Armacost to form UND task force on diversity, says campus community 'must collectively speak up against bias and confront hatred'

Incoming UND president Andrew Armacost visits with Joshua Carter at the Martin Luther King Day "Dream in Action" award dinner at the Gorecki Alumni Center in January. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

In the wake of George Floyd’s death and issues on campus, UND President Armacost is preparing to establish a special university task force on race, gender and diversity.

In a letter sent to the campus community earlier this week, Armacost said he wants to be clear in his goal “for a campus that rejects racism and discrimination.”

“We acknowledge the pain and weight that racism, bias and inequity places on our students, faculty and staff of color,” he wrote. “We face daunting work to heighten equity and improve representation on campus. What gives us hope, however, is that universities have a long history of catalyzing change and promoting growth.”

The special university task force has a “bold charter to identify process, practices and everyday actions that lead to equitable outcomes," he said.

Armacost said the “sense of belonging of our students of color has historically not been great on campus,” so he and the university want to take steps to improve that.


The best approach to achieve that is through broad representation from the campus, particularly from students, faculty and staff of color, to “further define the issues that our people of color face and to take steps to try to improve the campus,” Armacost said.

“This is just an initial step to pull together the right people to help identify possible solutions to this very challenging problem,” he told the Herald.

Armacost’s letter prompted volunteers for the task force. There will be a formal call for volunteers in the near future, according to Armacost, who said first he wants to have conversations with campus community members who were impacted by Floyd’s death and who have concerns about the state of race relations on campus.

He anticipates that the task force will be up and running before classes start in the fall and will last two or three months.

Armacost, who took over as president of UND on June 1, has been leading the university from his current home in Colorado, but intends to be on campus later this month.

A key outcome of the task force, Armacost said, will be the start of the diversity and inclusion strategic plan, which will tie to the university’s core values as well as a key element of the university’s existing strategic plan. Another key outcome will likely be how the university can make organizational changes to support students, staff and faculty in these types of issues.

Additional work will continue on the diversity and inclusion strategic plan as the task force takes shape and beyond. Those discussions also will include the LGBTQ+ community, the campus’ indiginous population and more.

“With broad representation, this task force will identify gaps in our ability to solve issues of racism and discrimination, specify data needs that will pinpoint how and where it impacts our campus and promote actions we need to take individually and as a community,” Armacost wrote in his campus letter.


Additionally, there will be listening sessions with UND students, faculty and staff, as well as other campus affinity groups.

Armacost said there are already many efforts on campus to address diversity and inclusion, whether through student support services or in the classroom, but UND can and needs to do better.

“Our campus must be a forum for ideas, providing the opportunity for our members to grow as learners and citizens,” Armacost wrote. “As a public university, we have a First Amendment responsibility to protect free speech, no matter how offensive it is. Yet, we must collectively speak up against bias and confront hatred. "

Armacost said that people must educate themselves and hold one another accountable for their words and actions.

“We must listen empathetically to those who are being impacted and protect those who feel unsafe,” he wrote. “We must have dialogue and action on the toughest issues we face as a campus, city, state and nation. We must do so immediately and forever, and this work must not fall solely on people of color.”

UND president Andrew Armacost
UND president Andrew Armacost. Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald

Sydney Mook has been the managing editor at the Herald since April 2021. In her role she edits and assigns stories and helps reporters develop their work for readers.

Mook has been with the Herald since May 2018 and was first hired as the Herald's higher education reporter where she covered UND and other happenings in state higher education. She was later promoted to community editor in 2019.

For story pitches contact her at or call her at 701-780-1134.
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