The University and Its Environment
February 20, 1995


This section on the University's physical infrastructure covers maintenance and utility problems, classroom facilities, communication and information technology, and the impact of new communication technologies on distance learning.

The Overall Physical Environment

In recent years considerable attention has been focused on the problem of deferred maintenance on University campuses. The title "deferred maintenance" is not euphemistic, since the primary problem is a shortage of funding for renewal of facilities and replacement of systems and components that have reached the limit of their useful lives. No level of maintenance can extend indefinitely the life of roofs, windows, mechanical systems, and other components of building and utility systems. It is important, therefore, that adequate funding for maintenance and for systematic building renewal be provided in operating budgets.
Cumulative underfunding has resulted in a maintenance and renewal backlog in University of Iowa buildings of approximately $23 million. Funding for this backlog has improved over the last three years, as a result of the authorization of $8 million in bonding authority for deferred maintenance and utility projects, internal reallocation of substantial funds by the University for deferred maintenance and utility infrastructure projects, and appropriations for building renewal authorized by the Governor and General Assembly. These actions were critical to reduce the backlog of deferred maintenance a practice the University hopes eventually to discontinue.
In addition to the $23 million deferred maintenance backlog, funds are needed for utilities. Constant repair and replacement are needed to maintain utility and mechanical systems, and constant upgrading and expansion are needed to improve reliability and meet load growth requirements. As in the case of deferred maintenance of buildings, the University's utility infrastructure has received considerable attention over the past three years, having been funded internally by the University and through self-supporting Utility System revenue bonds. During the past two years, the University has presented to the Board of Regents nearly $32 million in major utility projects, most of which are completed or under way.
Inadequate facilities negatively impact the University's efforts to recruit and retain students and faculty. Obvious damage occurs inside buildings with leaking roofs, damage to structural parts of buildings as well as to research and educational materials. Less obvious is the waste in maintenance effort and energy resulting from failure to invest in renewal of facilities. Wet insulation under roofs, allowing loss of heating and cooling, results in energy waste. Similar waste results from most, if not all, deteriorated structural and mechanical systems.
Fire and environmental safety is the highest priority of the University's and the Board of Regents' five-year Capital Program. Fire detection and alarm systems have been installed in many buildings, and exit systems have been upgraded. The approach, however, has been reactive rather than proactive. Rather than merely identifying and correcting specific fire and environmental safety deficiencies cited by the State Fire Marshal during annual inspections, the UI has recently adopted a more comprehensive approach, appropriate for existing and historic buildings which were never intended to meet the current code requirements. It would be desirable to use a nationally recognized life safety evaluation standard, issued by the National Fire Protection Association, for evaluation of the existing buildings based upon an "equivalent level of life safety provided." Accordingly, projects may be prioritized in terms of each building's overall fire safety rather than each individual deficiency within the building.
In addition to improved buildings, the University has worked to provide a safe, clean and functional exterior campus environment. The completion of the T. Anne Cleary Walkway, encompassing the North Capitol Street Pathway and Kautz Plaza, represents the first major component of the University pathway plan. Plans are under development for plazas on north and south areas of the Main Library and renovation of the south lawn of the Library. Also, site and landscape improvements of the Fine Arts Campus are planned concurrently with the construction of the Center for University Advancement to house the Alumni Association and the UI Foundation. Many other campus improvements, such as upgrading exterior lighting, replacing walks, landscaping, tree planting and bus stop improvements--all of which enhance the appearance and functionality of the campus--will be undertaken each year.
Over the last twenty years, The University of Iowa has faced an increasing number of environmental regulations, as discussed to some extent in Chapter 6. From waste generated by office areas to the water we pour down the drains and the emissions we discharge into the air, environmental regulations now profoundly affect departmental operations. To cope with the silent but relentless impact of these environmental regulations, the University should develop a more proactive posture, beginning with better central coordination and communication of compliance-related activities.

