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President’s Oct. 2 letter and video: Thanks to everyone’s hard work, the show will go on

Classrooms now are some of the safest spaces on campus, a key reason why in-person classes can continue, president says

Editor’s note: On Friday, Oct. 2, UND President Andy Armacost sent the video above and letter below to the campus community.  A transcript of the video also is below. 

Dear Members of the UND Campus,

Please watch my video, which is available above, and the transcript of which is below this letter.

I’d like to offer a quick note of thanks for your hard work this semester, whether you’re a student, a faculty member, or a staff member. To return to campus during a pandemic has required us to work together and to keep each other safe.

Please continue to take the steps for prevention: wear masks, keep your distance, wash your hands, and avoid large groups. I have appreciated seeing you across the campus taking these steps seriously. I know, this seems like one big sociological experiment to see how individual behaviors—both good and bad—can influence the behaviors of others. But it’s not an experiment, so please continue take the easy actions that will positively impact others. These little things are really big.

Thanks also for patiently waiting for our decision about post-Thanksgiving classes. I felt it was important to continue our current mode of operation with hybrid approaches to classroom learning, some in person and some online. The factors that drove this decision include our success in driving down the number of active cases, the lack of a surge in cases following the three-day Labor Day weekend, and the effective precautions we see in the classroom, with no known in-class transmissions. I know the members of our campus will continue to exhibit the good behaviors mentioned above and will take advantage of opportunities for testing. Please do your part.

To our awesome faculty members: a hearty thank-you for what you’ve done to deliver the university’s primary mission. You’ve designed and re-designed your courses, and you’ve been flexible and resilient. The students I have spoken with across the campus truly appreciate what you’ve done to sustain high quality courses and experiences. They want this to continue. As you contemplate the right way for you to finish this semester, please continue to focus on what’s best for your students. They are thrilled to know that the in-class experiences you’ve designed will continue through the end of the semester.

Remember to affirm your plans with your department chair/dean and post to your Blackboard site by the end of the day on Friday, Oct 2 (today!).

Enjoy the weekend and thanks for reading.

Andy Armacost





(Transcript of the president’s Oct. 2 video address):

Hi, everybody. It’s Andy Armacost.

It’s Thursday afternoon as I record this message, and in about 45 minutes, I have to go get slimed. I have no idea what this “slime” is; but it’s for a good cause. They’re going to pour it over my head as a way to raise awareness for our campaign to support the United Way.

So, pay attention to Instagram and Facebook and social media, because you’ll see the action there.

But speaking of action, there’s been a lot of action on our campus. And this semester, we’ve been really battling against COVID. And I appreciate all the steps that you’ve taken.

I’ve also noticed that we’ve tended to slack off a bit. And I want us to really focus on redoubling our efforts to do the things that we need to do to keep safe: to wash our hands to wear face masks, to keep our distance and to avoid large gatherings.

And when we have opportunities to test, please, please, take those opportunities to test. I know it’s inconvenient to test. It’s also inconvenient to be identified as a positive case or a close contact.

So please, by all means, for the good of everyone else, let’s redouble our efforts to make sure that that happens.

And this is all about developing habits as well. And so it’s easy to fall out of habits, it’s just as easy to recreate the habit.

And as you’re with your friends, and if you’re close together, put your mask on. They won’t bug you; they won’t care. They’ll say, “Ah, that person is doing the right thing.”

And when you do the right thing, people around you do the right thing as well. That type of activity is no pun intended, contagious.

So make sure that that you’re doing those things that will spread the good behaviors to other people as well.

So you’ve seen the announcement that after Thanksgiving, we’re going to continue the way that we’re operating the campus currently. And there was a decision that we had to make whether to go purely online, or to stay here.

We stay here when you make the decisions that we should stay here. And that you take the actions that we need you to take to be able to keep everybody safe.

So these decisions are tied hand in hand with each other. So by all means, make yourself follow those habits that we need, so that we can stay here and execute the full semester all the way to the very end the right way.

Again, that’s our plan. That’s what we’re planning to do.

And then the final thing I wanted to do is express my deep gratitude to all the faculty members – well, to everybody on campus, but in particular this week, to the faculty members who have put their heart and soul into creating great educational experiences, in spite of all that’s happening with the pandemic.

And I know that our students have expressed to me that you really appreciate their efforts. You appreciate the in-class experiences, as well as balancing it with your online components as well.

So to the faculty members, we’ve given you flexibility throughout this entire pandemic, to make choices that you think balance the good of the classroom with the safety concerns that you might have. And as we go towards the end of the semester, I still grant you that authority.

But let me just re-emphasize that the experiences your students are getting in your classrooms, when they see you face to face, are powerful, and they appreciate the work and the effort that you’re putting into it.

We know that the classroom is probably the safest place that we have on campus right now. All of the things that we put in place to keep you and those in your classes safe – those are real steps, and I think they’ve had a positive experience.

I don’t know of any transmission of the virus that has happened in the classroom. Again, it’s a safe place.

So as you continue to build your plans for the rest of the semester, we’re asking you to make sure your students know by Friday, by today (Oct. 2), what your plans are. And I would hope that you would, if you’re committed to being in-person, continue with that commitment, because I know your students will really benefit from this.

So until next time, thanks for listening, and enjoy the weekend. We’ll see you around campus. We’ll see you soon.