Iowa State continues to battle with COVID-19 as the spring semester moves along, and the Faculty Senate addressed topics including mental health, legislative changes, mitigation strategies and teacher safety during the meeting Tuesday.
Toyia K. Younger, the senior vice president of student affairs, spoke first to the Senate. Younger talked about arriving in Ames amidst a derecho and the pandemic last August and how it has been difficult to adjust to such a bumpy start.
The mission of the student affairs office is to help students thrive and also prepare them for their journey after they leave Iowa State, Younger said.
“Many people outside of student affairs may not be aware of the work we do," Younger said. "I’m grateful for our hard-working staff, particularly in the middle of a pandemic.”
Younger also talked about the rising mental health problems directly correlated to the COVID-19 restrictions. Losing employment and internship opportunities has affected many students here at Iowa State.
“Students are feeling isolated and disconnected from their classmates, which has contributed to some of the mental health issues we are dealing with and that we see on campus right now,” Younger said.
The food pantry on campus has been given food by the state government as COVID-19 affects off-campus students and it’s harder to pay rent and supply food, Younger said. The Shop, Iowa State's food pantry, can be located at 1306 Beyer Hall on campus and is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays as well as 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays.
“What does a return to normal look like and what does [normal] look like?” Younger said. “As we continue to see the vaccine rolled out, how do we plan for 2021, will our faculty all be vaccinated? Will students have vaccinations by the time the fall comes around? These are all some of the preliminary discussions we are having when looking forward.”
Peter K. Dorhout, the vice president of research, said Iowa State continues to excel in research and science along with being a national leader in innovation and entrepreneurship.
“The vision for me as the vice president of research is to continue to offer students and transfer students that first-class experience,” Dorhout said. “Not only develop and help manage but also be transparent about where we are making investments at the university level.”
Research is a big part of Iowa State, and it continues to grow. Dorhout wants the university to gain the credit it deserves and said enabling data-driven research is key to growth in innovation.
“The goal is to exhibit globally respected strengths and experiences in research to advance our students to make differences on a national level,” Dorhout said.
There is no shortage of challenges when it comes to the pandemic, finances and student enrollment issues, Dorhout said, and it has been really tough on international students as there have been problems with visas and travel restrictions.
“My goal as a leader, particularly in the research enterprise, is to reduce the administrative burden for faculty and staff,” Dorhout said, “which means collaborating with all the support units on campus to ensure we are listening to what your challenges are and what we need to improve."
Carol Faber, associate professor of graphic design and Faculty Senate president, said a bill has been introduced to the legislative level in our state. Senate File 292 requires all faculty at every public university in the state to report their political party affiliation.
The bill states, “The state Board of Regents shall conduct a survey of all of the employees of the institutions governed by the state board to determine the political party affiliations of all such persons, and shall disaggregate the survey results by job classification but shall not list the names of individual employees, and shall submit the results of the survey to the General Assembly by Dec. 30, 2021.”
Athletic Council elections will take place at the next Faculty Senate meeting, according to Faber. The council will vote to elect one more member.
Senior Vice President and Provost Jonathan Wickert said the first funnel date is March 5, which is when they will sort the priority of numerous bills that will directly affect the university.
“A piece of good news I want to share with the Senate: We exceeded our spring enrollment target by over 200 students," Wickert said. "We also had more students enrolled than [the University of Iowa] and more students enrolled than [the University of Northern Iowa].”
Wickert also said there has been no movement from the state regarding funding information for the upcoming school year. There won’t be any movement until the other bills have been passed.