USG passes resolution supporting sustainability, affordability, COVID-19 mitigation on campus

In a joint session between USG and GPSG, senators passed resolutions calling on the UI to prioritize the 2030 sustainability and COVID-19 mitigation, and the Iowa state legislation to increase appropriations to public universities


USG Senate Speaker Sam Stucky calls a USG meeting to close on Tuesday, Sept. 22 2020.

Rylee Wilson, News Editor

In the annual joint session between the University of Iowa Undergraduate and Graduate and Professional Student Governments, senators passed three joint resolutions supporting 2030 sustainability goals, tuition affordability, and COVID-19 mitigation on campus.

Senators and executives from both USG and GPSG met over Zoom Tuesday night to pass a resolution supporting the UI’s recently established 2030 sustainability goals, urging the UI to follow through with the goals in every university department.

USG Sen. Joseph Haggerty, who authored the resolution, said that because of COVID-19 and racial injustices across the U.S. and the world, conversations around sustainability have been pushed to the side.

“The 2030 goals are not something that we can simply put on the backburner in these terrible times with the pandemic,” Haggerty said. ”They are what is going to change the future 10 years from now. There’s so much that we don’t know about the future, whether it be this next semester or whether it be 10 years from now. The science is there, the administration approves — we’re going to see a horrible climate crisis that we can’t even predict at this level.”

Senators also passed a resolution calling on the Iowa Legislature to increase appropriations to the state Board of Regents’ public universities.

The Iowa Legislature cut $8 million in funding from Iowa’s public universities in June. The state Board of Regents, which governs the three public universities, is asking lawmakers to restore the $8 million cut and boost funding by another $18 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2021. The request, if approved, would ask for $7 million in additional funds for the University of Iowa, $7 million for Iowa State University, and $4 million for the smaller University of Northern Iowa.

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In June 2020, the regents froze tuition rates for the 2020-21 academic year “after massive disruptions created by the COVID-19 pandemic affected all students, faculty, and staff,” according to regents documents. The regents haven’t yet approved future tuition rates.

Sen. Sierra Wicks said continued disinvestment from the state hurts students, especially first-generation students and those from marginalized backgrounds. In fiscal 2021, the state universities received $63 million less in state appropriations than in fiscal 2001.

“While USG and GPSG recognize and are incredibly supportive of all the programs the University of Iowa provides to support its students … we also recognize that the university needs more resources to be able to provide these supports and to do more,” Wicks said. “In light of all this, USG and GPSG calls on the Iowa state legislature to increase funding for regents’ universities so that the University of Iowa can continue to provide students with affordable and excellent education.”

The final piece of legislation passed in the session called on the UI to continue current COVID-19 mitigation measures and to prioritize virtual instruction as much as possible.

USG and GPSG released a letter to UI President Bruce Harreld in August, asking that the university not open residence halls or resume in-person instruction.

Sen. Shalini Birari said the university needs to continue to take measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on campus.

“It’s clear that this pandemic has become a pertinent issue for all stakeholders in shared governance at the university,” she said, “… which is why USG and GPSG call on the university to prioritize the health and well-being of students in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, and to continue to take measures to minimize the spread of the virus on our campus, not only for the sake of those part of the university, but for the people of Iowa City as well.”