UND leaders answer questions from students, parents in Open Forum

Tuition, testing and tracing were among the topics as UND students and parents asked questions in a virtual Town Hall

The University of North Dakota held a virtual Town Hall for students and parents on Aug. 12, focusing on UND’s Smart Restart. Below is a transcript of the event.

Cassie Gerhardt

Cassie Gerhardt

Cassie Gerhardt, associate vice president for student affairs & diversity and associate dean of students: Welcome to our Open Forum. My name is Cassie Gerhardt. I have the pleasure of serving as the associate vice president for student affairs and diversity. We appreciate you taking some time this evening so we can share some updates with you, and hopefully we can get your questions answered.

To get us started this evening, it is my pleasure to introduce you all to President Andy Armacost, who’s going to kick us off this evening. President Armacost, it’s all yours.

Andrew Armacost

President Andy Armacost: Thanks, Cassie. It’s great to be with everyone. Thanks for dialing in. Hopefully, this is an informative session for each and every one of you.

So all of you who are returning, welcome back, almost!

When you come to campus, there will be a few changes that you’ll see regarding how we’re operating. But rest assured that you’re going to get a great experience on campus. We’re trying our very best to minimize the risk of any health consequences of COVID, and we’re making sure that we can offer the safest possible campus that we can.

And to the new folks, our new students, welcome! Welcome to each and every one of you.

We know how exciting it is to go through this transition and to begin your career at UND. We know that you’re going to have an absolutely wonderful time.

Before I turn the microphone over to all of my teammates, I wanted to make sure that when you come here, you follow all the safety protocols that we’re putting into place. As we think about protecting you and your classmates, prevention, testing and response are the operative words.

And when it comes to prevention, we’d like to make sure that you keep a safe distance at all times from others. So the standard 6-foot wingspan or 6-foot distance is really important.

In addition, we have a requirement that when you’re interacting with others, you wear a face covering. So when you’re inside, you’ll always wear a face covering, and when you’re outside and can’t maintain a 6-foot distance, you’ll wear a face covering as well.

It’s important for us to do this to keep each other safe and to really look out for the most vulnerable people within our campus population.

So, please follow those safety protocols when you’re on campus. And then in addition, there’s COVID-19 safety training that we expect you to fulfill, just to make sure that you certify that that you’ve taken into account all the different safety precautions that we need. The deadline — Cassie, correct me if I’m wrong — is the 21st of August. So please take the time to do that; it’s very important.

I also encourage each and every one of you to test before coming to campus — to get a test for COVID.

And if you test positive at home, we asked you to stay there and do your quarantine or your isolation in place with your families before coming to campus.

But if you can’t test before coming here, we’ll have a whole bunch of testing opportunities on campus for you as well, and we’ll publish those dates for you. I think they’re actually on the COVID-19 Blog, blogs.und.edu/coronavirus/.

And I know that we have a video. But before we get to that, let me just say we’re relying really heavily on all of us. So you and all the people on the screen, all the faculty and staff members and particularly the student body, we all are being asked to abide by the expectations and the standards to keep each other safe.

All those ideas that I talked about — safe distancing, handwashing, face coverings — this is how we keep each other safe. We as a community at UND are all about looking out for each other, and we want you to adopt those standards and those ideas as you come back to campus or when you come to campus for the first time.

We look forward to seeing you, and I look forward to meeting hopefully each and every one of you! Let me turn it back to Cassie to tune up a video for you! So, enjoy. Thanks for joining us.

Cassie Gerhardt: This is a video that was produced here at the University of North Dakota featuring some of our student leaders to share their advice on face coverings.

Matt Ternus: Hi I’m Matt Ternus, Student Body President.

Kaelan Reedy: And I’m Kaelan Reedy, Student Body Vice President at UND. We’re so glad to be on campus again.

Matt: And as you can see, things are a little different.

Kaelan: Our goal is to help keep everyone on campus save this semester, to keep campus open and to get us back to normal or at least a new normal as soon as we can.

Matt: When in class and other places where you may interact with others, you will need to wear a face covering.

Kaelan: I will wear a face covering to keep you safe, and you will wear one to keep me and others safe.

Matt: Wearing a face covering does not replace the need to continue frequent handwashing, disinfecting surfaces and practicing physical distancing.

Kaelan: We’re asking you to be flexible with course arrangements, as well.

Matt: With fewer students able to be in the classroom, flexible arrangements are most likely needed.

Kaelan: Continue to work closely with your instructors throughout the semester.

Matt: Stay safe, and we’re all in this together.

Cassie Gerhardt: Let me stop my share there, and then we’ll get into some questions. So Matt and Kaelan also are modeling the face coverings that all students will get starting the week of Aug. 24.

To let you know kind of how things will work this evening: you will see on your screen an Opportunity or Q&A feature. If you have questions you would like to have answered, I would encourage you to submit them there in the Q&A feature.

We are recording today’s session, and we will get it transcribed and posted on the website within the next couple of days. And I will also remind you, we have another open forum scheduled for next week, Tuesday, Aug. 18, same time — 6 o’clock Central. We assume similar questions, but again, this group will rejoin us next Tuesday so that you’re aware.

