UND president, vice-presidents and other leaders answer questions about the University’s ‘Smart Restart’
A UND Faculty Town Hall was held on July 28 via Zoom to discuss UND’s “smart restart” of classes in August.
The Town Hall was introduced by President Armacost, who then turned the event over to Jed Shivers, vice president for finance & operations and chief operating officer. Shivers facilitated the discussion.
The transcript below is lightly edited for clarity. Questions are in bold type; they were submitted by faculty, and asked of the meeting participants by Shivers.
The full video is available above and at this link.
President Andy Armacost: Hi, I’m Andy Armacost, your UND president, and thanks for joining us today on this webinar/Zoom session to share information about our reopening of the campus this fall.
A lot of work has been done over the summer and in the spring semester to make sure that we prepare for this time, where we’re bringing classes back onto campus and bringing human beings onto campus. Our first and top priority is the health and safety of the members of our community. We’re balancing that, of course, with all the precautions that we need to take to minimize the risk to you when you return to the campus.
And so, hats off to all the people who have been involved. There’s been a great team. Our pandemic Working Group, our vice presidents, our senior leaders and unit division leads have just done a great job pulling all these resources together.
Today, we have a large panel of folks; leaders from across the campus who are here to answer your questions. I know that you’ve submitted some questions in advance, and we’ll tee off with kind of a “pre-set” of questions. These are not pre-set questions, these are things that you have asked.
We’ll start with those for the warm up. And then we’ll move into your questions that you can submit through the chat function. Those will go straight to the panel. We’re interested in your engagement. Our goal, of course, is to hear you and to address any concerns that you have, and to learn from your observations as well.
With that, let me turn it over to our vice president for finance and operations, Jed Shivers, who has served as our COVID lead this summer and is doing a remarkable job getting us ready for the fall semester. Jed, over to you.
Jed Shivers, vice president for finance/chief operating officer: Thanks, President Armacost. So hi, I’m Jed Shivers. And as you know, I’ve been working with a whole spectrum of people across the university to work on getting ready for the upcoming semester. What I wanted to do initially was to go through some questions that University Senate representatives have sent us in advance, just to get the conversation started and also in the hope that some of these questions will be representative of what many of you are asking for.
I’m looking on my tally down here. I see we have 166 participants so far, and hopefully, we’ll start to see more, but we might as well get started.
I’ve got a question which I think faculty are quite interested in. And I’m going to be looking at Alex for the answer. The question is, what action can an instructor take if a student refuses to wear the mask or leave the class? Will the instructor be able to physically remove the person or problem? If so, how?
Alex Pokornowski, assistant vice president for student affairs and assistant dean of students: Thank you, Jed. Hi, everyone. My name is Alex Pokornowski, assistant vice president for student affairs and diversity, and assistant dean of students. So, the short answer is yes, but to go into a little bit more detail, we encourage faculty to remind students to wear masks, and provide to students the disposable masks that are in the classroom.
If a student forgot or refuses to put their mask on, and if it becomes a repetitive pattern, what we encourage you to do is to talk with the students via Zoom or phone to ask them to bring their own masks. You may discover that they have lost their mask, and they may need a replacement.
If the student continues to refuse to wear a mask in the classroom, you can ask them to leave the classroom. If they refuse to leave the classroom, you have the right to cancel your class and call the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities.
At that point, we’ll follow up with it as a behavioral issue with that student for failure to comply with you as a university official, as well as for causing the classroom disruption.
Thanks, Alex. Next question, which I think is another one of practical reality: Are masks being provided to faculty, staff and students, or will we all need to provide our own? I’m going to look to Jen Berger, who’s running the emergency response group, initially, and others may seek to comment as well, such as Dr. Cara Halgren.
Jennifer Berger, director of emergency management: The University is purchasing cloth face coverings for faculty, staff and students. Each of them will be provided with two cloth face coverings for each individual.
And Cara, would you like to talk a little bit about how that’s going to take place, and when?
Cara Halgren, vice president for student affairs and diversity: Sure. My name is Cara Halgren, and I serve as the vice president for student affairs and diversity. In terms of face coverings for students, on the Monday of the first day of classes, we will start making those available to all students on campus. Students will just need to provide an ID, and then we will be able to give them to them.
