Message from President Armacost, June 26, 2020

Please watch my video.

Dear UND Community Members,

Kathy and I are thrilled to be on campus. We are eager to meet you and to share in the joy of what it means to be members of the UND campus and the Grand Forks community.

Early in the week, I had the chance to witness the farewell to our longest-serving Mayor of Grand Forks, Mike Brown, and the swearing-in of Mayor Brandon Bochenski—both are graduates of UND! We truly appreciate Mayor Brown’s two decades of faithful service to Grand Forks and Mayor Bochenski’s commitment to lead our city.

Today is a good opportunity to update you on several ongoing discussions as we prepare for the return of on-campus classes and activities this fall. Although Grand Forks has been impacted minimally by the virus, we need to remember we are reopening campus during a global pandemic. Until a vaccine or effective therapeutics are realized, we must continue to take steps to keep each other safe, especially those who are at greatest risk of the most damaging effects of COVID-19. The actions of distancing, face coverings, good hygiene, and testing will allow us to enjoy a sense of community while still reducing the spread of the virus. Please take the steps to keep others safe, as you might have no idea you are infected and spreading the virus.

Let me touch on two of these actions, starting with face coverings. There is no better way to show concern for the well-being of others than to keep your distance and to cover your face. Face coverings are now required when you are in UND campus facilities interacting with others and when representing UND off-campus in an official capacity. While attending UND-sponsored athletic events at sites like the Alerus Center and the Ralph, you will follow guidelines set by the facility management, yet we strongly encourage you to sustain that sense of concern towards others and continue to wear face coverings and keep your distance. When you are away from others, whether in your residence hall room or your office, you do not need to wear a face covering. We have posted detailed information about face coverings on our UND COVID-19 blog.

The second action is testing.  Josh Wynne, in his role as our state’s chief health strategist, has been working with the Governor’s staff to establish a state-sponsored voluntary testing program for students, faculty, and staff. As we bring back more than 15,000 persons to campus in a short period of time, testing broadly and frequently will be essential as we care for those infected and as we determine the local trajectory of the virus. This process began in earnest on Tuesday, with a voluntary testing event that collected samples from 1,000 individuals from our campus community. Many thanks to UND staff members, our local health department, the Grand Forks Fire Departments, the Salvation Army, our state health department, and the North Dakota National Guard for making this happen. Being a leader in action is a hallmark of the University of North Dakota, and let’s do our very best to take care of each other during this pandemic.

In my June 8th letter to the campus, I highlighted an upcoming task force on diversity and inclusion, and we are working with the leaders of the University Senate, Staff Senate, and Student Government to build the task force and define its charter. Thank you to those who have sent emails with recommendations. I have read them all and will pass along your ideas to the task force.

There are steps we can take to ensure that everyone feels welcome and included in our community. In February, UND approved a land acknowledgement statement that underscores UND’s foundational commitment to serving the First Nations of North Dakota and the members of our Indigenous community. June is a month with a number of national cultural celebrations, including Juneteenth (see Governor Burgum’s proclamation), which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, and Pride Month, which recognizes historic contributions of members of our LGBTQ+ community and honors the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in New York City. Being a stronger community relies on knowing our peers, and I look forward to learning more about the individuals and groups that our campus comprises.

Kathy and I look forward to seeing you on campus – please be sure to introduce yourself as you see us out and about, especially if we appear to be lost!

With respect,

Andy Armacost