Classroom Facilities

Extensive spin-off benefits from the availability of the Pappajohn Business Administration Building will relieve a number of the University's present space problems. After completion of the space reallocations made possible by the construction of the Pappajohn Business Administration Building, however, no new space for general University programs will be available for the foreseeable future. This situation can be altered only by the purchase or lease of space off campus. Relief in the form of new construction funded with appropriations or bonding authority will require at least four years to realize, at the earliest, and the benefits of any such projects will be limited to the targeted programs with little or no spin-off benefits for other programs. Thus, except in limited areas, space for new or expanded programs will have to come from the reassignment of existing space.
While it appears that the University has a sufficient quantity of available space, the quality of that space varies significantly. Such deficiencies as absent or poor ventilation systems, inadequate electrical service, lack of access to high speed inter-building data and telecommunications links, and lack of modern technology in classrooms, obviously have a negative impact on programs, and poor space quality limits flexibility for possible reassignment. The backlog in upgrading space is sufficiently large that at present expenditure rates a number of years will be required to complete the effort. Priority is being given to upgrading classrooms and instructional equipment and improving telecommunications interconnectivity. Ventilation systems are being upgraded gradually as part of general remodeling projects and the deferred maintenance program.
The University now has 30 classrooms and lecture halls equipped with computers and audiovisual equipment including video/data projectors, computers or computer interfaces for Macintosh and PC-platform software, laser disk players, and other communications equipment. Fourteen other classrooms have been identified for upgrading of computer and audiovisual capabilities as funds permit. Still other classrooms and teaching laboratories have specialized graphics displays, computer networks, and UNIX workstations. Thirty Instructional Technology Centers provide hundreds of computers for students' use. The Information Arcade in the Main Library provides a networked computer workstation for each student in the classroom. Four classrooms are presently equipped to send courses through the Iowa Communications Network; plans exist to equip five additional locations. These well-equipped classrooms and labs are among the most intensely used and most heavily scheduled spaces on campus.
Information gathered by the Higher Education Facilities Management Association (which closely parallels the Big Ten) shows that The University of Iowa is either at or above the median of the reporting group of institutions in the major and most critical types of space--classrooms, instructional and research laboratories, and offices. A separate comparison of classroom utilization data with other Big Ten institutions reveals that the University's use of its general assignment classrooms on a room-period utilization basis is at or near the top of the group in efficiency. This means that the University is getting by with fewer classrooms for a given amount of instructional activity than most institutions in the Big Ten.
Although the recent opening of the Pappajohn Business Administration Building has relieved some of the pressure on classroom and office space, problems remain in providing adequate space to many departments. The most critical unmet space needs are in the laboratory sciences, where it is often not possible to fill open faculty lines because appropriate research laboratory space is not available. The inability of science departments to fill faculty lines constrains their ability to carry out their teaching missions. In addition, a shortage of office space in some departments, requiring faculty and staff to be housed in remote locations, reduces organizational efficiency and limits student access.
The primary components of the University's present capital request include major renovation of the Biology Building, the construction of a biomedical research building, the remodeling of the Engineering Building and the east wing of the Chemistry Building, and the construction of a building for the School of Art and Art History. Each of these projects will greatly benefit the department or college for which it is intended, with lesser benefits accruing to the balance of the University.
In summary, the University cannot look forward to any substantial relief of the present general space situation unless programs can be moved off campus to leased space, a solution requiring funding adjustments by the University or the program. Without this option, the University must reallocate existing space to meet its emerging needs.

