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Cynthia Lummis Booed For Saying There Are Only Two Sexes At UW Commencement

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming’s annual graduation ceremony, typically a ceremony filled with glowing remarks and optimism about the future, took on a more political tone Saturday as U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis prompted boos with her outlook on transgender individuals.

Toward the end of her roughly 17-minute speech, Lummis said, “Even fundamental scientific truths such as the existence of two sexes, male and female, are subject to challenge these days,” bringing loud jeers and a stammering response from Lummis. 

Lummis went on to explain that she wasn’t commenting on people who transition between genders, which was met with continued outrage from the audience. 

Lummis then pivoted to the topic of COVID-19 restrictions, which brought a more supportive reaction from the crowd filling up more than half the seats in the roughly 11,612-seat auditorium.

Lummis, in a statement from her office Sunday, apologized for her remarks and said it was never her intention to make anyone feel unwelcome or disrespected.

“My reference to the existence of two sexes was intended to highlight the times in which we find ourselves, times in which the metric of biological sex is under debate with potential implications for the shared Wyoming value of equality,” Lummis said.

“I share the fundamental belief that women and men are equal, but also acknowledge that there are biological differences and circumstances in which these differences need to be recognized,” she said.



University Reaction

The university itself acknowledged Lummis’ statements in a press release on Sunday, saying it “supports and celebrates its diverse communities that collectively make us the wonderful place that we are.”

Chad Baldwin, associate vice president of communications & marketing for UW, said Lummis’ speech was screened by staff before she gave it, and the school does not regret letting her make her remarks.

“The university recognizes the importance of the First Amendment on campus,” Baldwin said, explaining the school did not believe Lummis’ comments should be restricted. Baldwin said the topic of free speech is an issue UW President Ed Seidel is “still firm” on. 

Members of the university’s Inclusion Council issued a longer, more critical response to Lummis’ comments in a press release Monday morning.

“We affirm that humans may comprise various chromosomal variations, and not every person is strictly born female or male,” the press release said. “Intersex members of our community who have diverse chromosomal makeup should be seen and recognized.”

The Council recognized the free speech argument, but said words leave an impact and can sometimes be “hurtful and marginalizing.” 

“The University of Wyoming works to pursue an environment where critical discourse is held while maintaining civility and respect,” the Inclusion press release said. “As with all areas of study and engagement, education is needed across communities to create a better informed campus, community and world.”

Student Reaction

Annika Pelkey was one of the several hundred graduates on-hand Saturday. She said a UW student who identified as non-binary committed suicide this year.

“It feels very real,” Pelkey said.

A recent survey from the Trevor Project focusing on suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth showed that nearly half of all LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year nationally.

Hunter Swilling, a former UW student body president and current president pro tem of the student government senate, said Lummis’ comments were particularly insensitive given the transgender student’s death.

“Senator Lummis is an immensely successful person, but instead of imparting her knowledge onto our graduating students, she used it as an opportunity to bring others down,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “Her comments were also immensely insensitive, given UW has had a transgender student commit suicide this year. Her bigotry runs counter to everything we hold dear and to our ideals as the Equality State.” 

As a member of the LGBTQ community which she estimates composes at least 25% the UW student body, Pelkey said she was “confused why” Lummis had been invited to speak at the ceremony, but also said she and her colleagues decided to “give her a shot” and “give her the respect” of hearing what she had to say.

“What she said was a very disrespectful thing about the LGBTQ community,” Pelkey said. “What she said was blatantly wrong.”

She was, however, encouraged by the student and audience response. Pelkey said around 80% to 90% of the students reacted the same way she did, letting out loud boos and other expressions of condemnation.

“It was really amazing to see my peers stand up and blatantly boo her,” Pelkey said. “Overall, it was a good reminder that my peers are incredible.”

For many like Pelkey, it may have been the venue that Lummis, a UW grad, chose to utter her statements, rather than any surprise about the beliefs she holds. 

In the past, Lummis has spoken out against gay marriage, sponsored a bill to allow parents who oppose federal support of transgender students to access to vouchers for private or homeschooling, co-sponsored a bill that allows nonprofits to discriminate against LGBTQ people and voted against repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, according to LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD. 

The Movement Advancement Project gave Wyoming a 2.75 score on a scale of 42.5 for its LGBTQ laws.

“I think she said what she did to earn brownie points with her party,” Pelkey said.

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UW Gives Officials $38,000 In Tickets, Meals, Gifts Over Three Years

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

Using private donations, the University of Wyoming spent nearly $38,000 on tickets, dinners and gifts for elected officials in three years.  