Thank you. Another question that’s really, I think, of a very practical nature; and I’m going to ask Alex to comment on this initially. If a student in my class or any of my faculty peers whom I’ve been in close contact with tests positive for COVID, will I be required to get a COVID test and/or self-isolate at home?
Pokornowski: Good question. First off, the people who test positive for COVID will be contacted by the North Dakota Department of Health and other public health officials, and will be notified of their positive tests. In addition to that, the public health officials will do an assessment to identify who other close contacts are.
The Department of Health will then contact those close contacts and advise them on what they need to do, including quarantining for a two-week period.
What’s important to note is that a student testing positive in a class does not necessarily create a close contact. Close contact is defined by close interaction of longer than 15 minutes within 6 feet. So when we look at how we have our classrooms set up, students are at least 6 feet apart from each other as well as from the faculty leading that class, so that does not necessarily create a close contact. If a close contact is created, then the Department of Health will reach out to the students and the faculty, anyone who was identified as a close contact, and talk with them about what they need to do.
Thanks, Alex. So, I think you can see that these first questions are very personal. And now I want to just touch on a few questions that relate to the more global. So let’s start with, I think, a big one, and I’m going to ask President Armacost to comment on this: what is the threshold or criteria for moving courses online once the semester has started?
Armacost: Thanks, Jed, I appreciate the question. But first, I wanted to address a question that came online. And the question was, “Why are people reading statements? I thought this was an interactive event.” And if you missed my opening comments, we’re doing about four or five quick questions that had come in over the weekend from University Senate leadership and others, and we figured this was a good warm-up. We’ll be doing this for about another three or four minutes, and then the gates are open for you to ask any question that you want.
So please take advantage of the Q&A function, and we have our staff here sorting through questions furiously as they come in. So just hang with us.
Another prepared question, but my answer to this particular question about reverting to online can be found on the Healthy Hawks website — the Coronavirus blog that we have. You can go to und.edu, it’s right there at the top; click on it, and it has the guidance that we’re using.
There’s no specific threshold. I’m not going to cite a number of case counts or number of people in isolation or quarantine. But rather, there are a number of criteria that we outlined to revert back to online, including a substantial rise in new COVID-19 cases within the UND population, a substantial number of cases tied to UND that can’t be tracked to known cases, an inability to conduct case interviews, or what we know as contact tracing. Do we have an ability to isolate the positive cases of COVID-19, and to keep those who are quarantined as close contacts taken care of as well?
Testing is an important piece; if we don’t have the ability to test, that’s a problem as well.
And then we also look externally at what the community is able to do: what’s the bed capacity at Altru? We’ll monitor that very carefully to make sure that they have the capacity to handle the toughest cases, the most severe cases.
And, and we’ve seen this over the summer, we’ve had a number of cases that we’ve identified and isolated patients, we put people into quarantine as well as close contacts. And what we’ve seen is that contact tracing really works — that when we put that wrapper, that umbrella around the close contacts, future cases typically arise within people who are already quarantined. We’ve seen great results of contact tracing, so I think the risk mitigation strategies are good.
But we’ll pay attention to those factors that are outlined on the Healthy Hawks page very closely as we move toward the opening of the fall semester.
Will faculty be required to return to campus, or will working remotely still be a possibility? And the second part of the question is, there’s a notion that UND might finish the fall semester before the Thanksgiving break. What are we thinking about along those lines?
Debbie Storrs, interim provost and vice president of academic affairs: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us. Before I answer that question, I just wanted to thank the faculty and department chairs for working so hard this summer and preparing for the fall. I know you’re doing an incredible amount of work in collaboration with TTaDA, so thanks, Lynette (Krenelka), for your team as well.
Yes, faculty will have a lot of autonomy in how they engage their work. They typically do have autonomy in how they do their work. Faculty do research and creative activity and a number of other kinds of service from distance at home, in their labs, etc.
So, we really want also to create a less dense campus. I would encourage faculty to have office hours via Zoom or by phone, rather than in person. I also encourage chairs and deans to have college and department meetings by Zoom. We’ve had some of our spring Senate meetings by Zoom, and I think Jeff (VanLooy) and Liz (Legerski) can attest, they got better attendance via Zoom than in person. I think that Zoom provides an opportunity for people to work from home and have a less dense campus.