My colleagues who are on the screen, as I call on you and send a question your way, I will ask for you to do a self-introduction so that folks understand who you are, and maybe the area that you represent.

As everybody knows, we’ve received a large number of pre-submitted questions. And some of those are probably questions that are also coming in right now to the Q&A feature. We’re going to start with about seven or eight of those questions that we received that have been quite frequently asked to us in recent weeks.

To get us started, President Armacost, I’m going to go back to you with another question: At what threshold will the University cancel in-person classes or send students home?

President Armacost: Well, I hope you can hear me; I’m having a terrible connection on my end. So hopefully my voice is coming through loud and clear. You can? Good.

On our Healthy Hawks website, which is blogs.und.edu/coronavirus, there’s a whole outline of the thresholds that describe the different safety levels that we’ll have on campus. And what you’ll see there are a number of factors that we’ll consider to make judgments about whether or not we have to go all-online or whether we’ll stay with the hybrid approach that we have set up. Provost Storrs can actually talk about how classes are going to run as well.

But before we get to her, just know that we’re going to pay attention to what’s happening on campus in terms of infection rates, and in terms of how many people are being quarantined as a result of being close contacts with with infected students or faculty or staff.

In addition, we’ll look at what’s happening in the local community — what are the rates within the city of Grand Forks — and then also looking at the hospital capacity, to make sure that they’re capable of handling cases should anyone need to be hospitalized.

But I think one of the most important pieces is to really recognize there’s no firm number, and we’ll pay close attention to these trends.

In addition, if we know that our contact tracers, who are trying to figure out who is connected to a positive case — if they get tapped out, that’s a problem as well.

So, we’ll be paying attention to a whole bunch of indicators, looking at all the resources that we have available and determining whether we’re getting close to a break point. That’s what’s going to determine whether we shut down and go to online learning.

The good news is, a lot of preparation has been put into place to get us ready to teach online. In fact, many of our professors have really amplified their efforts to offer great online programs, and [done] a lot of work over the summer. So, Provost Storrs, since I’ve introduced that, I think people will be interested in the modes of learning that they’ll see when they come back to campus.

Debbie Storrs

Debbie Storrs, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs: Hi, everyone. My name is Debbie Storrs. I’m the provost and vice president for academic affairs. I can’t wait to see you back on campus in a couple of weeks; I’m so looking forward to that.

We spent a significant amount of time in summer with our faculty, who’ve done a lot of work — working with our instructional designers — to help prepare for students coming back to the classroom.

If you’re a continuing student, you know that we offer a robust set of both online and on-campus courses. And you can make those choices when you work with your advisor to select your course schedule.

Many students, even if they’re on campus, will take an online course as well.

That being said, this summer the faculty have been working hard, in case we have to go remote, in case the virus requires us to take some time and get back online completely.

They are prepared to do that. And they’ve been working to ensure that the kinds of experiences students will have in online classes will be engaging and interactive.

But in general, for the on-campus courses, faculty have also been working with instructional designers and spending time this summer to determine how to manage a smaller group of students in any one time in the classroom.

One of the things that we need to do is to make sure there’s that physical distancing that President Armacost mentioned. All of us will do that, including in the classroom. And that means fewer students in the classroom at any one point in time.

So, faculty will manage students in a variety of ways. One way, for example, is they’ll assign students different groups, and certain groups will join in class while the other two groups remote in. And that ensures every student in an on-campus class has a face to face interaction both with the faculty member and their peers. And then we’ll rotate students into the classroom to ensure that everybody has that same kind of experience.

That’s just one example of how faculty members will manage bringing in smaller groups of students into the classroom.

I’d be happy to answer other questions that I’m sure will come up around the classroom later.

Cassie Gerhardt: Sounds good. Thank you, Dr. Storrs.

I’ve got another question for the president, but I think he’s getting reconnected with the sound. So I’ll give him a second.

I’m going to jump to my next one. And part of this to both Vice President Storrs and Vice President Halgren; there are parts for each of you.

How will we handle students who refuse to wear face coverings or who do not abide by the safe practices that have been outlined in the Healthy Hawks?

So, perhaps Vice President Storrs, you could look at it from a faculty response in the classroom setting?

Debbie Storrs: Sure. First of all, I don’t think it’s going to be a significant number of students who have that attitude. My experience with students at UND is they care about the community. And so I presume that we’ll have high compliance.

The other thing I’ll say is that, you know, faculty are committed educators. They’ve spent years of their lives studying their profession, studying ideas, and they’re committed.

What we’ve encouraged faculty to do is to help educate students why compliance — wearing the face covering, the physical distancing, etc. — in the classroom is so important.

That being said, faculty will manage this in different ways. We’ve encouraged them to communicate to students why face coverings are important.

If a student walks into the classroom without a face covering, faculty will have extra face coverings to provide for that student. If that’s a routine problem, we’ve encouraged the faculty member to virtually pull the student aside in either a Zoom or a phone call, or an email, and encourage them and remind them of the requirement. This is a requirement in every classroom.

If it continues to be a problem, this is really disruptive to the learning environment and puts people at risk. And so that’s when we would work with our colleagues in Student Affairs and the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, because it is a violation of a requirement in a classroom.

