‘How do you meet people during COVID?’ and other queries

As video and transcript show, UND leaders had answers during Wednesday’s Student & Parent Town Hall

UND held a Student and Parent Town Hall on Nov. 4. Following is a lightly edited transcript of the event.

Andy Armacost

President Andy Armacost:  Hi, good evening, everyone. And thank you for joining us today. I’m President Andy Armacost. And I just wanted to say, from the bottom of our hearts of everybody who you’ll see and hear from tonight, we thank you for joining us. This is an important session.

The purpose of today’s session is really to give you a chance to ask questions, to get feedback and to share ideas and thoughts.

I’ve been told that tonight, I’m going to make a big announcement of some sort. That’s the rumor on the street. And you’re going to be sorely disappointed, simply because there’s no big announcement to make. That’s not the intent of tonight’s event.

And furthermore, there are no big announcements to make, other than your faculty and staff members are here to support you through the rest of the semester.

Tonight, we have many of our senior administrators who are here to answer all of your questions. And let me just begin by taking just a quick moment to share my gratitude to you for all of your hard work and patience this semester. We know it’s been a semester unlike any others, and we know that you’ve been working hard, and there’s a lot of uncertainty. So thanks for bearing with us.

But our goal has been to deliver the best possible education to you that we can, given all the constraints that we face.

Undoubtedly, it’s impacted your ability to study and to really have the same experience that you might have had last fall. But hats off to you for making great things happen, and staying focused on your education, and pursuing your steps ultimately to graduation.

Let me just say also that the expectations that we have for you on campus, we have them there for a reason: it’s to protect each other. And I think it’s very important — it’s essential — for each of us to take the same precautions off campus that we take on campus.

So, be like Easton Hoffman, the famous pandemic policeman, and do what you need to do to take care of each other and to look out for each other, and to make sure that we’re doing the right things both on campus and off campus.

To the parents who might have joined us. I want to make sure that you set the right expectations for the upcoming weeks — in particular, as Thanksgiving rolls around. We want to make sure that you have set the right expectations for your kids. And listen: be safe. Don’t pull the family together; there’s a pandemic raging on, and we need you to keep each other safe.

We’re encouraging all of our students actually to stay here in Grand Forks and to avoid travel. And we need your voices, parents, to be right at the front of the line to make sure that we’re making the smart decisions for the campus, for the community, and most importantly, for your families as you as you consider getting together for Thanksgiving.

So please, abide by the right things.

We have a phrase here, “Lay low before you go.” So if you do go, for 14 days in advance, and we can say more about this, take it easy. Don’t do anything that will infect you. And make sure that you test before you go home, should you decide to do that.

Ideally, though, keep yourself safe. Stay here in Grand Forks until the semester is over.

So with that, let me turn it over to Associate Vice President Cassie Gerhardt. Cassie, to you.

Cassie Gerhardt

Cassie Gerhardt

Cassie Gerhardt, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs & Diversity and Associate Dean of Students: Thanks, President Armacost, and thanks for the introduction.

As President Armacost said, my name is Cassie Gerhardt, and I have the pleasure of moderating tonight’s presentation Open Forum Town Hall.

I want to start by letting you know, we’ve got a couple of early questions that we will ask. But if you’ve got questions that you want to make sure that we address while we’re together tonight, please start adding those to the Q&A feature on the webinar, and we will do our best to either answer them through the chat or live with our panelists tonight.

I’m going to ask my colleagues who are here, if I pitch a question your way, if you could please start with an introduction of yourself so that everybody joining knows who you are.

And also as a reminder, we will record this Town Hall and also post a transcript of the Town Hall in the next couple of days on our website.

So the first question — we’re going to pivot, and we’ve gotten a few questions about this one in recent days, and I’m gonna send this one to our Associate Vice President for Public Safety and Chief of Police, Eric Plummer.

Chief Plummer, we know that Grand Forks has implemented a mask mandate. Can you just explain to everyone what that means for our campus and the Grand Forks community? If you could describe what the plan to make masks mandatory in Grand Forks means for everyone, that would be great.

Eric Plummer

Eric Plummer, Associate Vice President for Public Safety and Chief of Police: I’m Eric Plummer, Associate Vice President for Public Safety and Chief of Police. The Grand Forks City Council and Mayor Bochenski did approve a resolution requiring every person within the city to wear a mask or a facial covering where non-household members are present, and also where six-foot distancing cannot be maintained.

This applies to indoor environments as well as outdoor settings and is really similar to what you’ve experienced on campus with our mask mandate and our facial covering requirement that you’ve experienced throughout the start of the semester.

Cassie Gerhardt: Great, thanks, Chief Plummer.

Dr. Storrs, I’m going to take this one to you. Students have asked a lot of questions about any plans to switch to S/U grading, the way we did the spring semester. So can you discuss where conversations are at in terms of potentially switching to S/U grading for the fall semester?

Debbie Storrs

Debbie Storrs, Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs: Absolutely. Good evening, students and family members. My name is Debbie Storrs; I’m the Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.

You might be aware that our Student Body government passed a resolution encouraging us to move to a more flexible S/U grading option. We did that last spring; we have an S/U grading option in the catalog. That’s an option for students.

But last spring, we provided a little bit more flexibility for that policy, and our Student Body government leaders have passed a resolution for us to consider that again this fall. It is coming up for discussion at our University Senate meeting this Thursday. We want to get faculty feedback and engagement before we make a decision. A decision will be made shortly after that meeting. We’ll keep you updated and will communicate directly to students once a decision is made.

Cassie Gerhardt: Thanks, Provost Storrs.

The next question that we received is a two-part one, and I’m going to go to my colleagues Troy Noeldner and Orlynn Rosaasen because it’s got a Housing and Dining component.

Troy, as we get ready to head into Thanksgiving, into winter break, can you just remind everyone about how the residence halls stay open over Thanksgiving and into winter break? And then Orlynn, I’m going to pivot to you if you could explain dining related to Thanksgiving and winter break.

Troy Noeldner

Troy Noeldner, Director of Housing and Residence Life: Thanks, Cassie. My name is Troy Noeldner. I’m director of Housing and Residence Life. Glad to be here.

We have been fortunate over the last several years to keep our residence halls open over the Thanksgiving and the semester break period for students in the residence halls. This year, we’re planning on doing the same thing.

Students over the Thanksgiving break really won’t have to do anything different this year if they’re planning on staying. We are asking our current staff, and we will have a survey coming out, to contact all the students in their areas to get a sense of what their plans are for the Thanksgiving break, as well as some information about what their plans are for after the Thanksgiving break, as we head into that final two or three weeks of the semester.

