MnSCU marshals forces to fight flood

Posted: April 3, 2009

Contact: Doug Anderson, doug.anderson@so.mnscu.edu, 651-201-1426

As record-busting flood waters and snowstorms raged in the Fargo-Moorhead area during the past week, thousands of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities students, faculty and staff pulled together to build dikes, feed and house volunteers and provide security.

Resources from at least 10 of the system’s colleges and universities were used in fighting the flood, said Chancellor James H. McCormick. “The beauty of this system is that the 32 presidents have a strong network that allows them to draw on each other’s resources in emergencies,” he said. “I’m proud of the tremendous outpouring from within our system.”

Although the swollen Red River did not threaten the campuses of Minnesota State University Moorhead and Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Moorhead, Presidents Edna Szymanski and Ann Valentine began mobilizing emergency operations a week or so before the expected crest, which hit a record crest of 40.82 feet.

During the week before and after the crest, the emergency operations center and volunteer center for the city of Moorhead and Clay County were housed on the university’s campus. The volunteer center registered 20,000 workers.

Besides sandbagging dikes, volunteers, including culinary arts students from Minnesota State Community and Technical College, served 7,000 meals a day. University officials also brought an unused dorm into service within a half day to house 200 National Guard, civil air patrol and public health nurses and law enforcement personnel. And Bemidji State University opened its dorms for 21 international students when Minnesota State University Moorhead closed its campus. The university plans to reopen its campus Monday.

Other Minnesota State Colleges and Universities that assisted include security units from Minnesota State University, Mankato; Bemidji State University; Minneapolis Community and Technical College and Rochester Community and Technical College; the fire unit from Lake Superior College; and a faculty member from Minnesota West Community and Technical College who backed up the incident commander. Alexandria Technical College provided heavy equipment and operators for almost five days. Three experts from the system’s Fire/EMS/Safety Center helped coordinate communications between the campuses and the city’s emergency operation.

Thousands of students from the two affected system institutions also were joined by students from Hibbing Community College, Lake Superior College and other higher education institutions in sandbagging operations. “The students literally saved these two towns, and the mayors of both towns will tell you that,” said Doug Hamilton, the university’s executive director of public relations.

At least 85 members of the Minnesota National Guard called up for disaster relief are also students in the system’s colleges and universities. They came from 27 campuses within the system. And Capt. Dan Price, the military liaison to higher education who works in the system office, was called to lead the National Guard units assigned to Clay and Polk counties.

“These soldiers deserve our gratitude, and we will do everything possible to assure their academic success when they return to their college or university,” McCormick said. Under state law, soldiers deployed to active duty during a semester have options for completing coursework that include withdrawing from the class without penalty, completing the course at a later date or making special arrangements to complete the course.

Soldiers who have missed classes at a Minnesota state college or university because of being on active duty should contact their college or university as soon as possible to set up their options for completing their courses.