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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Annamarie Parker
Annamarie Parker
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I am an English, Writing major with a double minor in German and journalism. I'm also pursuing my TESOL certificate while working for Housing and Residence Life. I love to travel and meet new people.

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

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University forum meeting held, COVID-19 updates, enrollment results

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Ashley Beronja/NW WINTER UPDATE — President Fritz Erickson held a press conference Feb. 3, in which he touched on vaccination plans and winter enrollment numbers. From the previous semester enrollment is down 7.4% likely due to the pandemic.

On Feb. 3 NMU President Fritz Erickson held a virtual university forum that discussed issues involving COVID-19 numbers, vaccination plans, enrollment and retention trends, a budget update, news from Lansing, the upcoming provost search and future plans for the university. Joined by Erickson was Gavin Leach, vice president for finance and administration, and Derek Hall, chief marketing officer. The forum went from 3 p.m. until 3:45 p.m. followed by a Q&A. 

The forum began with COVID-19 updates and results from the Safe on Campus Dashboard. Comparative to the previous semester, Fall 2020, the positive cases were drastically different. Initially, there were 13 occupants in Spalding at the start of the Winter 2021 semester which was significantly lower than the 78 in the fall.

“As of now there are only three residents who are currently in Spalding Hall,” Erickson said.

A new change that everyone saw coming into the new semester was the required mass screening for everyone who would be on-campus. The mass screening will be held once a week alternating with a residence hall group one week and then an off-campus group the other.

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“We’ve been doubling our mass screening efforts and testing about 300 folks a week,” Erickson said. “One week we will test residence folks and the other week we do mostly off-campus students and employees and so forth.” 

In the forum, Erickson strongly encouraged those who have not yet signed up for a date for the test screening to do so as it is a vital piece to the process of keeping the campus safe. Erickson also congratulated the entire university community with the continuation of wearing masks and following regulations.

“If you are not feeling well don’t come to campus,” Erickson said. “If you have any type of symptom, you’ll be helping everyone by staying away [from campus].”

Continuing on, Erickson addressed that the Michigan epidemic order will go until Feb. 21 and depending on what happens then after could affect future choices. This could affect visitor restrictions when running facilities and other campus considerations although until the 21 it’s all very much status quo.

NMU will also receive federal pandemic stimulus funding. Erickson pointed out that though with federal funding comes lots of rules and regulations and it’s not uncommon to be given one set of rules and as the funding would be dispersed new rules are set in place.

Erickson briefly mentioned plans for the upcoming Fall 2021 semester and that NMU is staying optimistic with the upcoming semester being in-person, however, the campus may have to scale back if vaccination levels are low by the time of opening for fall classes. This will continue to be monitored and updates will be seen in the future.

“It’s easier to plan to be in person then roll back if we need to than plan to be remote and then realize we can go in-person learning,” Erickson said.

Ending the topic of COVID-19 was discussions of the current COVID-19 vaccinations. NMU is partnering with the Marquette Health Department to have them use the University Center to distribute the vaccine to those who are eligible and have signed up through the health department. 

“We’re also planning on being a vaccine center ourselves to be able to provide vaccines for faculty, staff and students. We’re all coordinated with that, in fact, we have the new ultra freezer for the Pfizer dosage, we’re just in line waiting to get vaccines,” Erickson said. “If and when that happens, we’ll certainly get communications out. We want to get as many folks on our campus that need a vaccine to get a vaccine.”

Those who work for housing as a resident advisor, director or community advisor are part of the staff category in terms of vaccinations as they are very much an important part of the staff at the university, according to Erickson.

Switching topics to enrollment and retention, the forum stated that there are 1,000 fewer people physically on campus in the Winter 2021 semester. This was in part due to the remote options that were made available this winter such as learning, teaching and working because of the uncertainty of what the COVID-19 rates would be.

“It’s part of our commitment to being flexible to try to help everyone get through the pandemic and provide the format that works best for them on and off campus,” Erickson said. “I know it’s been a lot of work on the part of faculty and staff and students to make this work and to juggle it deeply appreciative, but it is working for us.”

Enrollment is down 7.4% which is the area NMU thought to be in due to the pandemic. Erickson said that the percentage comes largely from students who have stepped away from university, although there are plans to do some analysis and find out what those students’ plans are for the future in regards to coming back in the fall.

Going further into the enrollment and retention results, Leach said that NMU planned to have a 4.2% enrollment decline. Results showed that enrollment decreased more than anticipated, but not by much. In addition to the enrollment and headcount decline, credit hours were down by 6.5%.

“However, we think, as of now, we can make adjustments within the current budget to not move forward with any additional budget reductions,” Leach said. “We just need our departments to continue to manage your budgets well, which they’ve done over the last few years. We’ve appreciated that from the departmental level.”

Ending the conversation with enrollment and retention, Leach said that NMU would receive 9.8 million in stimulus money of which 3 million would be given to students.

“However, out of that we need to wait for final regulations, they really post the initial regulations and they get into the detail of what your procedural you’re allowed to do with those funds,” Leach said. “Once we get a final picture that we will have a process for implementing the use of those funds, as well as some of the dollars for this year.”

Concluding the forum were final comments from Erickson including praise to the university from state leaders.

“One of the things that I do spend quite a bit of time with is talking with state leaders and national leaders and so forth,” Erickson said. “I can tell you I’ve heard from so many state leaders how impressed they are by the work on our campus and community and especially by our students to keep northern a safe place to live, to learn and to work.”

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