Semester break works the same way. Students are able to stay in there all over the break period. For that break period, we do a Registration Period, just because we have a greater number of students that do choose to — in traditional years, choose to travel away from campus; and I assume we will do a similar process for that this year.

I’ll let Orlynn talk about the dining options.

Orlynn Rosaasen

Orlynn Rosaasen, Director of Dining Services: Thanks, Troy. This is Orlynn Rosaasen, Director of Dining Services. Over Thanksgiving break. I’ll start with that. Wilkerson Dining Center is actually open. We do limit the hours during the break, because there’s typically not enough people around that warrants us being open all day, but we are open for brunch/lunch and dinner each day.

Then this year on Thanksgiving Day itself, are also offering a meal. We’re doing a traditional Thanksgiving dinner from 11 to 1:30 on Thanksgiving Day. Students with meal plans can use their meal plan to access that meal. Students without meal plans are able to pick up a voucher through the Student Involvement and Parents Programs office on campus.

And then over semester break, for students who are staying in the residence halls and have an active meal plan, their meal plan will be activated through semester breaks, so they’ll be able to access the dining centers.

And it’s kind of similar over semester break/winter break, and we do operate reduced hours. But we are open seven days a week, so we’re there to take care of students.

Cassie Gerhardt: Thanks, Orlynn and Troy.

Chief Plummer, as we think of winter break and look ahead, I’m going to give another question to you. Can you discuss where plans stand right now for students returning to UND from out-of-state and regarding any quarantine orders that might be in place? Earlier this year, people from different states had to quarantine for two weeks. Can you just discuss where things are at in the state related to potential quarantine orders?

Eric Plummer: Yes. So, right now there is no requirement for out-of-state or international travelers to quarantine upon entry into North Dakota. Now, we will continue to monitor recommendations from not only the CDC, but also any state health officer orders put in place by the North Dakota Department of Health.

And if those are put in place, we would communicate that out to the university community, to give our students, faculty and staff some time to adjust. And we’ll also make sure arrangements are in place, if people do travel back and have to quarantine for two weeks, we would make sure that they have appropriate space to do that in a safe manner.

Cassie Gerhardt: Provost Storrs, as we think ahead to the spring semester, people have asked, will classes be delivered in the same way during the spring semester as they were for the fall? If you can discuss plans for class delivery as they stand right now for the spring, that would be great.

Debbie Storrs: Absolutely. Yes, we expect our class schedule and the way we’re offering and delivering classes to continue. We continue to plan for COVID-19 in our area, even if we do have a vaccine. So yes, it will be both in-person and face-to-face, and hybrid, and online.

I’ll just say that the faculty are working really hard this fall to prep for the spring semester. They’re doing a lot of work to make sure their courses are flexible and of high quality. And their priority really is academic success for our students as well as quality learning. So yes. Thanks, Cassie.

Cassie Gerhardt: Thanks, Provost Storrs.

We’ve got a couple questions that are kind of interrelated. And this is probably for either President Armacost, Vice President Shivers or Chief Plummer.

The question’s been raised, why are we not going to 100 percent virtual learning since Grand Forks has changed to the high-risk Orange category? And related to that, people are currently watching cases in North Dakota and seeing the hospital beds fill up.

So the question is, how long are you going to let this go on until we shut down for everyone’s safety? Jed, if you want to start with that one?

Jed Shivers

Jed Shivers, Vice President for Finance and Operations: Sure. Hi, I’m Jed Shivers, and I’m the Vice President for Finance and Operations, and also the COVID lead person, along with 25 of my colleagues and close friends here at UND. We meet every day, Monday through Friday, trying to understand what’s going on in the state and in our community. And we’re constantly evaluating this question, which is an outstanding question.

What I would say is, first of all, what we really look for is what’s happening to our local health system. Is it being overwhelmed? And in this case, the answer is, it is not. And so, that is a key indicator.

The second one is, are we able to contact-trace people? And the answer is, we can, at least at this point. So, we’re not overwhelmed in our ability to deal with the cases in our campus community.

But having said that, this is something that we’re constantly looking at. And we look at it not only on a Monday through Friday basis, but we’re also evaluating it consistently when the Executive Council meets and of course, that includes the president and relevant vice presidents and other key personnel, some of whom are in this meeting. It’s something that we’re just constantly looking at, trying to decide the right course to take.

I also think it’s important to recognize that in today’s news, for example, I think we’re hearing really concerning stories out of Minot and their hospital systems and how they’re being very heavily impacted.

So as you can see, we’re well aware of what’s going on around the state. But it’s a big state, and what’s happening in one location is not necessarily indicative of what’s happening in the other.

We haven’t gotten to that point here yet. But I think that’s something that we’re always evaluating. And I won’t hesitate if we believe that this is the safest course that we need to take.

President Armacost: Jed, let me reiterate that last point — that we will take the absolute appropriate action with respect to health and safety. And in recent weeks, we’ve seen a marked difference between the positivity rates on campus with students and off campus with the community. And in fact, the student rates have been roughly half of what we’re seeing out in the broader population.

So as for what’s happening on campus: I think the students are taking it seriously. Both testing and contact tracing are essential to our response. And then we have the great resources available to be able to quarantine and isolate and take care of the folks who are identified, either as positive cases or close contacts.

So it’s a monitoring of other systems to make sure that we can minimize the risk to the campus community.

Eric Plummer: It’s also important to understand the contact tracing element of this, because we’ve seen that in the news over the last week and a half, North Dakota has been overwhelmed on the contact tracing. Early on in this process, we decided to have a group dedicated to contact tracing UND, because, as you’re aware, college campuses are a different environment for contact tracing than the general community. Having our own set of contact tracers to focus on our community, I think, has really helped us navigate through this pandemic.

And Rosy, if you want to add anything to that, they’ve done a great job building a team to solidify our resources here in Grand Forks.

Rosy Dub

Rosy Dub Director of UND COVID Medical Response and Student Health Services: I think you’ve explained that well.

Cassie Gerhardt: Rosy, I actually have a question for you. As people look ahead to Thanksgiving, we’ve gotten a question. Is it safe for students who recovered from COVID in the last 90 days to come home for Thanksgiving?

Rosy Dub: What scientists are thinking so far is that the person has a presumed immunity to COVID for about 90 days after they’ve had an active case or after they’ve tested positive. So those are the people that are probably the most protected or safest to go home.

We never want you to take that for granted and don’t want you to take risks. You still should practice the basic behaviors of maintaining your six-foot distancing, wearing face coverings when you’re out, wash your hands frequently. However we do consider that presumed immunity, so if you were a close contact with somebody, you would not have to quarantine during those 90 days.