So, we’ve encouraged faculty to work with that office, but to first have the relationship and conversations with the students.

I will just say that, you know, many of our faculty develop really strong bonds with our students. And part of that relationship is helping the student understand why it’s important to the faculty member and to the student’s peers, for everyone to comply with the face coverings. It’s about caring for others.

That’s why I don’t think it’s going to be a big issue, because faculty have really good relationships with our students.

But I’ll turn it over to Dr. Halgren to talk a little bit about once it gets kicked over to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. What is the process there?

Cara Halgren

Cara Halgren, vice president for student affairs & diversity: Thanks. My name is Cara Halgren, and I serve as the vice president for student affairs and diversity here at UND. And Dr. Storrs is absolutely right: we are about education. So, whether it’s in the classroom or whether it’s through the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, our greatest concern is helping students understand why we have these safety practices and expectations in place and encouraging them to abide by them for their own safety as well as the safety of our greater community.

Our OSRR colleagues in the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, may end up calling in a student. If the faculty member is concerned about a student’s behavior, they may contact colleagues in OSRR to follow up with the student.

Again, our first approach is to help students understand the expectations that are in place, help them understand how they can meet those expectations.

If that still doesn’t work — again, every situation is different. We will work with students again to try and abide by the policy. But if that ultimately doesn’t work out, then we need to talk with the student about whether or not continuing courses in the classroom is actually in their best interest.

Again, it is a case-by-case situation. And we work with all students individually.

Debbie Storrs: Before we move on, can I either ask Ashley (Vigen), our Academic Core Advisor, or Dr. Karyn Plumm, our Vice Provost for Student Success, to talk about some of the other options we could provide a student who doesn’t want to wear the face covering in terms of course options? Could one of you speak to that?

Karyn Plumm

Karyn Plumm, vice provost for student success: Sure, I can take that. Hi, I’m Karyn Plumm; I’m the vice provost for student success. Our advisors will work with students to help them select a section that might work better for them. If they’re interested in changing to an online section or if they’re interested in making an arrangement to engage with a course remotely, those are also options for almost every course available.

Cassie Gerhardt: President Armacost, I’ve got another question for you. We see this one quite a bit.

When and how will the University determine if changes are needed for the end of the semester? Specifically, this relates to things people are seeing related to Thanksgiving. And if there will be any early announcements relating to a pivot in instruction following Thanksgiving?

President Armacost: So, we’ve talked a lot about this. There’s a number of schools that have opted to go online after Thanksgiving.

What we’d like to do, first things first, is wait to see what happens on campus when everybody returns in a couple of weeks. What’s the trend of the virus? What issues do we have in terms of knocking it down? Again, we’ve done quite a bit of this over the summer. And our systems are strongly in place to respond very quickly to flare-ups of the virus.

What we’d like to do is wait to see how August goes, and see how the subsequent weeks go.

I know that families are trying to make plans already, so we’re trying to kind of blend the two objectives. One is to observe, and two is to give you enough time to plan.

So what we’ll do is on the first of October, we’ll make that call about what we’re planning on doing after Thanksgiving, whether we’re going to shift to remote learning exclusively or if we’ll finish up the classes on campus as originally designed.

So first of October, that’s the date you should mark on your calendars. We’ll get word back out to you.

Cassie Gerhardt: Great, and while I’ve got you, I’ve got a question that I’m going to start with you, President Armacost, and then Vice President Shivers, there might be some additional comments that you want to make.

There are some questions regarding tuition. And if there’s a change in instruction, if things go to remote mode, what would be plans for a tuition discount or tuition refund at that point?

President Armacost, if you want to start or Vice President Shivers wants to also provide?

President Armacost: I’m happy to start, and then Vice President Shivers and Provost Storrs will probably chime in as well.

Fortunately, we had a lot of time to think about this in terms of what happened last spring, because we’ve heard this request. But as we thought about our online programs, we’ve invested a lot of effort — and Provost Storrs just mentioned this — the work over the summer has been extraordinary to get our online offerings to an incredible level. And so we’re very pleased with the work that faculty members have done. We know that it’s a high quality experience for our students.

And so, as a consequence, we’re going to continue with the same tuition structure that we have. In other words, if you’re on campus, if you’re an on-campus student, you’ll pay the on-campus tuition rates, and that applies for online versions of the same courses as well.

Again, the quality levels are just extraordinarily high. We’re tremendously proud of our long history of offering these, but in particular, the work that’s gone on most recently has really done wonders with those courses.

So let me turn it over to Jed Shivers for his additional comments.

Jed Shivers

Jed Shivers, vice president for finance & operations: Hi, I’m Jed Shivers. I’m the Vice President for Finance and Operations, and I’m also the chairman of the COVID Pandemic Planning Committee.

And I guess really what I would add to what President Armacost said is, we’re actually lucky here in North Dakota, relatively speaking, because: A, our state really invests in higher education, and we thank our legislators, state government and congressional delegation for that.

And B, as a result of that, we have been able to use CARES Act funding to really strengthen our campus to create a more COVID-resilient and resistant campus. And directly to the President’s point, we really have invested in dollars associated with improving both remote learning and the online environment. And we’ve been a leader in that for many years in the Midwestern region.

