MSU President's Newspaper Column

February 20, 2021 

Current COVID-19 situation, budgetary decisions, and honoring beloved family members

We are extremely grateful for a very low number of occurrences of COVID-19 among students and employees during the spring semester thus far. As of Feb. 16, we had one distance student with a confirmed case of COVID-19. (Distance students do not attend classes on campus.) There are currently four confirmed close contacts among students attending classes on campus and living either in residence halls or off campus, and none among distance students or employees.  

While this news is cause for a big sigh of relief, we know this is not a time for us to ease up on our precautionary measures. Mayville State’s mask mandate remains in force, and we continue to provide classrooms that are set up to accommodate social distancing. Our custodial staff continue to maintain their high standards of cleaning, as do faculty and students who are cleaning up their classroom spaces as each class period comes to a close, helping to assure safety for those who use the classroom after them.

Our faculty, staff, and students are to be commended for their hard work and perseverance that help to keep the campus community safe and well. We know that our students greatly value the opportunity to attend classes in person, and they are working hard to do whatever they can to help assure we can continue to do so. One measure of mitigation of the virus is in testing. Rapid antigen COVID-19 testing is available to all Mayville State students, faculty, and staff on an ongoing basis.

We have recently received good news regarding the availability of COVID-19 vaccinations for North Dakota higher education staff, faculty, and administration. Officials estimate that at current vaccine allocation levels, vaccination of this population could begin sometime in May of 2021. Officials have acknowledged the importance of maintaining stability within the higher education system. For that reason, if there is a delay and this group has not already been vaccinated by July 1, 2021, North Dakota will reprioritize to ensure that all staff, faculty, and administration will have the opportunity to be vaccinated prior to the start of the fall 2021 semester.

At the end of last week, we announced that a difficult decision had been made. In response to budgetary constraints and loss of program enrollment, we will be reallocating resources through the non-renewal of three faculty appointments. The affected faculty are under contract and will continue to teach courses for the remainder of their contract period which ends May 15, 2021. Cutting positions is our only option at this time. We are sincerely empathetic for the individuals and families who are directly impacted, and for all who may be indirectly impacted.

In addition to the non-renewal of faculty contracts, current measures being taken to address budgetary and loss of program enrollment concerns include having tasked several faculty members, staff, and administrators with additional responsibilities that help with providing a more equitable distribution of duties.

Comet Pride was abundant on Feb. 13 as our men’s basketball team celebrated their winning of the conference title. Their victory over Waldorf University in the Lewy Lee Fieldhouse on Saturday evening sealed the deal. In addition to celebrating a victory and conference title, it was also senior night and a time to recognize three young men, Carl Snyder, Iker Cruz, and Xavier Towne, who have been instrumental in the men’s basketball program and who will graduate soon. It was also alumni weekend for men’s basketball and we were happy to have some special members of the Comet family back at home for a couple of days.

Super supporter of Comets men’s and women’s basketball, the late Gwen Shaffer, who passed away in January, was recognized just prior to tip off of the men’s game Saturday. Gwen and her late brother, Stan, had been very close to the Comets basketball student-athletes, not only as fans, but also as personal friends. Gwen and Stan helped to make Mayville State “home” for many student-athletes, and we are thankful to have called them members of the Mayville State family.

We also bid farewell to a beloved member of the Mayville State family, Dr. Ray Gerszewski, last week. He passed away Feb. 5 after a four-year battle with thyroid cancer. Dr. Gerszewski retired at the end of 2015, after a more than 32-year career at Mayville State. Upon his retirement, he was bestowed the title Vice President Emeritus for Student Affairs. Ray was known for his positive impact in the lives of a countless number of students, and the experience he brought to the executive leadership team was invaluable. Ray was one of the most respected administrators Mayville State has known. We express our sincere sympathy to his family members and friends.