Cassie Gerhardt: Thanks, Rosy. Another question; Students are being quarantined in the dorms. CDC told my student to stay in the dorm, and again, instead of CDC, it might be the North Dakota Health Departmen). How are you able to protect students and ensure students do not get COVID repeatedly again? So really the question, Cara, if you could clarify how we are working with students who are in the residence halls? That would be great.

Cara Halgren

Cara Halgren, Vice President for Student Affairs and Diversity: I’m Cara Halgren. I serve as the Vice President for Student Affairs and Diversity at UND. The way it’s working right now, if a student is identified as being positive, we are asking them to isolate outside of their residence hall setting. If you were identified as a close contact, we are asking you to quarantine outside of your residence hall setting.

And the reason we are doing that is because it’s about the safety of the greater whole. There was another question that was asked in the queue here — something about, well, why can’t my students stay in an apartment setting, if there are only two people that share a bathroom?

One of the issues is that we’re finding that even if you are not positive, but you’re identified as a close contact, our data right now shows that there’s about a one in four chance that if you are a close contact, you will turn to positive. Our concern is that we want to make sure that students are separated from each other. So that if that does happen, that someone else doesn’t get infected as a result of that.

If people need to isolate because they’re positive or they’re close contacts and need to quarantine, we prefer that people are doing that in settings by themselves, which is why we’ve worked with the hotels off campus to provide students a safe place to do that.

Cassie Gerhardt: So Cara, just to clarify, students would not be asked to quarantine in a residence hall. So if someone’s been told that, that would not be accurate?

Cara Halgren: No, that would not be accurate. And so this is where I’m going to pass it on to my colleague, Troy Noeldner in Housing. Certainly if there are concerns about that, I would ask that you would contact Troy. And I also see Rosy looking to flag me, so Rosy?

Rosy Dub: I should have introduced myself previously. I’m Rosy Dub, and I’m currently serving as director of the UND COVID clinical response.

The direction to quarantine or isolate in the dorm room may have been misunderstood. Our State Health Department does recommend that students do not go home and take the virus home. So if they had been given the information or the recommendation to quarantine in their dorm room, that may have been — I’d say, not really incorrect, but not what we want students to do. But I understand how they could have been misconstrued.

Along with Cara’s explanation of providing them hotel rooms, we want to make sure that you understand that that includes meals, and making sure they have access to their academics, wi fi and things like that, all at no financial burden to the student or the family.

And maybe I’m taking your thunder here, Cara; but you know, at the very origin of this pandemic, our intentions were initially going to be that we would offer those services to students that live in the residence hall. But I’m very proud that we extended that all students who need to have a safe place to quarantine or isolate.

Cara Halgren: I think the biggest thing is that we’ve been working with this pandemic and COVID-19 for a while now. And we recognize that sometimes it’s confusing, and the information changes.

What we would ask is that if you have questions as it relates to you, as a student, or as a parent to your student, that you call us or email us — because, more than anything, we want to make sure that you have the right information, so that your student can either quarantine or isolate or work within the pandemic in a way that is as safe as possible for them and others.

Cassie Gerhardt: I want to talk a little bit more post-Thanksgiving, a couple of other questions. So Provost Storrs, I’m putting you on the spot.

Can you just clarify plans? We’re coming back after Thanksgiving. I think people are looking for some additional confirmation, because they want to book some airline travel and just want to make sure that we’re confirmed with plans post-Thanksgiving, which I totally understand. Fair question from the family members that are posting it. So if you could just address our plans for after Thanksgiving, please?

Debbie Storrs: Yes, I will. Students and families, please do not schedule any travel until your student talks with their faculty members. We would hate for you to plan travel and then find out that actually, your student has to be in class.

So yes, after Thanksgiving, the plan is to continue to deliver classes both on campus and online in the hybrid fashion. Again, please check with your instructors and your faculty to see what the situation is, before you make those plans. I will say, as President Armacost and others have noted, we continue to monitor this situation, and we could change course if we need to in terms of health and safety. But at this point in time, we are planning to offer the same sort of delivery of instruction after Thanksgiving. So check with your instructors before you make those plans.

Cassie Gerhardt: Provost Storrs, while you’re on that, can you just visit a little bit about our spring plans as we look ahead to Spring Break? I think some people looking forward are wondering whether Spring Break could be canceled, but maybe related to your comments about Thanksgiving, just what the plans are for into the spring semester.

Debbie Storrs: Sure. We’ve had lots of conversations. We’re monitoring the situation and we’re part of a larger university system. At this point in time, we are planning to start the spring semester on the date that it’s supposed to start, and we’re going to end on the date that it’s supposed to end. And we are scheduled to have Spring Break. So that’s the current plan. Again, I want to just note that could change depending on what the virus does. But we are currently planning to have the scheduled Spring Break.

Cassie Gerhardt: Thank you.

Related to COVID, a couple other questions. Dr. Halgren, this one I’m going to send your way. We’ve been asked what are we doing about students’ mental health if they have to quarantine or isolate in a hotel, which may be difficult for some? Could you address that?

Cara Halgren: Thanks, Cassie. That’s a real concern, and we’ve heard that from a number of students. And we’ve heard it from students who maybe haven’t had mental health issues before, but that this is really just a challenging time, especially if you’re a first-year student. Coming to college or university has its own set of challenges. Doing this during a pandemic — that’s a biggie.

There are some things that I would encourage students to take a look at. First of all, if you are quarantining or isolating at an off-campus hotel with us, then you should have a staff member as a part of Housing that’s there for you, to provide you with support, answers to your questions, anything that you might need in relation to your stay there.

The other thing that I would tell you is that a lot of students are finding that our services through the University Counseling Center, and specifically through telemedicine, have been really helpful. We know that students are talking with our Counseling Center; they’re doing it in a virtual way and getting support. I highly encourage that for people.

Just as a reminder, students pay student fees as part of the University of North Dakota. And as a result of that, those fees are used to pay for Counseling Center services. So if a student wants to access those services, they can do so at no additional cost to them. I would really encourage people to take a look at that.

Cassie Gerhardt: Thanks.

Karyn, we have heard from students that in some cases it is hard to stay motivated to participate in classes when they’re over Zoom. It’s easier to disengage, and things like that. Any advice that you would have from you or the academic advisors you work with on how to help students stay on course and stay motivated for those Zoom courses? If you have any advice or thoughts to share, we’d appreciate it.

Karyn Plumm

Karyn Plumm, Vice Provost for Student Success: Sure. Hi everyone, I’m Karyn Plumm. I’m Vice Provost for Student Success.

I think that the motivating issue is probably different for every student, and there are a couple of avenues that students can take if they’re having difficulty staying engaged and making sure that they’re in their Zoom sessions for whatever classes they have each day. Talking to your advisor would be a great route. They can give you some tips and hints on how to stay engaged, how to stay interested in the courses.