So from our perspective, we put a lot of resources into this, we feel good about where we are, and we’ve been able to do more in North Dakota because we’ve gotten these additional funds, which we’ve used for that purpose.

I think the other thing that we probably want to keep in mind is in addition to that, the CARES Act money that went to students, which helped those in need, I think was important and effective. I think that was almost $3 million.

And then beyond that, we’re using CARES Act dollars to use on a need-based basis to make sure that students who are learning remotely and have financial needs really have the equipment that they’re going to need to be successful.

So in all those areas, we’re really creating as well as we can an environment which is going to support outstanding teaching and learning. And I don’t want to forget: on campus, if you can imagine all of the classrooms that we have — let’s say there’s about 250 — just about every one of those classrooms is being touched with enhanced audio visuals, enhanced wireless, everything that we can do to really create a more conducive on-campus learning environment, which also will provide a better experience for everybody.

Cassie Gerhardt: Did you have some additional thoughts?

Debbie Storrs: I do. What I would like to point out is that we know that students and families consider the cost of attendance when they make the decision about where to go to college. We’re grateful and excited that you’ve selected UND. And I suspect one of the reasons – beyond our quality educational opportunities – is because we’re an excellent, reasonable cost. So if you think about the tuition at UND – this is a flagship research institution – you compare it to other institutions, we are simply a great value.

And then the only other thing I would say is that faculty care deeply about education. I can’t give enough kudos to our faculty and to our personnel in our teaching center. It’s called the Teaching Transformation and Development Academy and they have a number of instructional designers and other staff who have worked really closely with faculty this summer. So faculty bring the expertise and the learning outcomes they want to implement. Students learn and they work with an instructional designer. How do we ensure that that can happen if we have to go online, that we have some students remote in. And so the partnership between the faculty and instructional designer is that we have great quality online courses and great on-campus courses that can go online should we need to.

I think you’re going to get a great experience here, regardless of whether we’re online on campus or a combination of that.

Cassie Gerhardt: We’re going to shift gears now. Rosy, I’ve got a few questions for you that really center around testing for COVID-19. Could you explain a little bit about what we’re doing in the area of testing, what our plans are in the coming weeks? Under what criteria do students get tested? I know you’re an expert in all of this stuff, and have done great in guiding us to talk about testing that’s provided to students. Can you explain a little bit about our testing procedures, and then what happens should the students test positive for COVID-19?

Rosy Dub

Rosy Dub, director of student health: We have been fortunate that we have great support from the North Dakota Department of Health, as well as in the U.S., to provide ongoing free testing to our students. We started having testing events in July, where we asked people to come and be tested. That was to get a feel for what our percentage of positives would be on campus, and help us in our preparation to know how to address the ongoing concern that we have for positive COVIDs on campus. So, yes, out throughout next week, we have four events for free testing for students, faculty and staff. It is restricted to that group of people. So we invite you to either be tested at home before you come or certainly take advantage of one of those testing opportunities when you come to campus.

The testing systems that we have are free to our students through the North Dakota Department of Health. None of them are rapid. I think I saw one question come across: Do you have rapid testing? Rapid testing is very hard to come by. Even our local hospital has a very limited supply for student emergencies to allow rapid, meaning a few hours of resulting.

The standard right now across the state is still to do the test [and send it] to the State Health Department. If it does become positive or a result is positive, then the person is called. If it’s negative, unfortunately it can take several days to get those results back. But be assured that if you’re positive, you will be called within 48 to 72 hours – as soon as that test is run.

There’s a process that takes place immediately upon positive results. The Health Department has what we call contact tracers. These contact tracers are people working under the umbrella of the Health Department that actually do case investigation. They call the person who tested positive and find out, first of all, how they’re doing, and if they have any needs immediately. They do the tracing to figure out where they were, who they had contact with, and, from there, a string of contacts are identified. And additionally, all those contacts are them reached out to and asked similar questions about how they’re feeling. They’re alerted to know that they are identified as a close contact.

The person who’s positive, we move into isolation. So the key words that I look at for us helping each other stay open is to test, to isolate, and to contact trace. We have to have people that are willing to be tested to know where the clusters of infectiousness are, and then we need to isolate them from the other people and follow up to see who they’ve had contact with and take care of those people. We have processes in place where people were positive or moved to a place of isolation and services are continued.

I don’t know if I’m jumping on anybody else’s information here, but services are continued and provided to make sure the student has food, has housing, has access to their academic internet services where they can continue their courses and provide absence notifications to their professors or instructors, letting them know that they won’t be in class. And then, equally, all their close contacts are what we call quarantine. Isolate means you’ve been diagnosed, identified with the disease. Quarantine means you’ve been exposed to the disease and we need to separate you, also, from people in case you become infected. So for those people, our isolation period is 10 days from the time that you start symptoms or 10 days from a positive test if you don’t have symptoms. The quarantine is 14 days. If my son is a roommate of someone who tests positive, my son is going to be moved also to an area of quarantine. The same services will be provided and food will be provided. They can have access to medical mental health services remotely. We take care to make sure that they’re taken care of.