According to documents from the secretary of state’s office, the university’s lobbyist Meredith Asay gifted about $37,572 in sporting events tickets, dinners, events and small gift bags to Wyoming public servants from autumn 2017 to the spring of 2020.

The money for the gifts all came from donations to the university’s foundation, UW spokesman Chad Baldwin told Cowboy State Daily.  

“We’re not using state block grant funding for any of this,” he said.  

Dinners, tours and events were responsible for the biggest share of the expense at $17,113, including the University of Wyoming “Legislator’s Day” and legislative dinners and facility tours at various locations.  

Football tickets came in second for expense, with $14,612 in football tickets given over the three years to various legislators and executive-branch elected officials, the governor’s staff and their guests.  

Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo tickets, catering, and legislators’ gifts totaled $3,355.  

Basketball-related favors cost the university the least, at $2,492 over the three years.  

“For a public university like ours, it’s important to have strong relationships with policymakers,” said Baldwin. “And that’s very much in line with what similar universities do when it comes to gifts for legislators and others.”  

Baldwin said generally, there’s a “widespread offer for legislators who want to come to ball games.” 

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UW Professors, Student Lead Research On New COVID Rapid Test

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Two University of Wyoming professors and one doctoral candidate have spearheaded research into a new, more sensitive rapid COVID test.

Assistant chemical engineering Professor Karen Wawrousek and chemical engineering student Moein Mohammadi, joined by UW Chemical Engineering Department Director Patrick Johnson and researchers at the National University of Ireland in Galway, developed a more sensitive version of the rapid COVID tests used in homes.

The test developed by the researchers detects a spike protein in SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID. The test allows for a more defined result in a COVID test compared to many rapid tests available on the market now, the researchers said.

“The commercial antigen test you can do at home catches a lot of the COVID cases, but not all of them,” Wawrousek said.

The team developed a process to analyze a substance to determine its composition or quality, also known as an assay, was to detect the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

For testing of the process, samples were placed in glass vials and inserted into hand-held instruments for analysis. This type of assay will allow for testing in rural and remote areas and on-site at airports, among other locations, Johnson said.

Johnson added one advantage of the new technology is that it can be used to detect other diseases simultaneously, not just COVID. He added he hopes the research team can expand the test to include a respiratory panel to detect not only COVID, but also various types of influenza and more.

Wawrousek and Mohammadi wrote a paper about the team’s development that has been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Now that the paper has been published, the team is back at work, attempting to improve on its research.

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City Of Laramie, UW Back In Court Over Water Dispute

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The latest water dispute between the City of Laramie and the University of Wyoming has made its way to the Wyoming Supreme Court.

An appeal filed with the Wyoming Supreme Court by Laramie stems from the city’s efforts to drill on land given by the university to the city. It follows a dispute university wells that led to the creation of a new law blocking cities and counties from restricting how the UW uses its water.

At issue is a city plan to drill a well in an area called “Painted Point” in northeast Laramie.

The land in question was given to the university in 1965 by Union Pacific Railroad, which kept for itself the area’s mineral rights and the exclusive rights to drill for water for any reason other than domestic purposes.

In 1981, the railroad gave the city permission to drill for water on land in the area. The railroad’s permission was required because of a 1946 agreement that neither the city nor the railroad would drill new wells without the consent of the other.

In 1982, the university gave the land in question to Laramie for use as a street, alley or easement.

Laramie applied for a well permit in April 2017 and the university sought a court order in May 2021 to stop the city’s work on the well.

The university argued it had an interest in the property where the well would be located that would be harmed if the city was allowed to drill. A state district court ruled in favor of the university in July 2021.

But the city argued the university’s interests could not be harmed because it had no interest in the land or the water to be produced from the well.

“Simply put, the university does not own any water drilling rights at the Painted Point whatsoever, and consequently, the city’s exercise of those water drilling rights cannot constitute an injury to the university,” the city’s brief to the Supreme Court said.

As a result, the university lacks the proper authority to challenge the city’s plans, the brief said.

The brief also said the state district court failed to adequately consider the Union Pacific’s agreement allowing the city to drill for water.

The university has until Monday to file its response.

The dispute is the latest between the university and the city over water. Previous arguments resulted in 2021 in a new state law that prohibits any city or county from restricting the university in the construction of water systems or the use of its own water.

The law stemmed from Laramie’s decision in 2007 to begin charging for water it provided the university for the irrigation of Jacoby Golf Course. The decision reversed a policy in place since the 1950s that saw the city give the water to the university at no charge.