But the other thing we have available is our learning services, which can help you figure out your time management, how to make sure that you’re not overburdening yourself every day so that it gets exhausting. Students get burnt out when they’re in Zoom all the time. They’re really great with helping tailor schedules and time management for students, to help make sure that you can stay engaged in your courses, and want to be in your Zoom sessions and get that material.

Cassie Gerhardt: Thanks. Cara, question for you, and this is not a question unique to COVID. We get this question every fall, but we know it is amplified by COVID because it is a challenge to be in the same place.

The question is, how do you meet people? People are feeling isolated, it could be a challenge to meet people without COVID, and COVID just amplifies it. Any thoughts or suggestions for students on how to meet people when they’re feeling isolated?

Cara Halgren: Sure. Again, I go back to my earlier comments. It’s an exciting time to be going to college. At the same time, as you’re doing it during a pandemic, that can be a bit challenging. We’ve heard from students that getting connected has its own unique things, in light of the pandemic. I would urge you to think about a couple of different ways to get connected.

First of all, if you’re living in a residence hall, you have a resident assistant. These RAs are well-versed in helping students get connected in ways that are important for them, or meaningful for them. The other thing I would urge you to consider is thinking about a club or organization. If you go to the Student Involvement website, you will find ways to get connected to clubs and organizations on campus, 250-plus of them, actually. Many of them are meeting virtually at this point, as a way to stay connected and keep people involved.

The other thing I would say is that the Wellness Center is a great connection, as well. Even now during COVID, we have COVID-resilient ways to offer intramural activities. The great thing about this is that you can go as a member of a team, but you can also go as what they refer to as a free agent, which means that you can go and join an activity that looks interesting and you don’t have to worry about going with anybody else. You can go by yourself.

The last thing I would tell you is that for those of you who are living in the residence halls, we have a great governance system – a student association – called the Association of Residence Halls. Each residence hall has their own governance structure that is part of a larger organization. I know that they are looking for people all the time who are interested in getting together and making the residence hall experience a good one for students. Again, that’s something that your RA would be able to help get you connected with.

Cassie Gerhardt: This next question is shifting gears a bit, but the question is: How are we as a University holding students accountable who are holding parties – specifically sororities and fraternities?

This person is annoyed because they see so many students going out to parties, to the bars and out in town, perhaps getting sicker and again perhaps not taking things as seriously as other members of our campus community.

Cara Halgren: When we have our pandemic team meetings every day, I think this question comes up most days. It is an ongoing concern for us, and what we would tell you is that there are simple steps, although not always easy, to implement. The simple steps are you wash your hands, you stay six feet away from people,  you wear face coverings. If you do those kinds of things and you’re congregating in small groups, that’s the way to keep this from spreading. Whether you’re downtown in the bars; whether you’re hanging out somewhere else; whether you’re in a fraternity or sorority; whether you are in a room of 20 people in a residence hall – it’s still the same thing. All of us have the personal responsibility of making decisions that are not only good for us, but ultimately for everybody else.

Rosy always talks about the idea of wearing face coverings. I wear my face covering to protect you, you wear your face covering to protect me. This is one of those incredible opportunities for us to show how much we as a community are committed to each other and our own well-being and wellness. And if we can do that, we not only help keep the community healthy, we keep the University open.

More and more every day I hear students say, “Do anything. Do whatever you need to do, but please don’t send us home. We love being here on campus and we want to stay.” Well you know what, we want you to stay too. We are glad you’re here. But the only way this is going to continue to work is if you all, and everybody you hang out with, takes these steps to ensure that we’re doing the right things that we know work to try and mitigate the pandemic. Not easy, but relatively simple steps.

Cassie Gerhardt: Rosy, I want to go back to an earlier question because I don’t think we answered it fully. We’ve talked about students who have had COVID and their presumed immunity, but can you talk about if someone who’s had COVID is still considered dangerous, and can they spread COVID to others? Just to clarify.

Rosy Dub: No, once they’ve passed their isolation period, they need to meet three criteria to be released from isolation. That means if they did not have symptoms, they have to be at least 10 days after their positive test. And if they’ve been symptomatic, the three criteria they need to meet still include 10 days since your symptoms have started, no fever without use of fever reducing medication for 24 hours, and your symptoms have improved. Your symptoms don’t have to be gone, because some things stick around like the [loss of] senses of taste and smell, that may linger. We may have somewhat of a lingering cough. However if you meet those three criteria, and your symptoms are better, you’re not considered infectious. We don’t want you to test during that period unless you get really sick, because you could still actually test positive, but it doesn’t mean infectious. So I’ve had COVID and it’s been 10 days since my symptoms, my symptoms are better, I haven’t had a fever for 24 hours. I can go home and I’m not going to give it to anybody. If my mom has it after I go home, I don’t have to quarantine. I’m kind of golden.

Cassie Gerhardt: For those 90 days.

Rosy Dub: Correct.

Cassie Gerhardt: Dr. Halgren, we’ve talked a little bit about our protocols for isolation and quarantine. A comment/question was raised. I have a friend who has a son who has been ordered to self-isolate due to a close contact on campus. The student was allowed to return home, to his hometown. Is this protocol? He was out in public in his hometown. Can talk about where students can go if they are identified as close contacts?

Cara Halgren: If I get this wrong, Rosy, please jump in and correct me. So if someone is identified as a close contact, they need to quarantine. In some cases, we know that students are more comfortable quarantining at home rather than in the hotel. So students have made the choice to leave and quarantine elsewhere. If you are identified as being positive for COVID-19, you need to isolate. That is a much stricter level of scrutiny in terms of what you can do and can’t do during that period of time. The general thought is that if you are positive, we would rather have you stay here, so as not to infect other people. However, I do think that there are students who have made arrangements, based on circumstances, with the North Dakota Department of Health and through consultation with Rosy and others to perhaps go home. Those are individually negotiated arrangements. Again, generally, we ask that people try and stay here to mitigate the spread of COVID.

Rosy Dub: You did a great job, I’m just going to add a little bit of something that’s unique to North Dakota. First of all, if you’re identified as a close contact with a positive case, that has not changed. Close contact is within six feet for a cumulative period of 15 minutes or more over 24 hours. That definition of a close contact and being labeled a close contact has not changed.

