As the Delta variant has Iowa college and university officials wondering how to get COVID-19 under control this fall, two private colleges have different approaches.
Grinnell College president Anne Harris said her college will require proof of vaccination for returning students.
Wartburg College President Darrel Colson said Wartburg encouraged vaccinations, but did not require them.
The two officials spoke during a recording from “Iowa Press” which airs August 20 on Iowa PBS.
Harris said Grinnell is ready to welcome students from across the country and much of the world – provided they are vaccinated.
“In anticipation of their arrival from 44 countries and 48 states, we have decided to require vaccinations for our students,” Harris said. “And they were great. They have really led the way and we are ready to go this fall.
Colson said Wartburg is urging students to get vaccinated soon, if they haven’t already.
“We are working hard to encourage all of our students to get vaccinated as quickly as possible,” said Colson. “We’ve had some success and we’re actually trying to approach this the way we approached the whole school year last year.”
Colson said the student groups act as public health ambassadors and there are several social media campaigns. Vaccination clinics are offered on campus.
Still, the presidents have said they are worried about what the fall will bring.
“I would say we’re as worried as we were towards the end of last year of college,” Colson said. “We are very vigilant. We have a very complex and aggressive contact tracing program on campus, we have tests on campus… ”
Students will continue to be quarantined if exposed to the coronavirus, Colson said.
Harris said she was a little worried. “A little, yes,” Harris told the “Iowa Press” panel of reporters.
“You get to know your campus, inside and out, because you envision spaces in such a different way when you have a highly contagious virus like the one we all face,” Harris said.
Colleges increase cybersecurity
Cyber attacks on schools, including one in June at Des Moines Area Community College, have drawn the attention of officials in Wartburg and Grinnell, the presidents said.
They said their schools use two-factor authentication for many systems to protect data.
“I think two-factor authentication is probably the biggest adjustment that everyone has to make, and then we get all of our computers ready for our teachers and staff to use,” Harris said. “And then there is just vigilance.”
Colson had a similar point of view. “We are constantly raising the bar for safety on campus,” he said. “It can be frustrating because we have to go through the double documentation and certification and the cell phone and codes and all that. But yes, it is absolutely essential that we do our best to protect this data. “