Face-to-face classes have started at UNI
When students began classes at the University of Northern Iowa this week they noticed not only a new culture of wearing masks but also a campus environment that has changed since COVID-19 emerged last spring.
The university has invested substantial time and money to create a safe and productive learning environment. That includes purchasing 25,000 masks to distribute to faculty, staff and students, installing Plexiglass barriers across campus and offering COVID-19 testing and contact tracing. Faculty, staff and students completed new training to ensure everyone knew the best practices for a safe return before they arrived.
Classrooms have been altered for physical distancing guidelines and public spaces in the Maucker Union and Rod Library have been reconfigured to allow for social distancing. Some changes were relatively small, like dedicated study rooms set up across campus for students to use between classes. Others were larger, at the student health clinic where windows have been removed and doors installed to allow people to enter and exit for COVID-19 testing while maintaining six feet of separation.
Even the move-in process itself was different this year, with student arrivals staggered over the last two weeks. Regan Wilkie, a first-year music major, said he felt good about the semester.
“I feel really confident about the way UNI is taking action for this whole dilemma right now,” he said while moving in last week. “I’m feeling like I can be safe on campus, making sure everybody’s wearing a mask in the buildings and all that.”
Since May, hundreds of people from all across campus have spent thousands of hours preparing for this unique year in countless ways. Among their achievements was ensuring classrooms use no more than 40% of their capacity while allowing more than 80% of fall classes to include at least some face-to-face instruction.
In a recent editorial, President Mark A. Nook wrote that this year UNI will be hard at work both on protecting the campus community and also working hard to make campus a more welcoming place for everyone.