However, unique to North Dakota is the management of those close contacts. If you are a household contact, you still need to quarantine. The leeway that the governor provided was if the person with the virus and the person who is a close contact were both wearing appropriate face coverings throughout their time together, correctly and consistently, they may opt for self-monitoring. That is the little gateway that was offered, trying to increase compliance with facial coverings – to let people know that if you consistently, correctly wore them, you may not have to do the full quarantine period. Again, this does not include household contacts. If you’re in an apartment with someone, you still need to quarantine. If you are given the option to self-monitor, you are able to attend class and attend work. You still should remove yourself from crowds and large gatherings as much as possible, stay by yourself as much as possible, recognize that you are still at a high risk for becoming a positive case, acknowledge your symptoms if you experience something, stay home if you’re sick and get tested.

We have found that Alex Pokornowski has done some research on our students who have opted to self-monitor as opposed to quarantine, and we found that with both those groups we are seeing about a 30 percent convergence for people that are identified as close contacts converting to positive cases. The risk is certainly there, and the hard part with COVID is that you’re infectious for two days before you have symptoms. So that makes it really hard to mitigate, because you can be spreading it before you’re sick.

Cassie Gerhardt: Thanks Rosy. Provost Storrs, we’ve talked a lot about when students are identified as testing positive for COVID. Can you discuss what happens when a professor is sick or needs to quarantine related to COVID?

Debbie Storrs: Sure. We have had a couple of faculty members who have tested positive, and in those cases, like others, they have to isolate from others. If they’re able to, they can teach their courses via distance, and all faculty have the support of our Teaching Transformation and Development Academy to help them transition, if they haven’t already done so. If they’re sick and cannot do so, their department chairs have worked a plan where others in the department or we would hire instructors to cover that course until the faculty member is well enough to teach. We absolutely want to take all precautions and support our faculty who are ill, as well.

Cassie Gerhardt: Provost Storrs, I’m going to stay with you – are professors given ongoing training on how to effectively teach over Zoom, given we know that teaching in a virtual world is different than face to face? If you could talk about the resources and professional development opportunities for our faculty, that would be great.

Debbie Storrs: Absolutely. UND has always had a really robust set of courses in the online environment, so we have some good experience teaching online. However, in the spring, when we had to move quickly to online and to remote, we realized that some of our faculty did not have that experience. So we’ve spent a lot of time this summer supporting faculty in getting trained in how to teach high quality hybrid or online courses.

And faculty are also taking that training this fall in order to teach in a similar fashion in the spring. What does that look like? We have a really great set of professionals in our teaching academy called the Teaching Transformation and Development Academy, or TTaDA for short. And these are professionals who really work closely with faculty members on how to develop their course materials in an online or hybrid environment. How do you engage the students via Zoom? I will say that it’s been a learning curve for all of us across the nation as we’re learning to engage via Zoom and other mechanisms. But I’m really proud of the faculty for taking it so seriously, and for our professionals in our TTaDA program partnering with faculty on how to use technology more effectively.

I’d also like to hand it over to our CIO, Madhavi Marasinghe, who also aligns support on the tech side to help faculty navigate, especially early on in the semester as they were trying to figure out all of the various bells and whistles. Madhavi, could you speak a little bit about the support that you provided our faculty?

Madhavi Marasinghe

Madhavi Marasinghe, Chief Information Officer: I sure can. I am Madhavi Marasinghe and I am the Chief Information Officer at UND. When we knew that we were going to continue with the online teaching and on-site during fall, we upgraded all of our classrooms with the technology needed for faculty to do a good job in teaching. In addition to that, we also provided training to faculty for the first five weeks, and we also provided support in the building for faculty to contact tech support if they need any help. This is not something we have done previously, but this semester, because of the technology upgrades that we did, we made sure that they have the support that they need.

In addition to that, we also provided the technology they’d need to teach from home – just like the provost was talking about earlier. If a faculty member gets sick or something, they need to teach from home. We need to make sure they have everything they need to teach the way that faculty and students can get the benefit.

Debbie Storrs: I’d just like to finish by saying our faculty are committed educators. They wake up every day really committed to help students master and learn the material. That being said, as faculty are trying to accommodate students, we’re really grateful for students giving our faculty a little bit of grace as they’re managing teaching in-class, engaging the virtual audience, and also teaching online. It’s quite a challenge and the faculty are really stepping up. But both parts of the team – faculty and students – if we could just give each other grace, and if you’re having challenges, reach out to your faculty. Ask them a question. Call them, email them. They want to help you. They’re busy. If you don’t get an immediate response, wait a day, reach out again. They want to help you succeed.

Cara Halgren: I just received a text message that our moderator’s computer crashed. Kristi, I’m going to turn it back over to you for a second. Can you help us in terms of fielding some questions for the group?

Kristi Okerlund

Kristi Okerlund, Director of Student Involvement & Parent Programs: Hi everyone, my name is Kristi Okerlund, Director of Student Involvement and Parent Programs. I am going to turn it back over to Provost Storrs. There is a question about how students find out about how their spring courses will be delivered – in-person, hybrid or online – and how is that decided?

Debbie Storrs: I’m going to turn it over to Vice Provost Karyn Plumm if you don’t mind.

Karyn Plumm: When students go to register for their spring courses, they will already know on the schedule, as they’re choosing courses, whether courses will be online asynchronous, which means there is no scheduled time for them; online synchronous, which means it’s an online course but they have to meet up with their class in Zoom or another format on a specific day and time; or whether they’re an on-campus course. The on-campus courses will be set up as hybrid or high-flex depending on the room that they’re scheduled to be in, and the enrollment in the course. Students will know more about how to engage in the hybrid and high-flex courses as they’re able to see the syllabus in Blackboard as the spring semester begins.

Kristi Okerlund: Another question regarding safety levels. Will there be any additional safety precautions taken due to the change in risk level to orange in Grand Forks? I know originally there was a chart that limited certain things based on a risk color level. Specifically, the change in risk level since it goes against what was originally said?

Eric Plummer: I’ll take this one. So when we pull up our safety levels – and the chart that you’re referring to is still available on the blog – what it shows is within our Safety Level 2, we wanted events to be limited to no more than 50. And any event would need to have vice president approval and it would need to go through the Office of Safety for review to make sure that it complies with all spatial requirements, as well as physical distancing and other health and safety measures. So if you look at the North Dakota Smart Restart Plan, when you are in orange or high-risk, they limit it to 25 percent occupancy and no more than 50. When we designed our academic spaces as well as other event spaces, we limited our occupancy based on our physical distancing requirements to approximately 25 percent. So as an event comes in, we review that event, we look at the occupancy limits of that particular space, and if it meets the safety requirements, we approve the event. If not, we would deny the event or ask them to move it to a safer space or location – in another building or maybe at an outdoor environment. So really, when we looked at building the safety level chart, we designed it to be within the high risk, just because we wanted to be cautious as we are navigating this pandemic through these various safety levels.

