Administration updates Faculty Senate on COVID protocol and student mental health

The+Faculty+Senate+conducting+business+Dec.+14+in+the+Sun+Room+at+the+Memorial+Union.

Photo by Katherine Kealey/Iowa State Daily

The Faculty Senate conducting business Dec. 14 in the Sun Room at the Memorial Union.

Katherine Kealey

The Faculty Senate received an update from Iowa State University administrators about COVID-19 mitigation measures and student mental health on campus.

Senior Provost Jonathan Wickert addressed the Faculty Senate about COVID-19 procedure. He informed the body that the Board of Regents reaffirmed the protocol from the fall semester. Roughly 300 students, faculty and community members from the regent institutions wrote an open letter to the Board of Regents requesting a universal mask mandate for ages 2+ in all spaces used by child care and class-level notification of positive cases. 

The letter was also sent to the three university presidents. Wickert said the letter is currently under review, and a response will be forthcoming in the next several days. State law prohibits the Iowa public universities from requiring a COVID-19 vaccination. The Board of Regents does have the authority to require masks but has chosen not to enact such policies. 

Wickert informed the Senate of the immunocompromised policy for faculty members or faculty with household members who are immunocompromised. If they test positive, faculty will have the option to teach remotely if they feel well enough to do so. Faculty will also have the ability to virtualize meetings and create online office hours.

Wickert said they would also communicate to faculty, staff and students information relating to testing options, availability of N-95 masks and vaccine clinics. 

“We have been able to work around the edges of the policy so to speak to be able to put in place ideas and policies in the academic affairs area,” Wickert said. 

The Senate heard updates from Vice President of Student Affairs Toyia Younger regarding student wellness on campus. Within the first six weeks of the fall semester, student hospitalization relating to mental health increased 400 percent compared to 2020 and 233 percent compared to 2019. 

In addition, the complexity of these issues increased by 42.5 percent. This represents the increase in communication with students due to the complexity of their needs. Food insecurity also increased to 31.43 compared to 2019, which was 24.10 percent. Multicultural students face a higher level of food insecurity at 48.41 percent.

Iowa State offers the Students Help Out their Peers (SHOP), where people can pick up necessities to fight food insecurity on campus. The SHOP is located at 1306 Beyer Hall. 

The Senate also confirmed Sarah Bennett-George, an associate teaching professor in apparel, event and hospitality management, as president-elect. A bylaw change to limit meeting minutes to what was done at the meeting instead of including discussion in debate failed with 41 senators voting against the amendment. 

The next Faculty Senate meeting is expected to be in-person according to the Jan. 18 agenda, but this could change based on the current spread of COVID-19. The Faculty Senate president-elect informed the Senate that the meeting format would be determined promptly to allow for faculty to make the proper arrangements to attend. 

The next meeting will take place at 3:30 p.m. Feb. 15.