UND’s foundation will not be hosting any in-person homecoming events this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The UND Alumni Association and Foundation has canceled in-person homecoming events originally planned for Oct. 5-10, the foundation announced in a press release Friday, Aug. 7.
“This was a difficult decision,” DeAnna Carlson Zink, foundation CEO, said in a statement. “But the health and safety of our alumni and the community were the deciding factors. We know our alumni, students and the Grand Forks community love Homecoming, but we cannot safely give them the experience they have come to expect.”
The decision was made in consultation with the foundation executive committee, UND President Andrew Armacost, UND Athletics Director Bill Chaves and public health experts.
“Many Homecoming events, whether for students or alumni, involve large gatherings held inside, which makes social distancing nearly impossible,” said Sara Garland, foundation board president. “Given the restrictions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and discussions with officials at UND, it seemed prudent to cancel those events to protect the well-being of our alumni family and the UND community.”
Those scheduled to receive Sioux Awards and Young Alumni Achievement Awards will, instead, be honored at Homecoming 2021. The UND Letterwinners Association Hall of Fame Banquet also has been postponed with the 2020 inductees to be honored next year.
Next year’s homecoming celebration is scheduled for Oct. 18-23.
The foundation is still looking for ways to host virtual events, the release noted.
“We're excited for the opportunity to create new and innovative experiences as we adjust our Homecoming plan to stay connected with our alumni and friends across the country,” said Brooke Conlin, the foundation’s director of events.
Updates on virtual events can be found at UNDalumni.org/homecoming.
This announcement only relates to homecoming events sponsored by the foundation.
Friday night the Missouri Valley Football Conference, which UND plays in, announced football would not be played this fall. The MVFC will pursue an eight-game conference schedule during the spring season instead.
There's no word on the status of the annual Potato Bowl week, which is set to take place from Sept. 29 to Oct. 3 and is another large celebration for the campus community and Grand Forks.
A note on the Potato Bowl's website states: "The Potato Bowl USA Committee and our sponsors are monitoring developments surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic closely. Community safety is our first concern! A final decision whether to hold any or all of the scheduled Potato Bowl USA events will be announced in mid to late August. Thank you for your understanding!"
The alumni foundation is also planning to host its annual "State of the Foundation" address virtually on Aug. 25 at 12 p.m.
The events are just a few of the typical campus celebrations that will either be held virtually or pared down this fall. The university held its summer commencement ceremony online on Friday, Aug. 7. The spring ceremony was also held virtually.
Armacost’s inauguration ceremony will have a total of 50 people in attendance later this fall, down to the camera operator and musical talents. A presidential inauguration ceremony is typically a large celebration with guest speakers, students, staff and faculty.
Armacost told the Herald last week that the event is intended to only include people close to him, such as key staffers and a few leaders, such as the chancellor of the North Dakota University System.
“We're looking very carefully at upcoming activities to determine what's the appropriate size and scale of those,” he said. “We're watching size of events very carefully. It's hard to manage when you're trying to keep physical distance and then face coverings and all the expectations we have on campus. People have to be very creative in how they design these experiences.”
Armacost said the university is challenging people to think about how they can build community while also limiting in-person interactions to reduce the spread of COVID-19.