Kristi Okerlund: This is similar, so we might stay with you, Chief. Is the school encouraging Grand Forks to fine if masks aren’t worn in the community? Then they just commented: if the community doesn’t mask up, it doesn’t help UND.

Eric Plummer: This has been a conversation. We’ve had several student leaders, as well as President Armacost, speak to this at City Hall. And it is a conversation happening with the law enforcement leaders across the state, as well. Both sheriffs and chiefs of police. One of the things we have to balance is the enforcement mechanism that we are actually allowed to do, and we have to balance that with our current court system. Just like universities, K-12 environments and cities and counties, our court system has had to move to remote operations. They’ve had to have physical distancing requirements, which has put a strain on our criminal justice system, jail system. So when you talk about adding a fine or an arrestable offense, you have to look at what that process actually entails. On the statewide level, we are trying to be thoughtful in working with our state attorney’s office as well as our local government officials and county officials – as well as having discussions with state leaders on would it make sense to have this enforcement mechanism at an infraction level, a Class B misdemeanor level and then see what local leaders decide is best for their community.

President Armacost: Chief, let me hop in as well. I’ve been a strong advocate among our city leaders to try to match what we do on campus in the community. In other words, a mask mandate is something that I was strongly supportive of. As to the fine, that’s a political decision. Enforcement is always a tough issue as the chief just pointed out. However, there will be additional discussion next week. The county commissioners are going to be discussing this very issue and the steps that they might take. If there is an order from the county health officer to enforce a mask mandate, or some other measure, it turns out that – by our own state Century Code – not compliant with an order of the county health officer results in a Class B misdemeanor. So that would have some teeth if the county commissioners choose to go that route, and we’ll find out more next week. Thanks.

 Kristi Okerlund: Thank you both. I’m going to ask one more question and then I’m going to turn it back to our official moderator. This is for both Karyn and Matt. How can my son access or view all of his grades? When he goes to his grades report, only one class is displayed. Also, are parents are able to access grades?

Karyn Plumm: I can talk about how students can view their grades. In Blackboard, students should be able to see all of their courses and all of their course grades, not just the final grade for the course but as each assignment or exam is scored, those grades will show up for students in Blackboard, which is our learning management system.

The grades report that I think you might be referring to is in Campus Connection, which would be on the student’s transcript. Those will not show up until the end of the semester. So, students will not be able to access and see what their final grades in a course are until the end of the semester on the transcript.

Matt Lukach, One Stop Student Services and Recruitment Director: Yep, thank you. My name is Matt Lukach. I’m the one-stop student services and recruitment director at UND. A parent can get delegate access to the students Campus Connection account. The student has to set that up through their account and that allows you to get in and view whatever your student allows you to view. You can also have your students sign a privacy release form. And then we can work with you on getting you access to some of that academics information via the phone. That privacy release form is right on the One Stop Student Services website. It’s called the FERPA form.

Cassie Gerhardt: Dr. Halgren and Provost Storrs, a question for you, kind of a two part one. The question is, why are most classes online for the freshmen, especially those that live in a residence halls? My freshman is seriously considering leaving campus for spring and living at home five hours away. What is being done to keep these students on campus? So, going back to that isolation, Provost Storrs, maybe you can take the academic side of it, and then Dr. Halgren, maybe some of the out of classroom aspects.

Debbie Storrs: That wasn’t intentional. We’ve encouraged faculty to make decisions about whether they’re comfortable teaching in class or online. Faculty are at higher risk than our student body for COVID-19 complications. So we really wanted to make sure that faculty felt comfortable. We have lots of protection in the classroom to help heighten that comfort and safety. But we still wanted faculty to make the decision about how they were going to deliver it. And then we communicated that to students on how their course would be changed, if indeed it was. And so that’s purely accidental that this particular student has all his or her classes online. In general, about 30 percent of our courses are hybrid or online. And, 70 percent are in person with some hybrid fashion. So most of our courses are still face-to-face with some hybrid connections. So, I think that’s accidental that your student only has courses that chose to go online. Cara, can I turn it over to about this second piece?

Cara Halgren: I just want to acknowledge because there was another response in the chat that dealt with the same thing. This is really hard. There’s just no doubt about it. It is hard. And I would love to go back to what we had last fall: kind of the normal, traditional University of North Dakota experience where we gather everybody together at the beginning of the year, and we take the class photo, and everybody’s excited and all this. And it is not that. There is nothing that I can say or do that will make it that right now. And I think this is where the challenge is. What we want to do is work with you as family members and as students to make the decisions that are best for you. We certainly want to keep you here at UND. We think this is a great experience and we wouldn’t be sitting here tonight on Zoom if we didn’t think so. But we also recognize that there are some challenges that come along with being in college at this point in history. What you need to know is that we are committed to giving you the best possible experience that we can, while also managing the health risks that exist for people during the pandemic.

If we can talk to you individually about what this means for you and your student, we are happy to do that. But, please, know that your student’s success, if your student is listening, that your success really matters to us. We know that right now, it is hard, it is unprecedented, and that we are doing all that we can to manage all of these different pieces at once. If you have suggestions or ideas and things that we could do to do that better, by all means, we’d love to hear from you about that, too.

Cassie Gerhardt: Thank you both. We’ve talked a little bit about Thanksgiving and recommendations that students stay on campus for that break. But, the question really is, what about the winter break? So for some of the Christmas holiday, Hanukkah, any thoughts and advice that we have for students over the winter break?

Cara Halgren: I’ll take a stab at it. We are watching this happen in real time. Right now, the numbers are not trending in the right direction. And we are making suggestions about the Thanksgiving break that correspond with what we are seeing in terms of the numbers. I would anticipate that as the numbers change, that the guidance will change as well. If our numbers continue to rise, there continue to be cases, as we start moving into the winter holiday after the semester break, chances are good that we’ll be offering the same feedback to students and their families about how they spend that time as well. Again, it’s not what any of us would like to be able to offer to you but we’re making decisions, we’re providing guidance based on the information that we have. And so I’m going to turn it over to Chief Plummer to see if there might be anything else that he’d want to offer.

Eric Plummer: I would just say anybody that has to isolate or quarantine or cannot safely travel back over the Christmas break, just contact us within the Office of Safety, the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities through Dr. Halgren’s area, and just share those concerns with us. We can make appropriate arrangements to make sure that you have a safe environment to be in over that winter break.

President Armacost: Regardless of where you are, follow the tried and true steps that we talked about: wash your hands, wear a face covering, avoid other people in large groups and keep your distance from others. And by all means if you have any symptoms and you say, “Wow, this feels like the standard cold I get after the end of the semester,” treat it as though you’rer potentially infected with COVID and go get tested. Because that’s important. You might not be able to distinguish the difference.

