Update and video message from President Armacost

‘I look forward to meeting you,’ says the UND president, who’ll be out-and-about on campus in weeks to come

Dear UND Community Members,

Please watch my video (which is above, and a transcript of which is below this letter).

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

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(The following is a transcript of President Armacost’s video:)

Hi, this is Andy Armacost, and it’s great to be here in Grand Forks at long last. And right now, Kathy and I are just enjoying our time getting settled, and looking forward to seeing each and every one of you out and about on the UND campus.

The campus in general is peaceful and quiet, but activity levels are picking up. As you might know, our aviation students have resumed their flight training. And our student athletes have returned to campus in fairly large numbers to begin individualized workouts. And later in the summer, they’ll of course begin their preparations with practices to get ready for the upcoming seasons.

But in August, things are really going to pick up with more than 15,000 people returning to the campus – students, faculty and staff. And as we come together from across the state, from across the region and across the nation, I want to make sure that we focus on keeping each other safe with regards to COVID-19.

And you’ll recall the key precepts of how we do that include physical distancing, face coverings, personal hygiene and hand washing, and also a focus on testing.

And so let me give you a quick comment on face coverings. This has been the topic of much discussion on campus over the last few weeks. We have posted on our COVID blog information that describes when face coverings will be required on campus. And the short of it is that when you’re engaging other people, we will have a requirement to wear a face covering. But check out all the details on the posted document.

And then with respect to testing, let me offer my deep thanks to Josh Wynne, who has been working at the state level to make sure that testing will happen on campus. Our ability to test everyone – students, faculty and staff  – will be a critical component of combating COVID-19.

Testing will be on a voluntary basis, but again, in the spirit of keeping each other safe. And to better understand the direction of the virus on our campus, we urge you to take advantage of these testing opportunities.

Let me end this quick video with a quick update on a topic that I raised in an earlier video, and that is our Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. The vice presidents and I are working with elected leaders across the campus, in particular from the University Senate, the Staff Senate and student government, to identify persons to serve on this important task force, and also to work on refining the charter that describes the work that the Task Force will do.

You know, the people that we work with on campus, and that we go to school with deserve our utmost respect. And I’ll do my very best to continue highlighting opportunities for all of us to better understand the diverse cultures and backgrounds of the members of our campus community.

I wish you a good weekend, and I look forward to seeing you here on campus in August, if not sooner. And always remember that together, we are one.