CORONAVIRUS

University of Iowa seeks employee help on 'mission critical units'

Volunteers asked to help units experiencing heavy workloads

The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top l
The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top left), Jessup Hall (bottom left), Schaeffer Hall (top right), and MacLean Hall (bottom right) in an aerial photograph. (The Gazette/file photo)

IOWA CITY — As Iowa’s public universities race to transfer courses online, scramble to recall students and faculty from endeavors abroad, and reassess the way they do business entirely, the University of Iowa has launched a workforce reassignment effort to ease the pressure on overtaxed “mission critical units.”

UI Human Resources has created a temporary workforce pool of UI staff and students who can be redirected to areas of critical need across the campus “that are experiencing more work than their available workforce can complete.” The pool of workers willing to be reassigned also aims to alleviate pains from expected absences due to sickness or the like.

Collegiate leadership and vice presidential units will collaborate with human resources to “identify staff and student employees who are performing non-critical work and could potentially be reassigned.”

“This plan would be activated only if campus experiences a large number of employees absent from the workforce or if mission-critical units experience more work than their available workforce can complete,” according to a Monday message to the UI campus.

The university defined critical units as those that can’t pause operations and are focused on necessary life, health, and security issues on campus. And it invited employees to volunteer by logging on to a UI Self Service link it projected would become live Monday.

Having activated its Critical Incident Management Plan, the university to date has taken a range of sweeping and unprecedented measures in its response to the novel coronavirus — which over the weekend was declared as “community spread” in Iowa.

In the most dramatic change, all three of Iowa’s public universities have instructed faculty and staff to move their courses online beginning March 23 through at least April 3 — a move many private colleges in Iowa also have implemented to varying degrees.

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They also canceled in-person meetings or urged they occur remotely and restricted non-essential university travel — with the Board of Regents over the weekend recalling all of its universities’ faculty, staff, and students who are out of the country.

The board previously mandated the return of those in the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus — including China, Japan, South Korea, and Italy.

In addition to those recalls, Gov. Kim Reynolds over the weekend canceled all non-essential business travel for state agencies — including the public universities. Excluded essential travel could include that which supports the health care enterprise or preserves the safety of a research subject.

The universities additionally have canceled events, athletics, and closed some facilities they didn’t initially intend to close — like recreation buildings, with the University of Iowa, for example, announcing its Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, Field House, Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex, and Fitness East in Halsey Hall will be closed through April 3.

UI’s Hancher Auditorium is in the process of communicating with artists and agents who were supposed to perform in the coming weeks.

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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