Welcome to the start of the spring semester! I know everybody is busy getting situated, but the frequent use of campus updates was well-received last semester, so I intend to continue with regular emails throughout the pandemic.
1. Hopeful Outlook. Since December, the COVID cases in North Dakota have continued to drop. For example, on the day of my last campus update (12/17), there were 622 active COVID cases in Cass County, and at the peak on November 11, there were 1,677 cases. In contrast, there were 359 cases in Cass County yesterday. That is more than when the fall semester started, but dramatically less than during most of the semester. Here on campus, we have only had nine cases reported to NDSU in the last ten days, including both employees and students.
In addition, vaccinations have begun, and North Dakota has been one of the most effective states in the whole country at getting the vaccine distributed. As a result, we have good reason to be hopeful about things returning to normal in the foreseeable future.
Until that time, however, we need to continue to be diligent and follow the safety guidelines that we instituted last semester. We do not want a repeat of the horrific fall that North Dakota endured. There is light at the end of the tunnel (and no, it’s not an oncoming train), so let’s continue strong until we get to the finish line.
2. Testing Information. As I’ve mentioned in prior updates, the mass testing events that occurred on NDSU campus have not been conducted by NDSU. They’re performed through a collaboration of the ND National Guard and Cass County Public Health. We are extremely grateful for the testing that they provided to our community. They played a critical role in keeping NDSU and our local community as safe as possible.
We have several additional testing dates that have been scheduled in the month of January (see below). Please note that there is now only one testing date per week, so please plan accordingly. After January, there may be changes coming to how/when testing will be performed on campus. Additional information will be provided once it has been more fully developed.
We would like all returning students to get tested as soon as possible. After the travel and activities from the mid-year break, you may have become an asymptomatic carrier. The only way we can stop the spread is if we find out who has the virus, so please get tested (dates/times are below).
3. Weekly Testing. We’re continuing with testing at the SHAC on Thursdays, and you should enter using the south doors. The dates and times through the end of the year are as follows:
January 14: 1-5 pm
January 21: 1-5 pm
January 28: 1-5 pm
For students only, in addition to the Thursday asymptomatic testing at the SHAC, asymptomatic testing is also available at the Student Health Service on Tuesdays from 8:30am - 4:30pm. No appointment is needed and students can walk-in.
We would like every employee to get tested at least every other week. However, if you are working in an area with significant exposure to others, it would be better to get tested every week. As always, being tested at these events should be considered work time, and I’m asking supervisors to be flexible to allow for employee testing.
Some final points about testing:
• Testing is free.
• You can preregister here. However, if you have already registered for a prior testing event, you do not have to re-register.
• It is not limited to people living on campus. All students, including off-campus students, are encouraged to participate.
• You do not have to have symptoms in order to get this testing. In fact, this testing is only for individuals who are asymptomatic. If you are experiencing symptoms, please contact Student Health Service or your local health care facility to determine next steps.
4. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. I would like to remind our community that Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is this upcoming Monday. In light of last year’s terrible events, both across the country and right here on our own campus, we need to pay special attention to this memorial this year. Dr. King is a towering figure in American history whose dedication to social justice brought attention to racial injustice through peaceful protest. I ask you to take 16 minutes out of your day to listen to Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in its entirety, and to consider not just the eloquence of his words and delivery, but also how much work remains to be done to make his dream a reality.
To that end, Martin Luther King, Jr., Day is not just a national holiday, it’s also a national day of service. Typically, NDSU organizes events associated with this national day of service, but the pandemic prevented those events this year.
However, there are two events I’d like to draw your attention to:
• NDSU’s Northern Plains Ethics Institute and the YWCA of Cass Clay are conducting an event on January 26 entitled: What is it like to be black? – Toward a naming, genealogy, and epistemology of (the intractable) anti-black racism. Information about the event, including the zoom link can be found here.
• On Monday, there will be a virtual reading of some of Dr. King’s most important works. All members of the NDSU community – staff, students, and faculty – are welcome to attend for all or part of the event. Join anytime on Monday, January 18, 12-2pm. Here is the link to the zoom meeting. If that does not work, the zoom meeting ID is 989 3047 5087 and the passcode is 780225.
5. U.S. Capitol Building Violence. This is a tense time for our country, and I was appalled by the violence that occurred at the U.S. Capitol Building last week. Free speech is a hallmark of the U.S. Constitution and the work that we do in higher education. However, free speech does not encompass violence.
We have heard concerns from some within our community about whether NDSU should be uneasy about violence occurring within our community. Please know that we have been advised by local, state and federal authorities that there is no known or anticipated risk of violence targeted at NDSU. Nevertheless, our police will continue to actively monitor the situation.
6. Task Force. The task force that was formed in response to the hate speech incidents last semester is continuing to meet. They have taken action to respond to concerns voiced by students and have delivered to me a draft plan regarding proposed future institutional response methods to hate speech incidents. In addition, they are also working on a report summarizing their findings and recommendations.
Please remember that we have a supportive and caring environment at NDSU. During these turbulent times, we need to remember that every member of our community needs to be respected and valued.
Dean L. Bresciani, President