UI Class of 2025 in person, but COVID-19 looms

The University of Iowa class of 2025 will experience more in-person education, which began with a week-long On Iowa! celebration.


Jerod Ringwald

First-year students are seen taking a class of 2025 photo on Kinnick Stadium at Kickoff at Kinnick on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021.

Sabine Martin, News Editor

After a senior year of high school that primarily took place online, with some in-person education in high school, the University of Iowa’s class of 2025 spent its first week experiencing UI traditions in person.

Director of Orientation Services and On Iowa! Tina Arthur said On Iowa!, a ​​first-year and transfer student week-long immersion program, looks different for the 2021 UI incoming class compared to last year.

“We know that our freshmen class is coming to us with all different types of experiences,” Arthur said. “We have some seniors in high school that spent their entire year in person, and we have others who spent their entire senior year online. And so we certainly want to help everyone feel comfortable with what their experience is going to be like in their first semester here at the university.”

The UI moved the OnIowa! program to hybrid events in 2020, its tenth year, because of COVID-19, as previously reported by The Daily Iowan.

Arthur said On Iowa! had a lot of health guidelines for events, which restricted in-person activities last year, but this year’s celebration had more food crawls, a comedic juggler, the President’s Block Party, and Kickoff at Kinnick.

The UI offered some virtual events or options for students to attend things virtually for individuals who might be uncomfortable with an activity’s COVID-19 measures, Arthur said.

“Most of those guidelines have changed back when the Board of Regents lifted the emergency declaration for all of the state schools,” Arthur said. “And so our events are looking pretty similar to what they did in 2019.”

The UI strongly encourages students to use face coverings at any in-person events, Arthur said.

The state Board of Regents, which governs the UI, won’t be requiring masks at Iowa’s public universities. On Aug. 19, Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague instituted a mask mandate that applies to university buildings, but UI spokesperson Jeneane Beck said the UI is governed by state law and will continue to follow the regents’ policies.

“The nice thing is that we have outdoor venues for all of our large events, so I think that that’s definitely where I feel a little bit more comfortable providing those bigger opportunities, because we don’t have any indoor experiences happening,” she said.

Arthur said the On Iowa! staff and faculty volunteers expected similar numbers for On Iowa! participation as the last few years.

Lexi Phelps, a first-year business student from Iowa City, said she felt uncertain about COVID-19 mitigation measures on campus. She said she’ll get a better feel for whether to wear a mask in class or not once classes start.

“I think the university is doing a good job and doing what they think is best,” Phelps said.

Arthur said the On Iowa! campus classroom tours to acclimate the freshman class were popular this year because of increased in-person classes during the fall semester.

The UI plans to have mostly face-to-face instruction, excluding classes with more than 150 students enrolled.

“We offered them last year, but I think so many people had classes online, they didn’t really take us up on them last year,” Arthur said.

The UI also planned a vaccination clinic on the ground floor of the Iowa Memorial Union.

“If students want to get vaccinated, we want to make sure they know that they have the opportunity to do that,” Arthur said. “We, with our student leader training, have just tried to walk them through scenarios that might come up because of the pandemic that you know, obviously, we didn’t really talk about in 2019.”

Nathan Inches, a first-year political science major from Wheaton, Illinois, said he chose to have an all-online senior year of high school, but she is ready for an in-person semester of classes.

“I’ve been pretty comfortable with everything,” Inches said. “I haven’t really felt uncomfortable at all with COVID. I like how there’s hand sanitizer everywhere.”

Inches’ roommate, Cameron Westphal — a microbiology major from Washington, Iowa — said he’s not “inherently” worried about in-person learning because he is fully vaccinated.

“But, with the delta variant, I don’t want it,” Westphal said. “I do like in-person classes, and I like hands-on stuff, so I’ll probably wear a mask in class.”

Westphal said other students he’s spoken to within the class of 2025 are “unsure” and “50/50” about wearing masks in class on Monday.

Arthur said the Vice President for Student Life Sarah Hansen and the Office of the Dean of Students have a separate committee looking to plan an event for the sophomore class in the fall, because it missed out on some classic in-person UI traditions, like taking a class photo during Kickoff at Kinnick.

“We have said that all of our sophomores can come to any of the events that they are interested in,” Arthur said. “To be honest with you, with Kickoff at Kinnick and the President’s Block Party, that really is aimed at the new class in the class of 2025.”

Rylee Wilson contributed to this report.