Campus update: A message of thanks, working remotely reminder, and update on fall planning

Friday, May 15, 2020

A message from President Harreld

To all our faculty and staff, thank you for your commitment to our students and dedication to the University of Iowa during this difficult time.

Working remotely update

University leadership continues to monitor latest 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, to determine when it will be safe and appropriate for employees working remotely to return to campus. While Gov. Kim Reynolds lifted some restrictions for Johnson County earlier this week, the Critical Incident Management Team (CIMT) is working to create a process for returning employees to campus in a safe and organized manner.

There is no campus-wide date for employees who are currently working remotely to return to campus. Employees working remotely should continue to do so until further notice and should not return to campus until they are asked to do so by their dean, vice president, or unit manager. The dean, vice president, or unit manager will be provided guidance on how to bring daily operations back to campus in the following weeks. UI Health Care employees and those associated with public health efforts may be called back to work sooner than other areas of campus, depending on patient volumes and specific organizational or research needs.

Update on fall planning

As we have said over the past few weeks, the University of Iowa plans to resume face-to-face instruction for the fall 2020 semester. We understand you might be wondering how this could be possible given the presence of COVID-19 across our country and in our communities.

Our students want to be here to experience all that campus life in Iowa City has to offer and, make no mistake, we want them here. Six planning teams made up of campus experts and leaders are meeting daily to discuss how to implement recommended best practices for limiting exposure to COVID-19 in a campus setting.

At the forefront of the process are these guiding principles:

  • Placing people first as our university is only as strong as our students, faculty, and staff;
  • Preserving and building on core values of excellence, learning, community, diversity, integrity, respect, and responsibility;
  • Delivering world-class education, research, and health care; and
  • Engaging shared governance and campus leadership.

The planning teams are considering important topics that must be addressed in order to enable a successful reopening of our campus. Examples of some of those topics include:

  • How to safely provide housing for students in our residence halls
  • How to approach offering face-to-face instruction, while social distancing, including whether alternative campus spaces can be used for classroom space
  • Determining a new custodial protocol, including how often spaces will be cleaned, and what cleaning supplies will be needed and/or supplied
  • How to implement social distancing in areas where students, faculty, and staff congregate, including dining halls, recreation centers, and libraries
  • How large lectures could accommodate social distancing, with a combination of face-to-face and virtual instruction
  • How to monitor the progress of the research ramp-up on campus in a way that protects both integrity of the project and the safety of the researchers and participants
  • Ensuring we have adequate protective equipment and cleaning supplies on hand

Part of this planning includes thinking through scenarios that may require altering our plans and creating next-best options for how we would respond.

Today, the six planning teams submitted numerous scenarios and recommendations to the UI’s Critical Incident Management Team (CIMT). The CIMT will now begin the process of digesting and discussing the information and will communicate the planned fall strategies in June. These decisions will continue to be guided by national, state, and local health officials, along with the Board of Regents, State of Iowa.

In this uncertain time, we find ourselves confronting challenges we’ve never seen before, challenges that often shift weekly and daily. Rest assured, as Hawkeyes we remain nimble, and as Hawkeyes we roll up our sleeves and work hard to do the right thing—the safe thing—for our campus community.

We are facing this challenge head-on, and we look forward to when our campus is again filled with excitement and energy.

Rod Lehnertz, senior vice president for finance and operations