Opinion | The University of Iowa is a business first

The miserly approach to COVID-19 shows the administration’s focus is not on education or safety.


Jenna Galligan

The Old Capitol is seen on Thursday, March 12, 2020.

Hannah Pinski, Opinions Columnist

The University of Iowa administration has made its decisions dealing with COVID-19 based on self-interest, prioritizing profit at the expense of maintaining a top tier and safe educational institution.

Other universities, such as the University of Illinois, has a 0.79 percent positivity rate and has taken precautions such as getting tested twice a week, providing results typically within five hours, and suspending guests in the residence halls.

The response at the UI started in March when it was decided that the remainder of the spring semester would be held virtually due to the rise of COVID-19 cases. On March 30, the university announced that they would not be refunding tuition for the spring semester so ongoing operations could be funded, however they would be refunding some room and board, recreation fees, and arts and cultural events fees.

Students missed out on instruction from March 16 to 20, so how is it fair that we weren’t at least refunded for that lost week? When we’re told our tuition covers 16 weeks of education, it means that receiving anything less would call for a change in cost.

Even the treatment that professors receive portrays the self-interest of the university’s administration.

Fifteen instructors from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences were laid off on June 17. Five were since reinstated. If the UI takes pride in their academics, why were the professors, the people that provide the education, cut before Bruce Harreld’s salary of $590,000?

In an open letter that was released on July 6 from a group of faculty,  a woman of color was told she was expected to return to campus or risk losing her job after expressing her concerns of getting sick. If the faculty are treated with such disregard, how can that university claim they are a top tier academic center when they don’t treat the core of education with respect?

On July 10, the university finally decided to cut Harreld’s salary by 50 percent for the remainder of the year and use the $270,416 toward the Student Emergency Fund. It may seem like a step in improvement however it was also announced there would be hiring freezes for at least 32 positions and salary freezes for 4,200 employees.

The employees, such as professors, that are put on the front-line deserve an increase in their salary for the potential risks that are present in their working environment. But once again, the top administration is determined to lose as little profit as they can.

Now after thousands of students have returned to campus, there have been over 1,000 self-reported cases from faculty and students as of Sept. 2. The UI’s decision has not only affected members of the school but the entire Iowa City community. Yet the only action the administration decided to take this past week is to write a letter to the business community and provide leave options for faculty who are parents or caregivers.

The university is facing financial struggles, but so is everyone else. While we are burdened with the costs of the pandemic as well as tuition, the university seems content to spend as little as possible while taking all it can from students. A little kit of protective gear and constant reprimands are not enough to stop the spread.

From the students and faculty to the entire Iowa City community, the university’s administration needs to start making decisions that act in the best interest of all of us.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.