The testing will be ongoing even after the events next week. We plan to continue free testing for students. And that will be on a program where we either test a percentage of high-risk students and a percentage of normal students on campus to see, again, if we can identify any clusters and quickly isolate them if we do. So we have processes in place where we want to continue the testing throughout the semester. Again, we’ve had tremendous support from the National Guard, from the health department and NDUS to make sure that we can meet these goals that we have.

There’s a question: Can family be tested at these events when they come next week? I’m sorry that those are reserved for students, faculty and staff, these particular events. If you happen to be in town this Thursday or Friday, you’re welcome to come as a UND affiliate to either of those testing events. The actual week of moving and starting are reserved for UND people.

Cassie Gerhardt: The question I have for you next is: Can you clarify about testing requirements versus testing expectations and where we’re at in terms of our expectations coming from the North Dakota University System? There are lots of questions about clarifying requirements.

Rosy Dub: I’m director of student health and I’m also on the pandemic response team. And happy to be here at UND and getting ready for the fall and getting ready for students. So the expectations are that we highly encourage students to be tested and we ask parents to support us in this venture – to ask them to be tested. Again, this is to help us stay open, help us stay well. There’s not a requirement. We just didn’t feel from NDUS it was something that we needed to require. We still want this to be free choice.

We want people to make decisions based on taking care of each other and taking care of themselves. So it is not a requirement in NDUS, but it’s highly encouraged. And when we talk about testing, the real thing is that if we could get everybody to maintain that six-foot physical distancing, and we’re face covering, we would go a long ways. So please encourage those things as well.

Cassie Gerhardt: Jed, I’m going to come to you for one more clarifying question on the whole area of refund. Can you speak specifically to housing and dining response if the university were to transition to remote instruction?

Jed Shivers: Sure, I’ll do this in a fashion with my colleague, Dr. Halgren. So, you know, last year what happened was, as people know, who were here at a certain point in time, the state of North Dakota along with much of the rest of the United States, kind of locked down in response. And we said to virtually all of our students, go home. And that’s what happened, but we still had some people remaining on campus because they didn’t have any place to go to. As a result, we basically said what’s the portion of the year that you all did not utilize of your prepaid housing and dining. And generally speaking, we refunded that portion, trying to make it as clear and equitable as we possibly could. Dr. Halgren, do you want to add anything to that?

Cara Halgren: The only thing that I would add is that we recognize that if things change, situations are different for all of our students. And so, certainly, pro-rated refunds will be available for those students who leave the residence halls or aren’t able to take advantage of dining services. But what we want you to know is that we will work with you and your students to make sure that you have a safe way to make whatever transitions that you need to make. And so previously, we’ve had students stay in residence halls, because in some cases, it was safer for them to stay here than it was to go back home. So, again, I’m very proud of the work that we’ve done with students one on one to make decisions that are in their best interests. I envision that that will continue to be the way that we will operate. And so I would add that to Jed’s comments.

Cassie Gerhardt: Orlynn, I’m going to bring a couple of questions to you. We’re getting some questions about the dining halls. Could you talk a little bit about if the dining hall will be open, and then what plans have been put in place to make our dining center safe for students?

Orlynn Rosaasen

Orlynn Rosaasen, director of dining services: My name is Orlynn Rosaasen and I’m director of dining services. I oversee all the dining operations at UND. The dining team has been busy this summer, really putting plans in place so that we can have the dining halls open along with all of the other retail operations on campus. The short answer is yes, the dining halls will be open. In addition to what’s already been mentioned, we talk about face coverings and the physical distancing, there are additional changes that dining is looking at or systems that we’ve implemented.

I think the biggest one that’s probably the most noticeable is that our primary service is going to be takeout service. The reasoning for that is In order to maintain the physical distancing in the dining rooms themselves, we need to limit the seating. Our capacity is probably about 25 to 30 percent of normal capacity. In order to ensure that students can get food, get something to eat and get on their way, everything will be served on disposables. Even if the student is choosing to dine in and use the space that is available, they will be served on disposables. In addition to that, we’re using contactless access into the dining center. Students will be able to use their mobile phones as their ID when they come to the dining centers. There will be be plenty of hand sanitizing stations throughout the service area. And in addition to that there will be disinfectant wipes in areas of high touch.

There will be dining staff circulating through the service area trying to clean all of those surfaces after each student, but that’s going to be a little bit tasking or challenging. We’re asking students to help with that by utilizing the disinfectant wipes, both before and after they touch the surface. We are also utilizing a contactless process to transition the food from the service staff to the students. All food will be passed to them on a tray, and all self-service has been eliminated. Dining Services staff will serve all of the food. Students will be able to see what they want, select it, and then we’ll put it in the containers for them. And we have installed a lot of Plexiglas around the surface area. So there is a division between the students and the staff—a lot of safety measures.

We also recognize the fact that the dining centers are traditionally an area of socialization. And even though there is a six-foot span between the chairs in the dining room, they still are close enough that a lot of conversation can occur. I would encourage students to go ahead and still use the space if it’s available. We have implemented a reservation system through a Grub Hub app. Students will receive information on that shortly, how to make reservations for the dining room.

We always want feedback. We know that there’s a lot of changes that have occurred and you know, some of these sound good to us, but we also want to make sure that they’re working for the students. So if your students have feedback, and they want to provide that to me, an email is always efficient. Thank you.

