’t have imagined that just two months later our campus would literally be underwater. Many of us were here for that devastating flood, and many were not. But all have taken to heart the lessons the Hawkeye community learned.

The remarkable leadership of President Emerita Sally Mason, former Senior VP for Finance and Operations Doug True, former Provost Wallace Loh, our experts within what is now the Iowa Flood Center, and many others, guided the University of Iowa forward in 2008. They led with patience, grace, steadfastness, and humor, and had an unwavering vision of a campus brought back to life. Combining vision and expertise is what our university is all about, after all.

Now COVID-19 is our challenge, our chapter to write.

Most of us have read the news about colleges and universities deciding to stay virtual through the upcoming fall semester. And like each of you, UI leadership is trying to figure out exactly when it will be safe and appropriate to return to “normal.” Though the future is not set in stone—and we continue to monitor the latest guidance and information about this pandemic—we ARE planning to resume face-to-face instruction this fall.

The situation is, of course, extremely fluid, and the specific steps we will need to implement have yet to be determined. Therefore, we have assembled a team led by the Office of the Provost and embedded within the UI’s Critical Incident Management Team (CIMT). These dedicated individuals, representing every corner of campus, will be working diligently and continuously to outline a plan that will bring us back in August.

The team will follow guidance from UI medical and public health experts, the Iowa Department of Public Health; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and the Board of Regents, State of Iowa. Advice from these organizations, and its implementation by the CIMT, has already allowed us to respond to COVID-19 with rapid and deliberate action. Within 15 days, the UI canceled study abroad programs, repatriated students, moved to virtual instruction, shifted to work-from-home status, and began the process of closing the residence hall system. We are confident that this same team will now provide us with the steps necessary to safely reopen.

The past few weeks have been full of twists and turns, and reopening our campus will likewise bring surprising unknowns. So, we have asked this team to explore various options, keeping our response to unforeseen events flexible while putting our community’s safety at the fore. We must anticipate what we can, but prepare ourselves to react to what we cannot.

As a community, we have already come together to develop a thoughtful strategic plan; created a transparent resource allocation and budgeting process; driven new investments into the core activities of the university; and built a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion that guides our behaviors in support of our mission. Together, we will see our campus safely brought to life again.

In an otherwise dark hour, one thing is quite clear: Hawkeyes take care of one another.

Thank you for all you are doing to help us through these very trying times.

Now, let’s look to the future. We will come out of this crisis stronger than we were before.

J. Bruce Harreld, UI president
Montserrat Fuentes, UI executive vice president and provost

TIAA retirement plan changes due to CARES Act

Many members of our community are facing unexpected financial challenges and may be reconsidering their retirement plans and funds as a result. The university has chosen to adopt provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, creating new options for staff and faculty participating in the university’s TIAA 403(b) retirement plan.

  • Waived Penalties: For those eligible, the 10% early withdrawal penalty and 20% withholding are waived for qualified distributions from retirement plan accounts.
  • Increased loan limits: The maximum limit on retirement plan loans has increased from $50,000 to $100,000.
  • RMD suspension: Individuals may choose to cancel their 2020 required minimum distribution (RMD) payments and restart them in 2021.

Find out who is eligible to take distributions or loans from their retirement plans and other details on the University Human Resources website or call TIAA at 800-842-2776.

Office of the Ombudsperson available to help with concerns related to COVID-19

The Office of the Ombudsperson is operating remotely but remains available to help all UI faculty, staff, and students with concerns or conflicts, including issues related to COVID-19 such as health and safety concerns; challenges of working, learning, and teaching remotely; and interpersonal issues exacerbated by stress.

Contact the ombuds office when you don’t know how to begin addressing an issue, when you have tried and failed to resolve a problem, and/or when the situation is very sensitive. All services are confidential, neutral, and informal. No problem is too big or too small.

Reach out by email,; or phone at 319-335-3608. Services also are available by video chat via Skype or Zoom.

Pan Asian Council issues Statement on COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has instilled social and economic anxiety as it manifests hot spots of infection across the nation. The Pan Asian Council (PAC) recognizes that as fears and tensions rise around the global pandemic, so too does anti-Asian discrimination fester in our communities. Dedicated to addressing and advocating for the diverse needs of the numerous Asian, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Indigenous communities at the University of Iowa, we acknowledge that racist sentiments have directly affected our members. We condemn anti-Asian bigotry and unequivocally reject the prescribing or associating of a nationality to the virus and disease. Read the full statement and option to sign in solidarity here.

Learn more on the Pan Asian Council website: