Iowa regents approve policy change allowing president to declare state of emergency for institutions

The state Board of Regents approved a policy change to its manual on Tuesday, allowing the regent president to declare a state of emergency for the three regent institutions.


Lily Smith

Regent President Mike Richards listens during the state Board of Regents meeting at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls on Friday, November 15, 2018.

Kelsey Harrell, News Reporter

The state Board of Regents approved a policy change to its manual giving the regent president authorization to declare a state of emergency for the three regent institutions amid growing evidence of community spread of novel coronavirus in Iowa. 

The regents held a meeting by telephone Tuesday for a first and final reading of the policy change. Prior to its approval, the regents convened in a closed session to discuss confidential information and records related to emergency preparedness and protocol, regents documents stated. 

The new section in the policy manual, 1.1 E, will authorize the regent president to determine a state of emergency exists at one or more regent institutions based on circumstances that pose a threat to the health or safety to the people at the affected universities, the documents state. 

“In the event of an emergency, the President is authorized to take such action as may be necessary to safeguard persons or property at the affected institutions; including, but not limited to, suspension or waiver of all or any portion of the Board of Regents Policy Manual and administrative rules,” the documents state. 

As previously reported by The Daily Iowan, the regents directed the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa on March 14 to recall all faculty, staff, and students traveling on international, institution-sponsored trips.

RELATED: Regents direct universities to recall all faculty, staff, and students out of the country

Although the callback was for university-related international travel, the regents urged students, faculty, and staff to avoid countries with high numbers of COVID-19 cases in their personal travel as well. The three public universities moved in-person instruction to online classes until at least April 3, which is two weeks after the regent universities’ spring break. 

The regents announced on March 12 that their April meeting will be moved from in-person to an online format due to the increased spread of COVID-19.

The DI previously reported that a room at ISU will be open for the public to come and listen to the meeting. Since the U.S. is now in a national state of emergency due to COVID-19 there will not be a public listening room, regent senior communications director said in an email to the DI.

The meeting will be available via live-stream on the regents’ website.

Iowa has 23 confirmed coronavirus cases. In Johnson County, the source of one individual’s case of COVID-19 couldn’t be traced to outside travel or contact with someone else with the virus, meaning the case is considered transmitted by “community spread” by public health officials.