Cassie Gerhardt: Debbie and Karyn, we’re getting some questions best answered between you two and it’s about beyond the classroom, some of the academic supports that will be in place for students. Maybe some of the changes between what was remote, when we made a quick transition this spring, and what’s different now. Also, people are asking questions about accommodations and support available to students who don’t find success in the online learning environment, and then specifically related to ProctorU and how students might utilize that.

Karyn Plumm: In terms of students having support, if they have classes online, or if there is a piece of their class that is online that they are struggling with, we will continue to have learning services available. Students can make individual appointments to talk to one of our learning specialists about how to be successful in an online course. We also have tutoring available in many of our larger courses. Those courses will be holding virtual peer-lead sessions this semester, so it will be similar to a group study session, virtually, for students who may be struggling in some of our larger courses.

Debbie Storrs: I would add that we have a number of other services that students can use. We have our Writing Center, which has a new space in the library. Most of our services are going to be remote, to protect the safety of students and our writing consultants. Our Career Services can also be remote, as well as our advising. What we’re trying to encourage is all of the services are provided to students, but we’re trying to do it via Zoom and phone call versus in-person because, again, we’re trying to maintain physical distancing.

Regarding testing, every faculty member will determine how to manage their testing. Some of them will be using ProctorU – there are a number of kinds of testing software programs they can use. They can use it through Blackboard and other kinds of testing, so that is an individual faculty decision. If you’re a student, and you have questions about how a faculty member is going to test, or how they’re going to manage the final exam, please talk to your faculty member.

Cassie Gerhardt: Dr. Halgren, there are a couple of questions related to the work we do beyond the campus. Can you speak to what’s happening in the Grand Forks community? Some people asking if bars and restaurants are open, for those that may have been away from campus for a while. Also wondering about how students may be monitored so that they’re not joining large gatherings off campus. And then related to that, we received some questions specific about fraternities and sororities and what might happen there. So, more about expectations and conversations related to student activities that go beyond campus and the classroom.

Cara Halgren: Great questions. Are bars and restaurants in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks still open? Yes. They are. That is true. Do we know that students and other community members are visiting those spaces? Yes. Are there safety procedures from the state that are in place to modify how those spaces are used? Yes. North Dakota Department of Health has a great website that lists information about the protocol and rules that govern the state and our businesses at this point.

In terms of students, we work with student leaders on a regular basis and one of the things that we spent a lot of time talking about is the new events guidelines that will allow students to stay connected while also physically distance. We saw a little of this last spring – our students continually have better ideas than we do about how to make this happen, and I have seen things happen in virtual spaces, including end-of-year celebrations, that I have never see in my career. Right now, we’re spending time talking with students about the expectations for events and planning and helping them plan events that can be successful in light of what we’re dealing with, with COVID-19.

In terms of our Greek students, our Greek leaders are part of these conversations too, and we’re working with Greek students as well as their advisors about event management. They’re concerned about COVID-19 and what that might mean for the chapter members and their house. Again, we have ongoing and consistent conversations with those students about what the expectations are and how they can be successful once they come back to campus.

The reality is that all of us, whether you live in a residence hall or [are] a member of a Greek house or whether you’re part of a specific organization that spends time together, we’re all responsible for making sure that we’re abiding by physical distancing and face coverings and things like that to make sure that we all stay healthy. We continue to try and educate each other and ourselves about these issues, and, again, looking forward to a great Fall. And know that if there are bumps along the way, we will continue to talk to students about different ways to do things moving forward.

Cassie Gerhardt: Jed, I have a couple of questions for you related to transportation and parking. Questions are being asked: Do I really need to get a parking permit? Are parking spaces going to be enforced if there are fewer people on campus? And, can you speak to campus shuttle buses?

Jed Shivers: In terms of parking, yes, you have to buy a permit. I think the reality is that we’re going to be looking at making parking as logical as we can this year. The likelihood is that we’ll probably see fewer employees taking up parking spaces. We hope to see as many students as ever, obviously. What we’re probably going to be doing is, once we have a good understanding of how parking lots are filling, we’ll be looking at the prime parking areas and making sure that it works for everyone in an optimal way.

But the reality is that we still have to pay for parking expenses. There are people and work that needs to be done to make sure lots are functional. Because we still need to pay for that, we still have to ask people to buy a permit.

With regard to shuttle buses, I’m so glad that I have a couple of minutes because I and my AVP for Facilities, Mike Pieper, got a question from a parent on this topic. I’ll quickly read you the news on shuttle buses. This August will mark the first academic year that the UND shuttle bus will be operated by Cities Area Transit, also known as CAT. CAT will operate the new, safer buses with their licensed and continually trained drivers. These are really nice buses. They’re not like school buses. The shuttle routes are two looping routes that circulate the campus. These routes will be operated by CAT, the same way UND has operated them in the past. Anyone can get on the bus – employees, students, visitors, neighbors, etc. – without paying a fare.