So the answer to the first question is yes, faculty can have a lot of autonomy in how they manage their workload. They can do it from home.
The second question was, will we finish the semester on campus, or will we finish remotely? I think that remains to be seen; as the president said, we’re monitoring the situation daily.
Our plan is to continue to have the campus open, and give a lot of flexibility to faculty in terms of how they want to teach their courses. We’ve already gotten some input from faculty for those who wanted to shift those courses to online. We’re going to continue to be responsive to faculty needs and interests and support their preferences.
But the decision to finish online (in terms of the full campus) would again be based on a number of factors in terms of the COVID cases, the ability to contact trace, the ability to isolate and quarantine, etc. So, currently, we’re planning to finish campus as is or on campus, with some flexibility and constant review of the situation.
I now want to now turn to some of the questions that we’re getting on the fly here, and we can spend the next 48 minutes or so doing that.
My next question, I’m going to initially direct to Dr. Josh Wynne, our vice president for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Let me just start with the question, and then Rosy Dub (director of student health) may want to comment on it as well.
My understanding is that UND is conducting testing based on whether the individual currently has the coronavirus, not whether the person has antibodies to the virus. Is this correct, and if it is, why isn’t antibody testing being done? Will antibody testing be available through UND? Any thoughts on that, Josh?
Joshua Wynne, vice president for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine & Health Sciences: Thanks very much, Jed. And thanks for this question. And I particularly like it as it allows me to be a professor for at least a few seconds; I’ll try not to have the usual response and have everyone fall asleep! (Laughter)
The testing that is done is the test for the virus. It’s called a PCR test. And this is a test that looks for the genetic code that’s in the COVID-19 virus. So when we say someone is positive, that’s what we mean: a positive PCR test.
And we presume that means that they’re infectious, because it detects such minute amounts of genetic material. We actually don’t know that for sure; you may have heard stories of people who continue to test positive. We’re not sure everyone is infective when they have that, but we assume that they’re infectious. So positive test = the potential to spread the virus to someone else.
And the way this test is done is that material is taken from the mouth and/or the nose to actually capture some of the virus.
Antibody tests are a blood test, where a sample of blood is obtained to see if the person has developed antibodies that are protective proteins against the COVID-19 virus.
The PCR test for the virus basically looks forward: is that patient likely to be a threat, now and in the future? The antibody tests looks back, and it asks, has this person been exposed to COVID at sometime before and now has antibodies?
That really doesn’t help us in what we’re trying to do now, which is to protect the campus. It may be that people with antibodies are resistant to COVID and thus have a lower susceptibility to it in the future. We don’t know that yet. So right now, antibody tests really don’t help us in protecting the campus.
But as far as the last part of your question, we hope to do what we call a seroprevalence study in a few months, to look at how many people may have these protective antibodies. So I hope that whoever asked the question will be at the head of the line to volunteer for this study, so we can try to figure out how many people are actually getting exposed to covid. Thank you for the very good question.
As a mildly hypochondriacal person, I spent 120 bucks and had myself tested at Altru. And my primary care physician said to me, “Bummer. You never had it.”
Okay, next question is one for me. This is on my favorite topic: do those of us who are continuing to work remotely need to purchase a parking permit at this time?
Shivers: If you’re 100 percent remote, the answer is no. If you look at the information that we put out — I think it went out yesterday — on parking, we’re offering semester-by-semester parking, we’re offering passport parking. So we’re trying to make parking and paying for parking as flexible as we can, while still trying to recover some revenue, which we really just use to keep up parking lots.
If someone – faculty, staff or student – discovers they’re symptomatic, how far back do you contact trace? It is known that people can be infectious prior to being symptomatic. Do the contacts have to quarantine or does only the student quarantine?
Rosy Dub, director of student health: If someone is found to be positive, they go back contact tracing two days prior to their symptom onset. If they do not have symptoms and they test positive, they go back two days prior to the positive test date.
Regarding testing and contact tracing, many states are experiencing delays and test results that render contact tracing pointless. How quick is the anticipated turnaround for test results once the semester is in session? What do we know about the testing capacity for the labs we’ll be using to run the tests?
