Effects of COVID-19 on the University of Iowa

The ICCSD continues to face many changes due to COVID-19, but how are universities being affected?

Maddy Smith, Photographer, Yearbook Student Life editor

The world was turned upside-down when COVID-19 began wreaking havoc on well-populated areas, with schools and large gatherings being a hotspot for infection. The ICCSD made the decision on April 17 to close schools for the remainder of the trimester. The University of Iowa made the decision to close its doors on March 17. As the pandemic continues, many incoming freshmen to the University are left wondering, what now?

The University will not offer any in-person summer programs from May 16, 2020, through June 13, 2020. This includes everything from classes to children and sports camps, as well as its renowned Iowa Writers Workshop. Orientation will be online as well. The University will re-evaluate how to proceed after June 13 and said they will announce their decision later in the semester. They have not made a decision as of April 17. 

The process the University went through in closing was as follows:

Wednesday, March 11, they made the decision to go to virtual classes.

Tuesday, March 17, UI announced that all employees not working in the hospital or clinics will work from home as soon as possible. 

March 18, they announced that dining halls would close as of the 19th and that students needed to be out of the dorms by March 29. The plan was to have students move out in waves since the announcement to leave came suddenly and the administration wanted to avoid flocks of students leaving at the same time. Some special cases such as stranded international students were allowed to stay in dorms with kitchenettes since they would not be able to use the dining halls.

Kathleen O’Neill, Graduate Program Coordinator, and History Department faculty, helped explain what went through the minds of administrators and students attending the University.

“The biggest concern for most students was where they were going to go and [reimbursement]” O’Neill said. Students were worried about paying for an apartment and looking to be reimbursed for what they paid for room and board for the rest of the semester. 

The University is trying to make sure that student workers get their paycheck, even if they can’t work.”

— Kathleen O'Neill, UI Graduate Program Coordinator

“Jobs [were] a big [question], especially for students working on campus. The University is trying to make sure that student workers get their paycheck, even if they can’t work.”

The University has been taking everything day-by-day, the primary goal is the safety of faculty, staff, and students. 

In regards to the incoming students, the University has decided to push early fall registration back a week, taking place April 20 to May 1. Registration is online, the push back was to give the incoming students more time to contact their advisers and sort out their decisions. In-person events are canceled until June 13, which includes sessions 1-3 of summer classes. 

“All new student orientation for the summer is going to be online for freshmen,” O’Neill said, “who are starting in the fall, which is very different than normal.”

Another subject causing questions is the effect COVID-19 will have on enrollment. 

There will most likely be a negative impact on enrollment.”

— Kathleen O'Neill, UI Graduate Program Coordinator

“Based on what I’m seeing in the news and reading about on different educational sites, there will most likely be a negative impact on enrollment for most colleges and universities.” estimates O’Neill, “It may be that students want to stay closer to home for school based on a potential reemergence of COVID-19 and possible online schooling later this year. Or because there is uncertainty in fall classes some students who do not like online classes may not come back in the fall,” O’Neill also mentions that due to campus visits being eliminated this spring and into the summer, students may elect to stay closer to home with familiar surroundings. She also mentions that this could affect the diversity of the student body. 

O’Neill is unsure how summer and fall sports will proceed, her assumption being that the cancellations through May will be extended. Nothing has been officially announced or scheduled about fall sports, but preseason football training has been canceled due to the facilities being closed and CDC recommendations to stay isolated, so athletes are expected to work out and train independently. All camps and training through June have been suspended. 

The University has been frequently been updating on their Campus Coronavirus Updates page.

As of now, classes are scheduled to begin as normal for the fall semester, with sports and other events following in suit. The major change for the West alumni and incoming freshmen will be the online orientation, which is usually in-person. Summer classes through June 13 have been online only or suspended, including camps and workshops open to non-students. Registration has been pushed back to April 20 through May 1 and will continue to be online.