Since these buses do not leave campus, no one rides them unless they’re already on campus. As you would expect, buses are cleaned daily, including the driver’s area. The drivers are provided hand sanitizer and Clorox bleach wipes. They’re well-stocked in keeping our buses clean. CAT has moved to a stronger, hospital-grade product for increased safety. Every evening, CAT buses are cleaned and disinfected thoroughly. This is something we invested in along with the City of Grand Forks and I think they’re going to be back and nicer than ever.

Casssie Gerhardt: President Armacost, I have a question for you. I think this is a $64,000 one for so many. Will there be a hockey season this year? People are asking questions about athletics and plans there. It starts with hockey.

President Armacost: Well, as you know, sports in general has been a crazy business lately with Major League Baseball, NBA in the “bubble,” the National Hockey League playing in empty arenas. The fact is there is a lot of discussion happening in the NCAA about sports. We have of course delayed the football season to the spring. That announcement happened last week. Early this week, the Summit Conference moved all other sports to the spring as well. All fall sports to the spring. That leaves hockey.

There is no decision yet from the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. That meeting is either next week or the week after, so the presidents will get together. The hockey season starts a little later than football, so there is more time to buffer. We’ll see. I won’t tell you where my suspicions are – it could go either way, delayed or on-schedule. That’s what the presidents need to talk about – figure out what’s safest for the athletes and also the fans who might wish to attend those great UND hockey games. Thanks for asking, and hopefully that gives you a good summary.

Cassie Gerhardt: Provost Storrs, I have a question for you, more to provide direction. I know we’re getting questions specific to “my college” and “my specific major.” If students have questions that are about their academic program, their major, their course, where would you direct them to go to get those program or course-specific questions answered?

Debbie Storrs: Many of our academic deans are holding their own open forums for students, both new and continuing. Hopefully you participated in some of those. There are very specific college questions – aviation, nursing, all sorts of things. I understand that. My recommendation is that students should reach out to the main contact on their College’s website, which should connect you with the dean’s office or an associate dean. That said, if you don’t know how to reach them, the best is that you work with your advisor. You can find your advisor in… Karyn?

Karyn Plumm: Every student can find their advisor in Starfish under “My Success Network.” It will have your advisor’s name, how to contact them, and you can actually schedule an appointment right there. And your advisor is going to be helpful because he or she can help steer you to the right person in your college for specific questions. Your advisor may be able to answer the question for you, as well.

Cassie Gerhardt: Troy, I’m going to pivot to you and, I think, some rapid fire questions related to residence halls. In light of the fact we’re moving to singles, do I need to bring sheets for one bed or two beds? Will there be one or two beds in the residence hall room?

Troy Noeldner

Troy Noeldner, director of housing: It’s come up a few times. In all of our rooms that are designed for two students, we will have two sets of furniture. Finding a place to store 1,700-1,800 pieces of furniture was not an easy feat for us. What we have found when we have offered double to singles, or students living in double rooms, is that students can become quite creative in how they arrange the furniture and use it to their advantage. We think students will find it quite easy to arrange the furniture. The beds can be disassembled, they can tuck the mattresses under another mattress and create quite a bit of space in the room.

Cassie Gerhardt: There are questions about residence halls related to cleaning supplies. If I can’t find wipes in my community, am I going to have access to those types of resources for bathrooms and things like that?

Troy Noeldner: Our great staff of Building Services Technicians provides cleaning services for all community bathrooms and common areas in our buildings. For students living in our community cluster buildings, those bathrooms will be cleaned daily. Students living in our suite buildings, those bathrooms will be cleaned weekly. We’ll have disinfecting wipes available on every floor in community space lounges that students can use to sanitize tables, kitchenette areas. If needed, they can sanitize spaces in their bathrooms and other spaces within their room. We’ve always had students be responsible for cleaning up their personal, individual bedroom spaces. That will continue this year, like other years.

Students living in apartment units have been responsible for cleaning their own spaces and that will continue for this year. Our BST staff has already said if students have questions and concerns related to this COVID environment, they’re there to help and answer questions that students might have.

Cassie Gerhardt: Specific for moving weekend: are family members only allowed in the residence halls during their two-hour moving period, or will they be allowed back in during the weekend to help students get set up?

Troy Noeldner: As long as everybody limits themselves to two people with their student coming in, and I’m pretty confident most students will comply with that, we will really have to watch it to see how congested the buildings get. We’ve got everything spread out pretty well. We should not have a problem with parents staying or being with their students beyond the two-hour window. If that changes or questions arise, we’ll work with staff to notify parents and others that we have to just spread out or go outside for a bit and let other students and their parents time to move in.

Cassie Gerhardt: Are water fountains going to be operational around campus?

Troy Noeldner: We’ll have signage by all the water fountains, and fountains will be left on. There was a lot of discussion about this early on in our response planning. We encourage students to make good choices about using those water fountain stations. We would encourage students probably not to use the more common bubbler or water fountain ones and choose to use the water bottle filling stations.

Cassie Gerhardt: Since technology is going to be so critical to online learning, what support is available for students if they have computer issues or need hardware or other technology support?

Madhavi Marasinghe

Madhavi Marasinghe, chief information officer:  You can always reach out to University Information Technology, UIT. We can work with you on your equipment. If you need to loan a laptop, or any other equipment, we can help you with that as well. So if you have any concerns, any questions, do reach out to 777-2222. That’s our helpdesk number, and we can take care of you.

