Madison Daily Leader, June 26

Looking long-term at Dakota State housing

Construction progress continues on a beautiful new residence hall at Dakota State University, with the four-story, 122-bed facility to be ready for occupancy by fall 2021.

As enrollment grew in recent years, DSU has made substantial investments in student housing: renovation of the 1960s dormitories, leasing of apartment units north of N.E. 9th Street, purchase and renovation of the former Madison Community Hospital to become The Courtyard residence hall, and purchase and renovation of the St. Thomas Convent to become Van Eps Place.

Even so, occupancy in fall 2019 was 100%. Clearly, it’s been a lot of work to keep up with demand. Part of that work including planning for a brand new facility and the financing required to construct it.

Then COVID-19 came along. DSU switched from in-person classes to on-line instruction in March and ended up refunding half of the residence hall rent and meal service plans for the spring semester.

DSU and other state universities will hold in-person classes again this fall, but there is some uncertainty as to enrollment levels. We’ve heard of some students choosing to take a break from school for the fall semester.

Even so, DSU is looking long-term. Projections for the jobs for which students are being trained are increasing; some categories show job growth of more than 30% over the next 10 years, according to DSU President Jose-Marie Griffiths.

“All signs indicate enrollment growth at Dakota State will continue in coming years,” she said.

Even if on-campus enrollment falls this year, DSU is well positioned. Plans are already in the works to create housing that could assist in isolation protocols if a student contracts COVID-19. If residence halls aren’t filled to capacity, there could be opportunities to increase social distancing to prevent virus spread.

We’re glad DSU administrators are working on residence hall plans for both the short term and long term. Both plans will help ensure long-term success.


Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, June 25

What could have been

There have been moments during this pandemic — which has tended to have me thinking way too much anyway — when a thought comes to mind that haunts me and hurts me:

I’m glad my mother isn’t here for all this.

Sometimes, that feels like such a terrible notion; sometimes, it feels like a blessing.

My mother died a year ago last March, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about her. Lately, I’ve also been wondering how she might have dealt with the COVID-19 onslaught that has devoured our lives.

Unfortunately, I think I know the answer. She would have been miserable: terrified of being infected by this coronavirus and depressed about feeling isolated and not being able to go out and, say, shop at Walmart as she loved to do regularly. Her life would have been plagued by anxiety and, most likely, a consequent feeling of helplessness. She certainly would have been worried about being around other people.

That would have included people like me, I suppose. I’m out in the public every day and could potentially be facing whatever viruses are in circulation here. My mother might have been concerned about being around me, which would have bothered me (and her) a lot.

What makes me feel even worse is my sense of sad relief that she isn’t around for this. I would be constantly worried about her; so, too, would my brother and sister and their families. Every cough, every uptick in her temperature would have caused us to imagine the worst. At least we don’t have that to deal with now … which also makes me feel guilty.

No doubt, the media’s relentless coverage of the pandemic would have driven my mother to other forms of TV viewing (old movies on TCM work for me), but she couldn’t have escaped how much the pandemic would have impacted her life, nor could she have ignored the manner in which this country has dealt with the coronavirus. I think the lack of a principled, informed course of action would have driven her crazy. She would have wanted to hear only from health experts, not from politicians.

For instance, my mother would have found nothing funny whatsoever about President Trump’s “joke” last weekend about slowing down the pace of the nation’s COVID testing — if in fact it was a joke, as the White House said it was … but Trump himself then said it wasn’t. Instead, she would have wondered why anyone would either want such a thing or, given the death toll, joke about it.

I wouldn’t have blamed her.

In a way, these really shouldn’t be uncertain times. There should be a certain, cogent, clear purpose in how we deal with this pandemic. The science should be guiding us and fueling our resolve in addressing it.

For instance, we shouldn’t see the wearing — or NOT wearing — of face masks being turned into some kind of political flashpoint. There is no rational sense in that at all. And yet, here we are.

We shouldn’t have leadership undercutting and contradicting the science we need to get through this pandemic. But that’s being done almost daily.

And a nation like this shouldn’t be pursuing courses guided by hunches, internet rumors and long shots (hydroxychloroquine anyone?).

But with COVID-19, America has been a disaster. A quick scan of the charts comparing coronavirus cases in this country to other nations makes that grimly clear. As some critics have noted, it seems sometimes that we’ve just given up on trying. We’re “reopening” the country while the virus remains unchecked, which is like opening the windows of a house while a monsoon is still lashing away. Now the White House is reportedly thinking about lifting the nation’s social distancing guidelines, basically as a means of declaring an illusionary election-year victory over a virus for which there is no vaccine, no treatment or no end in sight.

So, frankly, I’m relieved that my mother isn’t here to endure any of this.

I can’t really say she would have been angry about it all because that wasn’t the way she generally processed things. Instead, she would have been quietly upset and, in darker moments, panicked. She would have been calling me on the phone on a lot of late nights to share her anxieties, worrying for herself and for the rest of her family. It would have made this struggle even harder to bear.

It makes me feel for the people who ARE facing that struggle with their own elders and/or at-risk loved ones right now. It adds an incredible weight to the burdens of the moment — a moment that could be, and should be, playing out differently and much more smartly.

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