Wynne: The majority of testing that’s done in the state is done through the State Health Lab in the North Dakota Department of Health, although it is supplemented by additional testing that is done in commercial laboratories and through the various hospital systems.
Currently, the North Dakota Department of Health has the capacity to do around 5,000 tests a day, and in very short order, they believe that they will be up to 8,000 tests a day. What that implies is that there’s substantial bandwidth in the availability of testing. We, UND, are working closely with the Department of Health to try to get that turnaround just as quick as possible. One of the things that will help with the turnaround is that the Department of Health either has or will be very shortly going to an automated way of reporting negative results so that they don’t have to have someone call and give the good news a test was negative. It will occur in an automated way. The Department of Health believes that will further speed up the turnaround.
You’re absolutely right that there is no utility – none – if a PCR test, for instance, takes 14 days – an absurd example. If it takes 14 days for the result to come back, that’s the time period when the person otherwise would have quarantined or isolated, depending on the result of the test. What we want to do and what the goal is, is to get that time period to be as short as possible. Once you know the result, you can then respond appropriately as to whether isolation/quarantine is still appropriate or not for the patient and for the contacts.
What’s the actual turnaround time for positive test results reporting right now?
Jen Berger: I think that’s the most important part of this. The positive test results are never sent out electronically via the means that the state is sending negative test results. The positive tests are always called by a provider to that person. And the standard is that they’re called as soon as tests are resulted. They’re called within a few hours of receiving them, before 9 p.m. Otherwise, it’s the next morning.
So if you do test positive at an event, you should have those results to you. We got ours back 24 to 36 hours when we ran them to our lab. Two days, I would think, is max. The negative results are where people are uncomfortable. Even the negatives have gone through the automated system, it still has some kinks in it and is taking longer than we would like. We recognize that some people tested last week still have not gotten their test results, presuming they would be negative. Just know that the ones that are positive are the ones we need to know about and take action on quickly. Those people are being called. We’re not waiting to get those automated.
Wynne: I don’t know the very latest statistics, but if anything, I think it’s better. But I do know that in the not-too-distant past, the state lab was reporting an average turnaround time of about 31 hours. It should be better now, but I don’t actually know that number.
Shivers: I think the point is, is that for positive cases, at the moment, we’re not seeing this real stale result issue
If faculty do not feel safe in the classroom, do they have the option to move their class online at any time during the semester?
Cindy Juntunen, associate provost: Yes, we are asking that faculty who feel unsafe as the semester evolves, please, right away, talk to your chair. We certainly want to accommodate those kinds of concerns. And we’re not worried about when that might happen in the semester, but the first step is to talk to your department chair and make sure that it fits into the plan – that department-wide plan or programmatic plan – that’s evolving in terms of how to make things work for students as well. So take that step, and then from the chair we’ll get it to the dean and eventually it will come to me. But that is a perfectly acceptable approach if you feel unsafe over the course of the semester.
Storrs: It’s really important that faculty feel confident in the classroom. We really want to work with faculty, and we want to inform students. That’s partially why we have this step-like approval process so that the dean is informed, Cindy Juntunen – in her role in the provost office – is informed so we can communicate effectively for students about the change in the delivery method.
How do we encourage and incentivize students to take social distancing off-campus seriously?
Halgren: I think the thing that we’ve really tried to stress is education. One of the things that incoming students will see as they come to campus is that they will be asked to take an online education course about how we can keep each other safe in light of COVID-19. As somebody who just took her training today, there’s a lot of really good useful information that will hopefully give everyone the same level of understanding as we start this semester.
I think the other thing that we’re doing right now is working with student leaders to help them understand what the new events processes are. And part of that is because while we want to encourage physical distancing, we don’t want to do so at the expense of connection. How we help students understand how they can connect with others safely is really the goal.
We recognize that not all students may adhere to that, and so we will continue to work with those students as well. And then if students falter, we will bring them in. A lot of times that happens through Alex Pokornowski’s area and OSRR (Office of Student Rights & Responsibilities) to talk with students about what the expectations are and why they’re so important.
For those who’ve asked specifically about our fraternity and sorority community, as many of you know, the majority of those houses are actually off campus properties, even though they’re on University Avenue. But what I can tell you is that our Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Diversity, Dr. Cassie Gerhardt, has been working with advisors, as well as student leaders, on a regular basis to communicate the expectations that we have as an institution, and why they’re so important.