In response, the university drilled two wells on land next to the golf course and planned to irrigate the course with that water. But the city adopted an ordinance that blocked the university from crossing city land to deliver its water to the golf course.

The bill that nullified the city ordinance was adopted only after legislators criticized both the university and the city for failing to work toward a solution to the dispute.

“In all candor, this bill is a disgrace,” Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, said at the time. “(The UW and Laramie) have chosen to fight, chosen to lawyer up and brought a mess to us. But if we don’t pass this bill, there will be an extensive lawsuit and further difficulties and we may have to spend money on both the university and the city getting things right.”

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Wyoming In Lowest Quadrant For College Costs in NCAA Basketball Tournament

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

It’s expensive to go to college. 

And once parents and students start focusing on it, there’s a lot of sticker shock, Cheyenne financial advisor Bryan Pedersen said.

So to help get that college expense conversation started in advance, Pedersen — as he has for the last 10 years — has posted the NCAA men’s basketball tournament bracket along with the average cost for getting a four-year degree for every school that has qualified.

And while Wyoming’s appearance in the NCAA Tournament this year might be a bit of a surprise to some, Pedersen’s figures will be less of a surprise — they show the University of Wyoming is among the best bargains of any of the tournament-bound schools.

Pedersen, who serves as senior vice president for RBC Wealth Management, says his annual post gets a lot of attention because of the interest in March Madness.

The tournament bracket, combined with comparisons of the costs of different schools across the country, gets parents focused on college costs and how much they are going to have to dole out for their college-bound children, he said.

“It’s fascinating when you see these costs in black and white,” he told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday, noting college costs increase by 7% each year, compared to an annual inflation rate of 3%. “People are always getting sticker-shocked.”

He doesn’t just post the bracket for fun, although he says people enjoy looking at it. It’s also good for business.

“We help people plan for college savings,” he said. “Maybe open a college savings account for their kid where can they take money from current investment strategies to move into college costs. This helps to start having those conversations.”

There’s even more interest this year because, for the first time since 2015, the University of Wyoming is included and Pedersen, a UW grad, took the time to promote his alma mater.

“My wife and I both went to the University of Wyoming and I’d like to see my kids go to UW,” Pedersen said.  “I got a great education there.”

UW A Great Bargain

By going to the University of Wyoming, a student can save a lot of money compared to most of the schools in the tournament.

Looking at out-of-state costs for the 68 schools in the tournament, Wyoming is in the lower price quadrant with a four-year education (including tuition, fees, room and board), costing an estimated $133,001.69.

That tops Wyoming’s opponent on Tuesday, the University of Indiana, by just less than $1,000 as the total cost to be a Hoosier is $132,144.04.

The most expensive school in the tournament is Duke at a cost just over $326,210, with Yale right behind clocking in at $325,278.

On the other end, South Dakota State is the most economical school at $87,283 followed by Murray State ($103,000) and Jacksonville State ($121,116).

The average cost for college of all four-year universities is $109,320.

The real way to save money though, Pedersen said, is for Wyoming students to take advantage of the “super-low” cost of in-state tuition which is about half the cost of out-of-state tuition.

“The University of Wyoming is extremely underrated in its value,” Pedersen said. “It’s a great bargain. It’s a great school.”

Pedersen said paying extra at a more prestigious college for an undergraduate degree is probably not cost-effective.  

He said going to a top-tier school for a graduate degree may be worth the expense, however.

“When you pursue a graduate level degree, it could be worth it to spend the money,” he said. “People can make some pretty good connections and employers are much more apt to pay attention to the schools at the graduate level.”

As for Pedersen’s kids, he prefers the lowest cost option. “All of my kids need to get scholarships so I can save money wherever they go.”

As for the brackets, the Wyoming native has the Cowboys going all the way in the tournament.

“I’ve got the Pokes winning it all because you have to believe,” he said.

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UW Athletics Selects Hall Of Fame Members For Class Of 2022

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The University of Wyoming Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame announced the Class of 2022 today.  A three-time All-American basketball player, a record-breaking runner, a two-sport star, two all-conference football players, a beloved staff member, and a championship football team make up this year’s class. 

This year’s inductees are Walter Goffigan (Football, 1980-83), Wayne Jensen (Track, 1969-71), Mary Johnson (Administration, 1983-2010), Erin Kirby (Volleyball and Track, 2011-2015), Grant Salisbury (Football, 1984-88), Les Witte (basketball 1931-34), and the 1988 Western Athletic Conference Champion Cowboy Football Team.

The 29th annual induction ceremony will be held at the Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center on campus on Friday, Sept. 2, 2022.  Ticket information will be announced at a later date.

