In a seven-hour plane tour of the flood zone Friday, University President Nils Hasselmo and officials from the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system promised their help in rebuilding schools reeling from the northern floods.
Arriving in Crookston, Minn., which he called the frontline of flood relief efforts, Hasselmo thanked Minnesota–Crookston students and faculty members for their efforts to help flood evacuees living in the campus gym.
“You have fed them, you have housed them, you have counseled them and you have helped them find their families,” Hasselmo said to a crowd of about 100.
“Thank you again for demonstrating a very special Crookston spirit,” he said.
Then, pulling an envelope from his pocket, Hasselmo said, “And better than words is money. Isn’t that right, Chancellor?”
Hasselmo presented Don Sargeant, chancellor of Crookston, a check for $25,000 to help with student emergency assistance. The money will be used to help students replace books, equipment and supplies lost in the flood. Hasselmo added that more assistance is on the way.
“Put the money to a good cause for our students,” Hasselmo said.
Accompanying Hasselmo was Judith Eaton, chancellor of the MnSCU system and the system’s chancellor-elect Morrie Anderson. Also on the flight was Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, D-Erskine, and Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, D-Thief River Falls.
The group also spoke to students and faculty members at two of four MnSCU campuses affected by flooding. Eaton announced a $50,000 contingency fund for each technical college dealing with flooding problems.
Of major concern to leaders of the northern campuses were absent students. Sargeant said 20 percent of students have not shown up for classes since the disaster occurred.
“We want to reach out to all the students and staff who haven’t called in yet,” Sargeant said. “The most important thing is to get the students back into class.”
System-wide, about 1,700 University students are from counties affected by the floods. Sergeant said 1,100 of Crookston’s 1,500 students hail from the floodplains.
Although the University of North Dakota’s classes have been cancelled for the rest of the school year, Minnesota’s counterpart schools decided to continue the quarter.
Ray Cross, chief executive officer of the Northwest Technical College in East Grand Forks, asked that any student, faculty or staff member who has not called in with their location do so.
Officials from the school have located a majority of its people, but remain concerned with finding others.
Moorhead State University in Moorhead, Minn., and Northland Community Technical College in Thief River Falls have remained open, despite the 170 evacuees living in the Northland gymnasium.
Residents and staff members from the Good Samaritan Care Center in East Grand Forks, Minn., have been living at the school since the National Guard evacuated them April 18.
Orley Gunderson, president of the Thief River Falls school, said the students and faculty members affected have been more than happy to sacrifice their campus.
“(The students) are doing something to address the misery we’re going through,” he said. “Our students don’t have their cafeteria, their TV room, their commons, their gym. They’ve given up a lot.”
Shawn MacDonald, director of disaster assistance for the community college, urged the gathered legislators and education leaders to continue their support.
“A week ago this afternoon my house went under water,” MacDonald said. “Since then, I’ve been helping students who are going through the same thing.
“Some students lost their cars, their clothes and their books,” she said. “We’re trying to get them back to normal.
“Last Thursday and Friday I took vacation to see my house go underwater,” she said, her voice breaking. “We need emergency relief. We need legislators to make changes. I’ve got three days left to get my house. … I shouldn’t have to use my vacation time to put this back together.”