This goes back to what President Armacost has said all along. We are all in this together, and that we all have to act as one. We just continue to try and share that message, knowing that some days will go better probably than others. But that’s the message we’ll continue to send.
Storrs: I think faculty are going to have a real influence over our students. They have a close working relationship with our students and have spent a lot of time with them. I remember having a conversation with Liz Legerski about a class. She didn’t think there was going to be an issue because she has developed a relationship with her students about wearing face coverings. But I think it’s going to go beyond just the classroom as you develop your relationships with your students, and they understand the broader context for why face coverings are so important.
Elizabeth Legerski, University Senate chair elect: I remember that conversation that we had and I know my experiences with my students are generally pretty positive. I plan to, on the first day of class, talk about masks and why it’s important and why we’re doing it and be really personal about it. I’ll say, “Look, you’re helping me be safe. I’m helping you be safe with each other.” Honestly, I can’t imagine having a student who, after that discussion, would say, “Well, I’m not going to do it!” And if they do, there’s a process that we can follow.
But I really believe strongly that students are generally good people and that when we communicate with them one-on-one, they’re willing to listen and consider the situation. I think having that conversation right away, setting that standard right away in our classes will help with that process.
Jeff VanLooy, University Senate chair: I would agree. I think if we’re very open with our students, we’re honest with them, show them respect, show them that we will lead by example by wearing face masks ourselves and following all the other rules, then hopefully they will follow our lead. If we think about large classes versus smaller classes, it’s going to vary. It may be a little bit of a challenge at times, but I definitely think leading by example is probably the best way to go.
Much as much attention has been paid, rightfully so, to safety details regarding students and faculty in the classroom, as well as what will happen in the event that a student gets sick as far as quarantine. What is the current plan of a faculty member gets sick and cannot teach his or her course for a period of time?
Storrs: One of the things that Cindy Juntunen did with Heather Wages (academic affairs officer) and Becca Jacobson from HR is that they met with every chair in each of the colleges to talk a little bit about the fall and to help the chairs have conversations with faculty about the safety features and also to think about logistically in terms of their department and their course all offerings. How they should manage the courses of thinking holistically? So, for example, what would they do if a faculty member gets ill?
We fully anticipate we’re going to have cases of staff, faculty, students and administrators who will get ill. Part of that was the planning of what will happen. How will they manage that? In a typical semester, and I know we’re in a very atypical situation, we always have plans to support faculty when they’re ill.
One of the things that Cindy has done with chairs is to ensure that faculty are at least a couple of weeks ahead of planning in terms of their course content in case they get sick. The chair can have some time to transition that material to other folks. There’s also been discussion that if you are an expert and there really isn’t a lot of backup, maybe you should be teaching those courses online because it’s difficult to find a replacement.
Juntunen: We’ve asked all the chairs to meet with their faculty early in the semester. In those meetings we asked them to meet early to talk about this very issue, because we know it’s very much weighing on people’s minds. But the plans for this will vary quite a bit by program area or department, so we want the faculty and the chairs to work together to figure out how we respond. So there will be another set of communications going out to chairs to help them know where they can get support and ideas to help with this issue.
For people who have tested positive, what are the criteria for returning to the classroom or work? The CDC recently changed their recommendations; do UND criteria follow CDC or other public health organizations?
Dub: Our criteria is based on CDC recommendations, and if you’re referring to our blog, there is a recent update. There are three requirements for removal from isolation, or freedom from isolation. Those are: being at least 10 days since the onset of symptoms; and no fever for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications for at least 24 hours. That used to be 72 hours.
If you’ve been asymptomatic, and if you have a random test and you come back positive, your isolation period is then 10 days from the date of the positive test. If you should become symptomatic during that period, then those things could change based on the time frame. Your infectious period is considered two days before that test day, or two days before your symptoms, inclusive of those 10 days.
What do enrollment numbers look like for fall at this point?
