Marissa Payne, The Daily Iowan
University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld was searching for a guiding star in March to lead the institution through the COVID-19 pandemic amid a horizon filled with uncertainty.
As the number of novel coronavirus cases first began to rise in Iowa, the 21st UI president met with the deans March 11, the Wednesday before spring break. At this meeting, Harreld said, he could see his collegiate leaders wrestling with how to minimize the virus’ upheaval on campus operations — the financial toll, the human impact.
“What we’re doing is trying to trade off things,” he told The Daily Iowan, recalling his struggle to come to terms with the tough decisions that lay ahead of him and his team. “I kind of pounded on the table to make it very clear that we are going to do a lot of damage to a lot of things across the institution, but the one thing we’re not going to do damage to are the people.
“We are going to make sure our students are safe, our faculty is safe, and our staff [is] safe. If we need to go into our homes, we are all going to go into our homes. If we’re going to have to teach online, then we’re going to teach online. And if we have to cancel graduation, we will have a virtual graduation. It’s terrible, but we have to keep people safe.”