Iowa State reiterates ‘return to normal’ for fall semester


Iowa State senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert spoke Tuesday at a media availability about the university’s plans for the fall semester.

Kylee Haueter

In a media availability Tuesday, Iowa State administrators emphasized the “return to normal” that will be seen this fall. 

“For the most part, academic instruction at Iowa State University will look a lot like it did in the fall of 2019,” said senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert.

Wickert said that the amount of online, hybrid and asynchronous classes will look around the same as it did in 2019 but that some class sections may be offered online as well as in-person accommodate students’ needs. Co-curricular learning opportunities will also be available in person, including study abroad opportunities.

“We’ll have two first-year classes— we’ll have the class that just finished high school and is entering Iowa State as new direct from high school freshmen— but we’ll also have our returning second-year students,” he said. “Their experience last year was disrupted by the pandemic.”

Wickert said that Iowa State is now encouraging masks in all indoor spaces for all individuals— regardless of vaccination status.

“While masks are not required this fall, we really encourage everyone to make a choice to positively impact the overall health of our campus community,” Erin Baldwin, associate vice president for student health and wellness and the director of Thielen Student Health Center, said.

Wickert said Iowa State is also working hard to encourage members of the campus community to get vaccinated.

“We know scientifically, it’s the best way that we can protect ourselves and others,” he said. “And it’s a tool to fight the pandemic that we did not have a year ago.”

This comes as COVID-19 numbers around the country rise as cases surge among the unvaccinated. 

Per the Iowa Board of Regents, Regents institutions are not allowed to require masks on campus with the exception of campus transportation and healthcare settings. 

Prompted by the rise in cases, hundreds of Iowa State faculty and staff members signed a letter sent to President Wendy Wintersteen and the Board of Regents asking for them to reconsider COVID-19 mitigation policies for the fall and revise their policies to fit the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). On Aug. 4, faculty and staff members from the University of Iowa sent a letter asking for masking and vaccination mandates.

“The letters from the faculty and the petition is helpful and much appreciated,” Wickert said. “It is expression of the faculty’s views and the faculty’ recommendations, and we take that petition and we take the recommendations, very, very seriously.”

Wickert said the university has also shared the petition with the Board of Regents office.

“The faculty are deeply committed to the quality of the student learning experience, and the recommendations they’re making are coming out of their genuine views as to what we should be doing here at the university,” he said. “We’ve listened very carefully to that. We continue to have conversations with the faculty and faculty leaders, and with the Board Office about those recommendations.”

After cases in Ames rose following “8:01 Day” last year, administrators said they will be encouraging social distancing and mask-wearing at celebrations on Saturday.

“We are working closely with our partners, the ISU Police Department, Ames Police Department, other community partners and making sure that we have a presence as administrators,” said senior vice president of student affairs Toyia Younger. Younger said she was looking forward to helping encourage student safety. 

“I have my golf cart— I’ll be walking around, driving around the area,” she said.

Younger said that the university planned certain events for Saturday to encourage students to participate in organized events including Destination Iowa State. 

“We recognize that there will be some activity on campus and across the street and so we will make sure that our staff is there to provide some guidance,” she said. “They will be there with masks, they’ll be there with hand sanitizer, they’ll be there just to have a presence. So we hope that our presence helps lessen some of the things that we’ve seen in years past.”

Iowa State will also be holding multiple vaccination clinics in the coming weeks. 

“The vaccine is really effective and it limits the severity of illness, and it’s really an important step to protect our personal health and the health of our campus community,” she said. “However, the vaccine is just one step with the surge of the Delta variant, now the predominant strain in the U.S.”

Thursday and Friday from noon to 3 p.m., vaccine clinics will be held at the south entrance of the State Gym basketball court. Appointments are recommended and can be made online but walk-ins are also welcome. A full list of vaccine clinic dates can also be found online.