Storrs: Late in the spring, early in the summer, we worked with the deans to anticipate what enrollment might be and we planned for that. So we’re pretty close to what we expected. Currently, compared to this time last year, we are down in our new freshmen by about 66 students. Our transfers are up and our graduate students are up. Where we’re seeing some declines are our returning students, which are down. We’re down by about 320 students. However, Karyn’s team – her advising group – is still reaching out to those students in hopes that they will enroll. I think some of those students are waiting to see our plan and how we’re communicating that plan. So we’ve been doing a lot of outreach to our students.
Returning graduates are up, Law and Medicine are up, so we’re in a good situation. What we’re all carefully watching is if there will be any higher withdrawal rates if things worsen across the country and in North Dakota. I’m feeling pretty positive at the moment, and I appreciate the communications that Student Affairs has done, in addition to Academic Affairs, to our students. They just want to know, and their parents certainly want to know, what’s happening at the University.
I’m really proud of the faculty and chairs for clarifying what’s happening. We’ve asked that all faculty post on Blackboard by Aug. 10 how they’re managing their courses – if they’re teaching online, because you’re going to have to rotate students – and let students know how they’re managing that.
All of this is part of communicating to students what they can expect so they’re not coming with the sense that there’s a bait-and-switch here. We’re trying to be very clear in saying, “The semester is going to be very different, but if you have an on-campus course, you will have an on-campus experience, and there will be some remote functions to that as well.” So I think we’re looking okay at the moment.
What considerations are given for faculty who have added responsibilities with children at home who also will be distance learning at least some of the time?
Peggy Varberg, associate vice president for human resources & payroll services: We had those issues in the spring where those of us with school-aged children had them in our homes in addition to trying to do our own jobs. There’s some federal protections, (including) an expansion of the Family Medical Leave Act process that allows for those who really cannot do their jobs in any way shape or form, or don’t have someone else in the home to help them – those kinds of things. There are extended protections under the FMLA, and that’s all explained in the blog both at the UND Coronavirus Blog and on UND’s website.
But I found that we’ve been super flexible with folks, working around schedules, working around children. If faculty can continue to work remotely, or move to remote because they have children in the home that they must also assist in the teaching process with, then we’d encourage working with the chairs and the dean to see what can be done, how can we help, what arrangements can be made for changes in schedule, etc.
It’s a lot of communication, but certainly the path we’ve forged in the past is one of working together to make this happen, to help lift that load.
Storrs: The only thing that I would add is that the deans and I have met – and we meet every week – and we’ve talked a little bit about how we can ensure that we don’t add more burdens to faculty workloads. We’ve talked about how we can identify service that we might be able to reduce this year. We’ve been very thoughtful in not adding a bunch of new initiatives because there’s so much work being done to help transition in this COVID situation. So I think we’re all very sensitive to how much work is being done and how difficult it is, especially if you have children at home or are taking care of elderly parents or other family members. Please have conversations with your chair and your dean to make sure that we can provide support. If there are ways to identify shifting some duties from faculty, we’re happy to do that.
If we want to use our own masks, will we be allowed to do so?
Dub: If you look at the CDC guidelines, they’re talking about using multi-layered, tightly woven cotton masks. So the preference would be to follow those guidelines. However, we’re pleased to have people use face coverings, period. We will not be policing what people choose to purchase on their own, but the recommendations are multi-layered, tightly woven cotton. The other thing to remember is that “My mask protects you, your mask protects me.” So you’re actually being respectful of other people when you wear a face covering.
A student emailed me asking what my plans were for administering my course, since it is listed online. I applied for this repeatedly, using every new required procedure as it changed beginning on June 8, but I myself have not been notified (that it is approved). We faculty have been told we must request this with the Provost, implying the decision is ours. Will the communication gap be clarified, is there a plan to let faculty know directly of approval?
Storrs: Those requests came to Cindy (Juntunen), up through the Provost’s Office to review. We’ve supported them if the deans and chairs have supported them. Cindy and Scott (Correll), can you talk about how that communication loop to the faculty occurs and whether those changes have been made in Campus Connection? Then maybe we can finish with Karyn (Plumm) talking about how that’s communicated to students.
Juntunen: We did get a lot of changes. They were due last week, and most of the changes had been made already by that time. When the Registrar’s Office made the change, they sent a notification back to each dean’s office confirming that the changes that had been requested had been made.