Communication and Information Technology

The rapid evolution of electronic information technologies in the past decade tend to support the claim that communication has become more important than computing.
Nearly all faculty and staff, and many students, depend on or use some form of electronic communication daily. These communications are international, national, statewide, and local in scope. The growth and impact of the Internet and the Iowa Communications Network are prime examples of the influence of new information technologies in both a local and an international context. With these new opportunities come new challenges and needs. At the moment, the demand for services far exceeds the capacity of the University's current staff and physical infrastructure.
As one example of high expectations, the Iowa Communications Network (ICN) presents exceptional opportunities for forms of outreach and delivery of services within the state. The ICN already carries a majority of the University's long distance telephone service, and it supports several special-purpose data circuits. Growing numbers of courses are offered remotely to ICN sites, and the Center for Credit Programs has plans for many more by the year 2000. The University's current $7.3 million National Library of Medicine Telemedicine grant, and related experimentation in delivery of health care services and health information resources to other Iowa sites, is important pilot work in the use of telecommunications in the health reform arena. Of special interest is the concept of something like an "Iowa Internet" built on top of the ICN. Realization of the ICN's potential will require significant statewide coordination, planning, and development. Institutions of higher education, especially the Regents institutions, will provide some of the leadership for the development of that potential.
During the last five years, The University of Iowa has embraced the Internet which offers personal intercommunication through broad electronic mail connectivity, access to an enormous array of information resources, opportunity for research collaboration, electronic "publication" and dissemination of information, and numerous other forms of connection. The Internet has been more and more taken for granted. Over the next few years, however, the National Science Foundation's subsidization of the cost of operating the Internet will be eliminated, with operation of the Internet assumed by the commercial sector. The University anticipates that costs will rise and that the nature and quality of the Internet environment will change, perhaps deteriorating. Some observers expect new, independent networks to arise. Chaotic conditions may exist for a period of time as technologies converge and regulatory issues are resolved.
Electronic communication has opened the doors to electronic publication, transfer of works in progress, access to electronic journals, more sophisticated access to software and databases, and numerous other types of access to, and interchange of, intellectual property. The regulatory environment is unstable. Not all legal questions have been resolved, and application of copyright, patent, and trade law is becoming ever more complex. Vendors and publishers are taking steps to retain financial control while struggling with the dynamics of distribution. The University Libraries face special challenges in terms of cost management, access control, and demands for inter- institutional services.
Libraries face an exceedingly complex set of issues: Electronic demands must be balanced against the need for traditional printed documents. Interinstitutional arrangements to provide shared access as a method of cost containment are planned. Librarians must make continuing assessments of electronic resources within the same set of criteria for quality and relationship to academic programs as is done for print materials. Methods must be developed to train users to utilize the blended printed and electronic collections. In addition, new questions arise. What responsibility does the University have with respect to disseminating the research of its faculty and encouraging changes in the current system of scholarly publishing? Faculty now often write without pay for journals that the Libraries must pay high prices to acquire and cannot easily share because of copyright restrictions imposed by publishers. Should the University encourage or require faculty to retain some rights to published material in order to allow for more effective sharing and dissemination of information? Should it encourage or sponsor electronic publication of research which bypasses the present means of distribution? Protecting intellectual property rights of faculty and students will continue to be important, and even more challenging in the electronic environment.
Another challenge to the University is the maintenance and management of its own information base. Research data, fiscal information, and student records are maintained in electronic data files. Interest grows in access to images, audio clips, data sets, information repositories, and software items. Academic and administrative uses of technology and data blur. Institutional management data are widely distributed throughout buildings, across computing platforms, within systems, and across numerous individuals. What is missing are data about the data. No focal point exists for determining whether given data exist, obtaining access to the data, or comparing data. An integrated approach to data management and access should be established among all users of institutional data.
The most serious problem concerning the use of electronic communication and information technology is accessibility.
At present, access to the campus network is uneven. The east campus, for example, is poorly served with access only to old technologies. The University is moving away from independent administrative and academic networks and toward a common, unifying campus network for delivery of all services. Until uniform access is reached, institutional flexibility will be limited.
Until the University has reached a point where "adds, deletions, and change" of network connectivity are as easy to obtain as telephone service, it will continue to operate at a disadvantage in comparison to other institutions. The University is working rapidly to construct a high-capacity fiber-based infrastructure. The goal is to install a "backbone system" and intrabuilding distribution facilities which will allow virtually any office to be connected within a matter of days. Integration of telephone and computer applications is increasing. In a few years, the University must replace its telephone switching equipment. At that time, given the rapid changes in switching capabilities, it is likely that a combined voice, video, and data switch will be needed. Local area networks are likely to include integrated telephone applications. A new service model may emerge, with a single wall outlet providing an aggregation of these services. Service pricing will be affected, and related technology convergence will be a factor.
The University of Iowa, like any academic institution, has been and will continue to be changed by the availability of new technologies, communication changes, and the resultant elimination of walls between providers and consumers. The University now faces an environment in which information technology and electronic communication are ubiquitous. Nearly everyone expects to work with access to these resources. Expectations are high for provision of electronic resources and remote access in libraries --and the nature of items in library collections is also changing, some being electronic and sometimes quite remote from campus.
The startup and maintenance costs associated with wide-spread access to information technology are high. In addition to network connectivity, users must have desktop computers with appropriate capabilities to use information resources. It is disturbing that a large fraction of the faculty and staff do not have computers which would allow them access to electronic communication. In the College of Liberal Arts, for example, most faculty and staff computers are over five years old and lack large hard drives and CD ROM capability. Many cannot be networked. Before faculty and staff can take advantage of new technologies, it will be necessary to replace or update outmoded computers. Present equipment funds are insufficient to provide each potential user with computer access and/or upgrade existing computers to levels demanded by advancing technology. In addition, expert personnel will be required to provide training and support services to maximize the utilization of new equipment. Nevertheless, further investment in information technology and electronic communication is likely to produce future cost savings, increase access to teaching and research resources, and improve communication in the university community.
In summary, information technology must be embraced as one of the institution's educational and business tools. The new technologies can contribute to the solution of many problems, but may require considerable flexibility as adjustments are made to new ways of communicating, storing and transmitting data, teaching, and providing services.