Cassie Gerhardt: Can you highlight plans for Welcome Weekend and Family Weekend?

Kristi Okerlund, director of student Involvement and parent programs: Family Weekend, which was scheduled for Oct. 2-4, unfortunately, has been cancelled. So please watch for Family Weekend 2021. We will be excited to have you on campus. That doesn’t mean that you can’t visit your student this fall. Please reach out if there’s anything we can do to help answer questions about visits later on.

Kristi Okerlund

The Welcome Weekend website at und.edu/WelcomeWeekend should be updated by end of day tomorrow. That schedule was just finalized.

A couple of questions have been coming in about finding your classes. It’s important, especially since many of you have not been on campus this summer as we weren’t able to host orientation. Both on Sunday and Monday, August 23 and 24, students will be able to wander campus on their own. We will have student ambassadors positioned outside the academic buildings to help direct students. We will safely help students find their classes. That is definitely an important piece for students to feel comfortable.

Know that while Welcome Weekend will look different, we will still be helping students get connected and helping them meet a variety of other new students. A virtual student organizations fair will be on Thursday evening, August 27. We’re very excited about the opportunities that we’ll be able to share.

Cassie Gerhardt: Are we making recommendations that students not go home for weekends or holidays or long breaks? And if not, what is the protocol when they return?

Cara Halgren: We’re hoping that students and their families will make decisions that they think are best for them about traveling back and forth, whatever that might mean. We recognize that there are some areas that are hotter spots than others. We’re asking people to make those decisions with good judgment and cautiously. At the same time, there are no requirements about people checking in or testing when they leave or testing to come back. If a student leaves the campus for a while, we would encourage them to be tested once they return to campus. There will be plenty of opportunities to do that.

Cassie Gerhardt: Where can student access the COVID training they need to take?

Cara Halgren: For some of the trainings, you’ll get an email on your UND email account with links. If you missed it, you can contact Sara Kaiser and she can help people get set up with those training sessions.

Cassie Gerhardt: Do you have to wear the UND branded face coverings?

Cassie Gerhart: We will give out face coverings to students starting Monday, Aug. 24. Emails about that have started to go out. I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to show your school pride. But, we’re not going to be requiring the UND-branded face coverings. We want to make those available. We think they’re really cool. But if you want to wear a different face covering that’s totally your choice. It’s the importance of wearing the face covering. We will provide some that are UND-branded, but it really is just about whatever face covering you want to wear and to wear that when you’re around others.

Cassie Gerhardt: If my student becomes sick, should they go to the Student Health office or should they go straight to Altru?

Rosy Dub: We encourage you to please come to Student Health. We’d be more than happy to see students. If they need a referral, we can make that arrangement. We can do the testing here as well. We know that we will have symptomatic people on campus and we want to be testing those people.

Cassie Gerhardt: If a student tests positive or has been in close contact to someone who has tested positive, what is the quarantine protocol on campus?

Cara Halgren: If students are identified by medical providers as close contacts or as positive, we want them to quarantine and isolate as safely as possible. We recognize that students in the residence halls and some of our students living off campus, including in apartments or in Greek chapter houses, are not able to do so. As a result, UND has designated hotel spaces and dining that will be available to students at no additional charge for the duration of that quarantine isolation time.

The biggest thing that we need you to know is that if your student is identified as a close contact, or is identified as being positive, they need to let us know. And once they let us know, then we can work with them in terms of making sure that they have whatever support is necessary to work through that time. Our biggest concern is that they’re safe.

Cassie Gerhart: We would highly encourage you to subscribe to the COVID blog so that you get email updates. Anytime there is new information related to COVID-19 on campus, you receive an email. You can get updates about what is happening on campus. For students specifically, the reporting procedures are listed here. There is also an online reporting form. Students will submit their information and then this will provide a response email to them with a phone number to call to then start the process on isolation and quarantine housing.

We’ve got staff who are monitoring this, so that we can act not just within the business hours of the University, but outside of hours if students are notified that they need to either isolate or quarantine.

On the same site, you can check out the testing dates and you can find exactly how much wait time is available at a testing event. Also for students who are in North Dakota or in any of the border communities, the North Dakota University System is high encouraging individuals to get tested. If you go to our website, you can actually click on the link that will take you to the North Dakota University System and the information that they have provided about testing events that might be happening in a community closer to you than Grand Forks, if you want to get tested prior to your arrival on campus.

Debbie Storrs: One of the reasons it’s really important to fill out that form is so your academic advisors can work with your faculty to make sure that you continue to make progress in your courses. We’re committed to work with every student to find a solution. Not only are we going to take care of your dining and your housing, but we are here to educate you. We want to make sure that we find a solution for you in terms of how to manage staying on track in your classes.

President Armacost: Thanks for joining in. You did this to get information and hopefully what we’ve provided to you is good information and answered your questions. If there are questions that we didn’t answer, just know that we’re going to go through the whole list of questions and make sure that we post all the questions and our answers on our Frequently Asked Questions page on the COVID blog. Know that we’ll answer those questions. I wish you all happy remaining two weeks of your summer vacation. We look forward to seeing you on campus. And thanks again for tuning in. Take care.