IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa will not follow the lead of its fellow regent schools by moving up its fall semester and ending it early — instead sticking with the original UI academic calendar, which brings students back to campus Aug. 24 and wraps finals week Dec. 18.
UI officials announced their decision to stay the course in a campuswide message Friday — days after Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa unveiled plans to start their fall semesters Aug. 17 and complete them the day before Thanksgiving, on Nov. 25.
Although UI administrators didn’t explain their reasoning for an unamended academic calendar, they committed in the Friday message to closely monitoring COVID-19 cases throughout the fall semester and taking any action “deemed necessary to help mitigate the transmission of the virus.”
In announcing an earlier start and end to the fall semester this week, Iowa State and UNI shared additional coronavirus-concerned changes planned across campus come August — including social-distancing configurations in classrooms; student, faculty, and staff face-covering expectations; plexiglas partition additions; hand-sanitation stations; and even testing and contact tracing programs at Iowa State.
UI officials on Friday promised to share more details of their policies and recommendations for limiting COVID-19 exposure on campus next Wednesday, followed by a series of forums allowing community members to ask questions.
Board of Regents President Mike Richards in recent weeks has committed to returning students to his system’s campuses this fall, and UI President Bruce Harreld also has vowed to resume face-to-face instruction.
All three of the regent universities mid-March ended on-campus instruction, moving everything online, while also canceling in-person meetings, activities, and events — including athletics and graduation ceremonies.
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In addition to students, most faculty and staff were told to work from home — and only recently started returning, specifically those involved in research.
The campuses, additionally, recalled study abroad students from around the globe and canceled those international experiences for spring and summer. Iowa State and UNI have canceled fall study abroad experiences too, although UI has not done so yet.
In that COVID-19 has affected nearly every country and every state in this country — with the global tally of infections topping 7.5 million this week, including 423,257 deaths — the universities months ago barred work-related travel until further notice.
The UI campus on Friday received such notice, with administrators announcing university processes for domestic travel will return to normal starting Monday. University-sponsored international travel will remain restricted, per a Board of Regents travel ban.
Iowa State’s non-essential travel ban remains in effect even as it begins to welcome faculty and staff back to campus this summer via a phased approach that started June 1.
Regarding its fall plans, Iowa State’s Vice President for Extension and Outreach John Lawrence said a fall planning committee recommended an amended fall calendar to avoid sending students home over Thanksgiving break and then bringing them back, given risks associated with travel right now.
Iowa State also announced this week that its residence halls in the fall will only allow single and double occupancy and require COVID-19 tests upon arrival for the semester. The campus will reserve space for students needing to be isolated or quarantined, and it will employ a team of contact tracers to keep any potential coronavirus spread in check.
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