A total of 180 individuals and 21 teams have been inducted into the Hall of Fame since its inception in 1993.

The Hall of Fame Committee met in January to make its final selections for this year’s class. The inductees must fit into one of five categories: student-athlete, coach, team, athletics staff member or special achievement.  The special achievement category includes individuals who have contributed to the ideal of sports at the University.  Each nominee must receive at least 75 percent of the committee’s vote to be eligible for induction.  Nominations are encouraged and must be submitted by Sept. 1 in order to be considered for the following year’s class.  For more information, check out the UW Athletics Hall of Fame website at www.wyohof.com.

Members of the committee are Gary Crum (chairman), Tom Burman, Casey Campbell, Mike Hamel, Jim House, Rob Jarosh, Kevin McKinney, Dale Ann Meeker, Bill Schrage, Sally Ann Shurmur, Reggie Slater, and Taylor Stuemky.

Following is the Class of 2022: 

WALTER GOFFIGAN

Football, 1980-83

Hometown:  Virginia Beach, Virginia

A bruising running back/fullback, Goffigan earned All-Western Athletic Conference honors in 1981, 1982, and 1983.  He led the team in rushing yards in both 1982 and 1983, averaging 4.8 and 5.0 yards per carry, respectively.  He scored 26 total touchdowns for the Cowboys, still the fifth-best total all-time.  A team captain in 1983, he led the Cowboys in scoring that year with 62 points (ten touchdowns and a two-point conversion). He signed a free-agent contract with the Dallas Cowboys in 1984 before embarking on a long career as a college athletics academic advisor, mentoring countless young student-athletes over the years.

WAYNE JENSEN

Track & Field, 1969-71

Hometown:  Leadville, Colorado

Competing for four years for the University of Wyoming in both Cross Country and Track, Jensen lettered eight times.  As a freshman, he took second in the mile and fourth in the three-mile at the Western Athletic Conference championships and set four new UW records.  His sophomore year, he again finished second in the mile at the WAC Championships and was on UW’s record-breaking mile relay team.  In 1970, Jensen was the WAC champion in the outdoor mile.  He was the WAC champion in the indoor mile in 1971, breaking the conference record in the process. As a junior, Jensen was featured in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd section for holding the mile record in three states (Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah).  He finished his career at Wyoming holding five records.  His records and times are even more remarkable because he ran on cinder tracks. After graduating from UW, he had a long and distinguished career as a chemical engineer. 

*MARY JOHNSON

Administration, 1983-2010

Hometown:  Laramie, Wyoming

Mary Johnson served as the administrative assistant in the men’s basketball office at Wyoming for over 27 years.  She was the person who kept the office running and was always there for the players and coaches alike when they needed a sympathetic voice.  Mary was a constant over the years, a familiar face spanning the tenures of six different head coaches, countless assistant coaches and student-athletes.  Former UW Coach Larry Shyatt said that Mary “provided advice, insight, and support”.  Many former Cowboy players from over the years shared their feelings about Mary.  Fennis Dembo said that Mary “was the sweet and controlled voice in the basketball office when all seemed upside-down after a tough loss”.  To Bill Garnett, Mary “was the calming, helpful, caring person for all of us”.  To Gregg Sawyer, Mary was “the Mom away from home for many of us and the glue that held the program together”.  Reggie Slater recalled Mary’s “calming, steady voice . . . her empathy and wisdom”.  

ERIN KIRBY

Volleyball and Track, 2011-2015

Hometown:  Evanston, WY

An extremely talented two-sport athlete, Erin Kirby earned honors and set records in both Volleyball and Track at UW.  As a middle blocker in Volleyball, she earned all-Mountain West Conference honors four times, and was named Player of the Week four times during her career.  She holds the UW career records for blocks and sets-played and is second in hitting percentage.  She had a single-season record-setting 225 blocks in 2013, leading the Mountain West Conference and second in the nation.  She also earned Academic All-Conference honors four times and was one of thirty NCAA Division I women student-athlete candidates for the Senior Class Award in college volleyball.  In Track, she was the Mountain West 400 meter hurdles champion as a freshman.  Over her career, she earned all-Conference honors in the Indoor 4×400 relay, the Outdoor 400 meter hurdles (twice), the Indoor 400 meter hurdles, and the Outdoor 4×400 meter relay (twice).  She holds nine top-ten marks in the UW record books.  Following graduation, she played one year of professional volleyball in Sweden. 

GRANT SALISBURY

Football, 1984-88

Hometown:  Auburn, Washington

Salisbury was the center for the Cowboy football team during one of its most successful eras.

