Iowa bill aims to rein in colleges' COVID control

A new bill proposed in the Iowa House of Representatives would prohibit colleges and universities from punishing students for not wearing masks or social distancing off campus.

The legislation would apply to public universities and community colleges.

It would also disqualify private universities from accessing state grant programs if they do not abide by the rule.

A bill in the Iowa state legislature would prohibit colleges and universities from requiring students and employees to wear face masks and social distance while they are off-campus.

House Study Bill 162, written by Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, directs the state Board of Regents to prohibit colleges and universities from exerting authority over the lives of students and employees while they are off-campus.

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The bill would also apply to private colleges or universities in the state, as it would make the Iowa tuition grant program funding contingent on adherence to the new bill.

HSB 162 was referred to and passed by the House Subcommittee on State Government in a 2-1 vote on February 2.

Rep. Carter Nordman, who serves on the subcommittee, began his first term as the youngest elected Iowa state representative in January; he is also a senior at the University of Northern Iowa. In an email to Campus Reform, he wrote that he supports the bill and that it would only apply to off-campus activities.

“It is an unacceptable overstep for colleges to threaten or penalize students for not wearing a face covering or social distancing when they are off campus property. It is up to individuals to be personally responsible during their own time,” Nordman said.

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Joe Mitchell, who also serves on the subcommittee, told Campus Reform that he also “fully supports the legislation” and believes the issue must be addressed. He wrote in an email that “students should not have to fear being expelled from their university just for taking off their mask in a picture or for inviting over a group of friends.”

In August 2020, Drake University in Des Moines, banned 14 students from campus for violating the school’s “no-party” rule, according to the Des Moines Register.

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