Cassie Gerhardt: Rosy, this question I’m going to help you with, sinice I have some of the numbers. The question is about testing. The first part of it is, on average, how many UND students are getting tested per week?  I’ll take that one only because I have the chart with the numbers open here on my desktop. Yesterday (Nov. 3) we tested 927 students, and on Saturday (Oct. 31), we tested 275 students. And last Tuesday, it was 906. So we are seeing the number of our students get tested each week climb a little bit.

Rosy, the second part is probably the harder part. Is UND’s capacity to test only appearing to be good because only a small fraction of students are taking advantage of the testing? Can you talk about our capacity to test? We also want people to know students who are in that 90 days of immunity, we wouldn’t anticipate them to be tested. Can you maybe speak to our capacity and how that is determined to test?

Rosy Dub: I think that in a perfect situation, in a perfect world, we would definitely test more. If we had the resources, the testing kits, the equipment, the personnel to test every student once a week or twice a week, that would be optimal. But we don’t have those resources available to us. We’re constantly looking at options to bring more testing to campus. We are vigorously exploring the saliva testing options. They just are not available yet. We are limited or lack capacity to some degree. We’re grateful for the help from the National Guard, the North Dakota Health Department and the Grand Forks Health Department, and all of UND, to hold these massive testing events. We think we have smashed the number of testing events per capita compared to anyplace else in the state. So we’re doing a lot of testing, we know that testing, isolating, identifying potential contacts is a cornerstone to controlling the virus. So, if we could do more, we would love to do more. Then, we also look at, you know, we have some of our testing events, they all eventually end up in the North Dakota Health Department lab for resulting. The lab itself in Bismarck is is capped at a certain level, which maybe you’re not aware of, but we’re having severe outbreaks in long-term care facilities in our state. Those elderly, high-risk vulnerable people, we need to make sure that they do have access to testing, so they may be prioritized. We also have an outside lab that we’re using, and that allows us to flex up some capacity. If we could test more and have it more accessible and easier, faster, the golden thing would be to have a 15 minute test that’s accurate. We’re constantly pursuing other avenues. But this is the best we have right now.

Cassie Gerhardt: And related to that, I just want to add in, you can find the dates on our website. Rosie and our testing team have added some additional testing events prior to Thanksgiving and prior to the winter break. All of those dates and times are listed online. And going back to what President Armacost said when he started, encouraging students to get tested. We have testing on Monday, Nov. 16, and 17. So students can get tested before they might plan to go home for Thanksgiving. I would encourage you to check out the dates for testing.

Eric, question for you. And this one might challenge you to get out your crystal ball and look ahead into the future. Currently UND has 167 reported positive cases. Thoughts on regarding higher numbers of cases during the mid to end of October? So again, with your crystal ball, maybe what you’re anticipating towards the end of I’m assuming November.

Eric Plummer: So, you know, it is a difficult thing to predict. Unfortunately, cases in our state are going in the wrong direction. We, at the moment, I’m speaking strictly of what we can identify as our UND community, we seem to be lagging that growth a little bit. But, certainly the general trend in our area, and in our state, is increasing cases. I think it’s not unreasonable to think that cases will rise certainly in Grand Forks County as they’re doing in most of the other counties in the state. Absent people doing what we keep talking about, which is mask wearing, social distancing, etc., that’s how we’re going to knock this thing down. I think it’s likely that we’ll see some increase. But, from my perspective, so far, the campus actually seems to be a bit safer than its surrounding community. That’s based on some preliminary information, but it seems to be holding in a fairly consistent pattern week after week, over the last few weeks. So I think we may see some case rise, but I’m not so sure it will be as substantial as the surrounding community or the rest of the state. We’ll see.

Cassie Gerhardt: Eric, actually, as I reread the question, I think the question is, the higher numbers we saw at the end of October, if there’s any thoughts on the increase we saw on the higher number of cases in mid to the end of October.

Eric Plummer: I think Jed kind of addressed this earlier. We have seen this and it’s not only been in our state, but it’s been in the region. So, every week, every Friday, I sit on a call with the domestic preparedness committee for one of our international associations. There are small institutions up to large big-name institutions that participate on that committee and on that call. And, they are seeing the same rises within their community. The point that Jed did make was they are seeing a larger rise in their community versus on their campus. The academic settings, as long as they’ve taken appropriate physical distancing within the academic side of things, encourage required mask usage, and do all of the other items such as hand-washing washing and hands sanitizing, they seem to see that the cases on campus remain relatively low. The problem that we’ve seen not only in our area, but in those other areas, it’s what happens out in the community, at the restaurants and other events and gatherings, at small to medium family-sized gatherings. We’re seeing people become infected and become close contacts and then eventually become positive from those types of contacts. So, we’re encouraging our students to avoid those large gathering areas, to avoid the bars, wait for parties, to make sure that we can really flatten this curve that’s going on within our community. And again, we’re not the only ones experiencing this. Other areas in the upper Midwest are seeing this as well.

Cassie Gerhardt: We have two more questions, and then I will transition it back to President Armacost to wrap us up. A question was raised: do we know the total percentage of UND students that have had COVID? Can you just address the challenges of even knowing this?

Eric Plummer: From what we are seeing in our numbers, we’ve had about 10 percent of our population that has tested positive. And that’s the numbers that we’ve been tracking all the way back since this started. So this is not just our current group of students, this would go back through the summer and back into the spring semester. So to compare it, I would say roughly around 10 percent.

Cassie Gerhardt: President Armacost, I am going to transition back to you to wrap this up. We talked a little bit about our recommendations for winter break, and we got a clarifying question. If numbers rise, are you suggesting not leaving Grand Forks for winter break? I’m going to leave you with that question and then ask you to wrap us up this evening.

 President Armacost: That’s a tough question, simply because there are some mental health components to this as well, getting home and being with family. But if you’re sick or if you’re a close contact, make sure you take the steps to quarantine or isolate. So I would really judge how safely can you travel. I think nearly all of our students could probably take the precautions necessary to travel home safely and enjoy the winter break.

Another question: my son wants to come home for the holidays with family members. Should I ask them to get a test? And the answer is, you ask them to get a test, you expect them to get a test if you know that they are coming from a high positivity environment to be with elderly family members. You shouldn’t ask him to get a test, you should require it! Otherwise, they could sleep outside in the car or here in Grand Forks with us. But by all means have that expectation to get a test before returning home.

As you can see, we have a great team here at UND. To get these leaders here to be with you, you should truly appreciate the fact that they’re willing to spend their time, and we would spend all night with you if the questions kept coming. We will make sure that all of the answers that we have to the questions that you’ve asked are posted to make sure that you can refer back to those. And if additional questions come in, we’ll make sure we answer them as well.