It’s important to note for any individual faculty member that the dean’s office might have gotten that confirmation as recently as last Friday. We did have close to 200 changes that were made all in that one week. If you have made a request, and your chair and dean have approved it, it will be posted in Campus Connection in a week or two. We were doing a big cluster, and we wanted to do them so that students could be notified at one time.
Going forward, we’re handling these requests on a daily basis. If we get requests, I send them in every day. The Registrar’s Office has been super fast, and they’ve been approving these very quickly. If your dean has approved it, and it comes to me, it’s probably going to be posted on Campus Connection within a week or so. I’ll send a note out to the dean’s offices just as a reminder about closing the loop, but again, they just got that information back. It’s just been a very fast cycle of change.
Scott Correll, University Registrar: And I can add, Cindy, thank you very much, that we have processed everything that we have received to date.
Storrs: What about students, Karyn? How are students being communicated to about these changes?
Karyn Plumm, vice provost for student success: Students did receive a couple of notices. Initially, they received a notice letting them know that some courses might be changed to online, and that they should check their Campus Connection by Aug. 3. We sent a reminder last week, or late the week before, letting them know again that some courses might be moving to online. It gave them some tips on how to do well with online courses, some information about the benefits of being in an online course, as well as if they really didn’t want to learn that way, how to work with their adviser to change courses or change sections if that was an option for them. We will be sending out another reminder around Aug. 10, which is when Blackboard opens up for students so, again, they can check their Blackboard to see how their courses are going to be offered. They can check their schedule to make sure that the delivery is either on-campus or online, depending on if any changes have been made.
Storrs: Just for faculty’s information: Every communication that we’re sending to students, we’re posting on the VPA website, so you know the information they’re getting as well. We’ve got it under the subgroup “Student Communication,” so you can take a look at that if you’re interested.
How many people will be randomly tested and how often? And, what is the current testing regimen?
Dub: Currently, we are focused on targeted audiences with our mass testing events, primarily wanting to test people who aren’t able to maintain that six-foot distance that we highly recommend. With each testing event, we focus on people in Athletics and Aviation initially, opening up to the UND community for the additional hours beyond that. But our testing events are open to everybody, so they are not restricted to a particular group of people.
We have five testing events between this Thursday (July 30) and Aug. 23. Some of those include large testing events in an attempt to test all people (student, faculty and staff) when they return to campus. As we move forward (we plan to have) ongoing testing throughout the semester, depending on what kind of testing ability we have and dependent on machines and testing supplies. We have plans that we’re working on to modify our testing regime where we test a certain numbers of people throughout the semester. Testing is a high priority for the semester and we have processes in place to make that happen.
Can you explain the concept of pool testing, and is pool testing being considered?
Wynne: Pool testing is where you take a number of samples and combine them together. The idea is that you reduce the total number of tests that you do, but you’re going to take a chance that it’s going to be positive. Pool testing is used where you don’t have enough bandwidth to test everyone, and the prevalence of disease is low. And if you do that the typical thing is to combine five tests. So if the test on all five is negative, all five are negative. If the test on the pool sample is positive, one of the five or at least one of the five is positive. You then have to retest every one of those five to find out who the true positive is.
So far, the state lab has had sufficient bandwidth to get enough testing done. However, if we find that subsequent testing is really limited by bandwidth, by the number of tests that we can do, the state lab is looking into pool samples to increase the capacity of the lab. As an example, they’re currently doing 5,000 tests a day. That could go up to 25,000 individuals minus some because you’d have to retest a certain percentage. So it is something that is being considered; not required now but could be in the future.
Are there any restrictions for students to participate in labs that require close proximity, such as the need to self-quarantine for 10 to 14 days after coming from another state via public transportation, e.g. flights? Some programs have students coming from other states and need to take part in these lab activities on day one.
Storrs: We don’t currently have any requirements for students to quarantine if they’re coming from out of state, unless they’re coming internationally.
Mark Hoffman, Associate Dean for Research in College of Arts and Sciences: The labs are intrinsically different than the classrooms because people move around. And so the plexiglass solution, which works really well for classrooms, doesn’t really lend itself to a lab. The standard model for the labs is both face mask and face shield. So the shield goes around to have an additional level of protection. There are other precautions such as for congregation points to coordinate the times, so people spend as little time as possible in those busy areas. Ideally, depending on the arrangement of the room, you would not have more than one person at a time at a station. But if there’s a choke point like a doorway, we are looking to minimize the amount of time at that point.
