IOWA CITY, Iowa — With classes beginning on Aug. 23, professors and students at the University of Iowa are concerned for their safety once they return to campus.
"We've all been deeply concerned about the lack of preparation and the inadequate policy," said Professor Loren Glass, the chair of the English Department.
As of Aug. 11, the Board of Regents which governs the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa is not requiring masks or COVID-19 vaccines.
"I really am quite confused as to why they chose not to put in place a mask mandate," said Professor Rachel Williams of the Department of Gender, Women's and Sexuality Studies.
She penned the petition with more than 500 signatures demanding the Board of Regents mandate masks on campus and require students, staff and faculty to get vaccinated.
"I thought I personally don't want to have blood on my hands, but I've got to do anything I can," she said.
Williams had a few close colleagues review it before sending it out to faculty and the Board of Regents on August 4th. The letter has since made it to Iowa State where students and faculty also added their names.
Local 5 dug through the websites of all Big Ten schools to find out how the University of Iowa compared when it came to COVID-19 precautions. When it comes to masks, Iowa is in the minority with 11 of the 14 schools requiring them indoors.
Because of federal law, masks are required on all public transit, including Iowa, Iowa State and UNI's busing services.
On the vaccine front, the Big Ten is evenly split. Seven schools require all students, faculty and staff get vaccinated. Ohio State doesn't require vaccines for all students and staff, but those involved in their medical program are required to get it. The University of Minnesota plans to require COVID-19 vaccines once they're approved by the FDA.
Local 5 reached out to the Board of Regents and we received this statement:
The Board of Regents and our universities have been very clear that we support the COVID-19 vaccines and will continue to strongly encourage all our faculty, staff and students to receive it. They are widely available, including on our campuses, and we will continue to stress the importance of being vaccinated. We want as many people to get vaccinated as soon as possible, as vaccines are by far the best protection against COVID.
Masks are not required other than in campus transportation or in health care settings. We encourage individuals to wear a mask or other face covering while on our campuses, and anyone who wishes to wear a mask may do so.
The Board’s guiding principle for the fall 2021 semester has been to give students a return to as much of a traditional educational experience and student life activities as possible. This includes in-person coursework and other campus opportunities at levels similar to prior to the pandemic.
We will continue to evaluate as we move forward.
At Drake University, a private college, masks are mandatory indoors and vaccines are not required according to their website.
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