Technological Impact on Distance Learning

Improved communication technology will have an especially great impact on distance learning, the delivery of educational services to off-campus students. The University of Iowa's commitment to off-campus academic programming is a long-standing one. Most off-campus programming historically has been limited to the central and eastern parts of the state, where population and demand for courses are highest. Off-campus courses have traditionally been self-supporting, which meant that courses were offered only where the demand was sufficient to meet costs. For many areas of the state, the costs have been too high. This has created a dilemma, since state law makes the Regents Universities responsible for programming state-wide.
Many needs-assessment studies have generally reached the same conclusion: a significant number of citizens throughout the state are interested in having University courses and programs available to them. The unmet demand for the courses and programs of the Regents institutions is expressed by two groups of potential students. The first group comes from the "college-void" areas of the state. Although Iowa is blessed with a variety of tax-supported and independent institutions of higher education, there are some areas in the state where no institutions of higher education exist. Students from these areas will benefit from the expanded programming effort if programs can be made available in their areas. The second group of students that will gain from the expanded programming effort of the Regents institutions are those who live in areas where institutions of higher education exist, but high tuition costs deny them access. Both groups of potential students represent important constituencies for the University and for the state. Most nontraditional students are Iowa residents who will continue to reside in Iowa after completing their studies. The opportunity to pursue their education will enhance their lives and raise the general level of education throughout the state.
The statewide education mission of the Regents universities is a shared responsibility, which none of the universities can meet alone or independently. By coordinating their efforts and cooperating in statewide programming, the universities can create a sum greater than its parts. In 1990, at the request of the Board of Regents, the State Extension and Continuing Education Council prepared a Regents Strategic Plan for Off-campus Credit Programming. The University strategic plan for off-campus programming must coincide with the strategic plans of the Board of Regents and the individual Regents Universities. The State Extension Council Strategic Plan clearly recognizes the need for the Regents Universities to cooperate not only with each other, but with other institutions of higher education in the state to avoid duplication.
The emergence of the ICN has created some concern on the part of independent colleges that increased programming by the Regents universities will reduce the enrollments of those institutions. The expansion in off-campus programming by the Regents Universities is, however, a fundamental part of the Regents Universities' mission, and a continuation of the past efforts to serve the citizens of Iowa on a statewide basis. Changes in technology have merely made it possible for the Regents universities to meet more fully their statewide programming responsibility.
New delivery systems will increase the competition for students among institutions of higher education. In terms of the delivery of educational services, state boundaries will have less meaning. Televised instruction will be offered in Iowa not only by in-state institutions, but by institutions from other states as well. Traditional boundaries will mean less, and educational institutions within the state will face increased competition, not only among Iowa-based institutions, but also from outside the state.


The University has make considerable progress in recent years toward improving the physical infrastructure reducing the backlog of deferred maintenance of buildings. In addition to maintaining that progress, the University must in the next several years take a more proactive stance toward environmental and fire safety regulations. Classroom space limitations will continue to be at issue; new facilities are unlikely in the near future, so space re-allocation and/or possible lease of external space will be important solutions. Considerably greater attention must be paid in the next several years to information technology, communications, and distance learning, because recent developments in those areas can greatly affect the University environment.