Will face shields be acceptable as a face cover?
Storrs: Some faculty requested using a face shield as opposed to a face covering. The pandemic team talked a lot about that and supported faculty’s decision to use the face shield in lieu of the face covering only in the classroom because there’s all these other elements of safety. There’s the distancing, there’s the plexiglass. We encourage the face coverings over the face shields. From what we know at this point, that’s the preferred protection. We do have a small blurb on the Provost website that says if faculty choose to use a face shield, their department contact can order it for them centrally from Facilities and Safety. We highly recommend face covering. But again, we’re trying to be as flexible and supportive as possible with faculty, and there are some reasons they prefer the face shield. But we’ll try and be very clear that we prefer the face covering.
Dub: In the medical field, we don’t use a face shield without using a face mask underneath. However, the point that we really want to stress is: what we want people to do is practice the six-foot physical distancing. That is your first priority versus worrying about your face covering. Keep your six-foot distance, please.
Has there been any discussion on how to ensure the face masks are appropriate? In relation to face masks with phrases and pictures on them, are staff and faculty allowed to inform students if the message or picture on their face mask is not appropriate?
Halgren: Do faculty members have an opportunity to talk with students? Of course. And, nine times out of 10, students have no idea that they are sending the messages that they’re sending by doing what they’re doing. To the point that you’re comfortable, we encourage faculty members to talk to students about that.
There certainly is a free speech/First Amendment right that’s protected here. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t have the opportunity to talk to them about how that impacts you or how it might impact other people in the class and to help students understand that. We understand that sometimes those conversations are hard to have. Alex Pokornowski from OSRR and his colleagues are happy to talk with you about how to best have that conversation with a student if you need to.
There will be as many as four different face coverings available for students that will be free. They meet CDC recommended guidelines, and they will look cool. Our hope is that by giving the students the opportunity to get really cool face coverings for free, that those will be the ones that they typically choose to use in your classrooms. We’re hoping to alleviate some of those concerns right out of the gate. But if you have additional questions, by all means, please contact us.
Is there any COVID related content that is required in our syllabi? If so, is there a template or guidance provided?
Storrs: We’ll be developing that with a team and we’ll share that in the next faculty email update. We’ll post that on the VPA website for you to use if you desire.
Final exams are currently planned to be at a specific time. I’ve received permission from our dean for Live Plus ProctorU for our final exam but it will be difficult to have 150 questions scheduled all at one time during the prescribed final exam time. What duration of time should I suggest for students to schedule their ProctorU exam, anticipating testing and scheduling congestion?
Lynette Krenelka, TTaDA executive director: If they are going to be using ProctorU, we can certainly work with the faculty member to make sure that those services are available. Some faculty are using ProctorU, some faculty are using live proctors, some faculty are using Blackboard. We’ve reincorporated the life proctored database. There’s a number of different ways that proctoring services are being handled. If they want to reach out to TTaDA, we can certainly work with them.
Storrs: Faculty should maintain that final schedule if you’re offering a traditional final, because if you change the time, it will bleed into somebody else’s final time and it creates some conflict. But if you have any questions, please reach out to Lynette’s team. We’re happy to work with you.
Does UND have plans to hold flu vaccination sessions this year, as it has in the past?
Dub: Absolutely. We will be providing our seasonal flu influenza vaccines, as we always have.
Armacost: I want to first thank the people on the panel who did an amazing job preparing for the fall semester beginning. Thanks to you and for the great answers you provided today. Most importantly, I need to thank all the faculty members who are here today, A, for signing in, and B, for your incredible hard work over the summer to get your courses ready to deliver in the fall, whether it’s fully online, whether it’s a hybrid, whether it’s fully in-person.
This requires creativity. It requires deep thought on how to piece it together. It’s almost like being a professor for the first time again. How does it all fit together? And, so hopefully this opportunity will give you a way to think about the way that you deliver your content in the most effective way given the challenges that we face.
Keep the questions coming. If there’s demand for another Zoom session like this, we’re happy to get together in a couple of weeks to continue to provide information about how things are progressing from our perspective and to answer the questions that emerge. Thanks so much and have a wonderful day. Be well.