I really thank you for your commitment to UND. Thank you for taking the time to support the institution. If you’re a student, thank you for being our student. We will take great care of you and make sure that your needs are met while you’re here. And if you’re family members, thanks for taking such a vested interest in your students.

 


 

Additional Questions & Answers from the Town Hall

Following are questions and answers which were not able to be answered live. In some cases, they have been combined and edited for clarity. In others, the people asking questions were contacted directly by administrators.

Will there be ample testing the week of Thanksgiving for those that want to get tested? I know usually there is not testing offered every day. Yes! Please find a full list of testing dates and times here: https://und.edu/covid-19/testing.html . Please note you’ll need to scroll down a bit to ensure you can see all of the upcoming dates.

I just want to say I am so glad you have kept students on campus and as much in person learning as possible. Out students need to be on campus. Thank you! Go Fighting Hawks! Thank you so much!!!

If a student in University Place tests positive, why is it mandatory for that student to move and quarantine to a hotel room rather them stay in their room? I know they installed HVAC systems in the air units. Each student even has their own room and bathroom. University Place, by the nature of how we make assignments in that building, is considered congregate living similar to other residence halls.  We are handling the quarantine of individuals in this area consistently with the students in our other congregate housing areas. We appreciate student cooperation with this protocol as this has helped to maintain lower positive numbers in these areas.

If masks are required, why do I see multitudes of students in the residence halls congregating in public spaces not socially distanced and not wearing masks? SOME students are taking is seriously, but I would say many don’t care. Thank you for continuing to take the protocols seriously. We hope that all students would do the same. If you are seeing others in the community that are not please let your hall staff know. We will work with students to make sure they understand the protocols and help make sure they are enforced.

With the question on Thanksgiving to Christmas, we were told it was up to each instructor if they were able to go virtual until they returned after Christmas break. Has there been any change to this so students can make plans to return home one time with less exposure risk? Your student is welcome to work with their faculty, and if all courses are remote and/or able to be completed in a remote format, that is just fine.

 As much as safety allows, I wonder if more activities are planned to engage the kids and get them out of their dorms.  For example, intramural sports and activities? Intramural Sports are occurring. Here is the link: https://und.edu/student-life/wellness-center/intramurals/index.html . We also have UND student events planned out of the Student Involvement & Parent Programs Office.

 My son was also asked to isolate in his dorm until his test came back. He tested this past Friday and did not receive results until yesterday. He stayed in his room but he had needed food etc.  because it was over the weekend. This may have happened to several other students. Thank you for the clarification. Students have been asked to take extra precautions while they are awaiting results if they have been exhibiting symptoms or have been sick. In these cases please have your student contact their RA and they will work with them to order sick trays through the Dining Center so that they will still have access to food. The sick trays can be picked up and delivered by friends or suite mates. If the student is determined to be positive then we would work with the student to transition them to the off-site location.

Are the dorms and food services open and available during the Thanksgiving holiday if students aren’t able to return home? Yes! Residence Halls will remain open as will the Dining Centers. Find Dining Center holiday hours here: https://und.edu/student-life/dining/hours.html .

I am interested in the information for counseling and mental health support please. Here is a link to our University Counseling Center website: https://und.edu/student-life/counseling-center/index.html .

Many colleges do not have students coming back to school after Thanksgiving break to reduce the spread of COVID and will be 100 percent remote. Has UND considered this as well to protect both students and their families? Yes, we did consider this but given our capacity to test, contact trace, and the safety measures in the classroom, have decided to continue to offer instruction in hybrid, face to face, and online after Thanksgiving. This may change, of course, depending on the COVID-19 situation which we monitor daily.  We also encourage students to test (for free at UND) before returning home for Thanksgiving as well as welcome them to stay rather than go home if family members have conditions that put them at greater risk.

Not a question, just a comment, so glad there isn’t some big announcement tonight. You all are doing a great job navigating this very challenging situation! Kudos!! Thank you, we appreciate your confidence and kind words. We truly care about our students and their academic success.

I am late to the party, but wanted to know if any announcements were made earlier on the call regarding any changes to the plan after Thanksgiving.  Will students by 100 percent online or continue a hybrid plan? As of today, there are no plans to change the schedule after Thanksgiving, and classes will continue as they have been prior to the holiday. We encourage students to check with their instructors if they a question about a specific course.

It does look like all dining centers are closed on Thanksgiving day/evening.  If students have to stay on campus, can they pre-order food for Thursday or is there other options? Wilkerson Dining Center will be open from 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

What is being offered for virtual socialization for freshmen to get to know each other? My son is spending all of his time in his room when not in class. He only has two in-person classes each week. The Resident Assistants in the residence halls are continuing to plan events for the students in their communities. I just looked at a snapshot of events that have taken place so far this semester and there have been 130 activities offered with over 900 students participating. I would encourage your student to reach out to their RA to find out when specific events are happening. We are committed to helping your student engage with others!

Finals are all virtual, correct?  So should/could students come home after the end of classes and take their finals from their family’s home? Correct – that would be up to your student and I’d suggest your student confirm with their faculty.

I really do appreciate everything you have done for us students here, and I really do think that UND has done better that most of the nation in stopping COVID. I have to ask though, why are we waiting until things are so bad we’re forced to go online? I don’t want a wave of cases affecting my friends and profs to be the tipping point that sends us online when it could’ve been prevented so much earlier. I appreciate your question. We are monitoring the situation and currently feel comfortable with our ability to provide quarantine/isolation accommodations for students and to contact trace. There are varied preferences (from students and faculty) and many students (and their families) prefer face-to-face classroom instruction. We also know the face to face instruction provides a different type of engagement for students, and this is one of the reasons we continue to offer it.  Please know the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff are our priority.

I missed the answer to the question regarding what happens if a student travels out of state. My son was planning to come home this weekend (for the first time since May!). Thanks! There are currently no mandatory quarantine requirements for students who are traveling out of state or returning to North Dakota.

If the Senate passes an S/U grading option, can students opt for an actual grade? Yes, it will be an option for students. If passed, they can decide if they want to take a class for a grade or for S/U options.

Are residence halls going to be open with dining all the way through Thanksgiving? If so, is that typical or just because of the pandemic? We are typically open in the residence halls through the Thanksgiving break period. Dining is traditionally available through the weekend except for the Thanksgiving Holiday. Dining is currently working on a special Thanksgiving meal for the holiday this year based on the pandemic. Our hall staff will be reaching out to all students asking them for their plans as we head into the break. Please watch for the survey!