An honorable mention All-America in 1988, he was a two-time all-conference selection and was a major part of two championship teams.  He anchored an offensive line equally skilled in run and pass-blocking.  His head coach Paul Roach said of him at the time “he’s the main spoke, the heart of our offensive line.  Grant has developed into one of the best centers in college football, and he’s one of the finest guys I’ve coached”.  His offensive line coach, Joe Tiller, said “Grant is tough and he’s smart.  I don’t know that he’s smarter than he is tough or tougher than he is smart, but that combination makes him a fine football player and a heck of a guy.”  

*LESLIE PAUL “LES” WITTE

Basketball, 1931-34

Hometown: Lincoln, Neb.

Wyoming’s first nationally-recognized student-athlete, Les Witte dominated the college basketball world in the early 1930s.  A three-time All-American, he led Wyoming to the Helms Foundation national championship in 1934 and thrust Wyoming into the national spotlight.  Playing for his brother, Coach Willard “Dutch” Witte, Les Witte was Wyoming’s first 1,000-point scorer, first basketball All-American, and first consensus All-American in any sport.  He was a four-time, first-team All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference honoree, and led UW in scoring each of his four years (rewriting the UW record book in the process). The Cowboys were 82-15 during Witte’s playing career and won four RMAC Eastern Division titles and two outright RMAC championships, finishing second the other two times by a total of three points.  The 1932 RMAC title was Wyoming’s first conference championship in a major sport.  Witte graduated from UW with a degree in Geology and went on to a distinguished career with the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation. 

1988 FOOTBALL TEAM

The 1988 football team finished the season with an overall record of 11-2, winning the Western Athletic Conference with a league record of 8-0 and playing in its second straight Holiday Bowl.

With a high-scoring offense led by first-year starter Randy Welniak at quarterback and a ferocious defense, the Cowboys won their first ten games, including the first night game in the history of War Memorial Stadium, a 24-14 victory over Brigham Young University, and a remarkable 48-45 comeback win at Air Force.

Ranked as high as 10th in the nation, the Cowboys had eight players named to the All-Conference team, as well as the offensive player of the year (Welniak), the Defensive Player of the Year (DT Pat Rabold), and the Newcomer of the Year (RB Dabby Dawson). 

Nine Cowboys earned honorable-mention All-America honors with one (Rabold) being named Second Team All-America. Head Coach Paul Roach was named Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year for the second straight year. Wyoming’s defensive front four (Dave Edeen, Craig Schlichting, Rabold, and Mitch Donahue) accounted for 48 quarterback sacks on the year. 

Previous inductees by class:

Class of 1993: Dick Ballinger, (wrestling, 1958-60); Fennis Dembo (men’s basketball, 1985-88); Mike Dirks (football, 1965-67); Jerry Hill (football, 1958-60); Glenn J. “Red” Jacoby (athletic director, 1946-73); Jay Novacek (football and track, 1982-84); Kenny Sailors (men’s basketball, 1941-46); Everett Shelton (men’s basketball coach, 1939-59); Johnny Winterholler (football, baseball, and basketball, 1936-39); 1943 National Champion basketball team.

Class of 1994: Paul Carlin (track, 1951-53); George “Duke” Humphrey (president, 1945-64); Everett Lantz (wrestling coach, 1937-65); Flynn Robinson (men’s basketball, 1963-65); Mary Shea (volleyball, 1980-83); Bill Strannigan (men’s basketball, 1941-42); Ken Sturman (football, 1937-39); Eddie Talboom (football, 1948-50) Bowden Wyatt (football coach, 1947-52); 1950 Gator Bowl football team.

Class of 1995: Jack Aggers (trainer, 1958-84)); Jim Crawford (football, 1954-56); John Corbett (administration, 1915-39); Bob Devaney (football coach, 1957-61); John Kosich (football, baseball, 1946-49); Dewey McConnell (football, 1949-51); Pat Miller-Davis (track and field, 1980-82).

Class of 1996: Larry Birleffi (broadcaster, 1947-86); Charles W. “Tub” Bradley (basketball, 1979-81); Glenn R. “Bud” Daniel (baseball coach, 1951-61, 1963-71); Michele Hoppes Daum (basketball, 1984-87); Jim Kiick (football, 1965-67); Mark Miller (swimming, 1985-88); Milward L. Simpson (football, basketball and baseball, 1917-21).

Class of 1997: Joe Alexander (rodeo, 1968-69); Keith Bloom (basketball, football, baseball, 1947-50); Stig Hallingbye (skiing, 1974-77); Ronda K. Munger (volleyball, 1984-87); Joseph Nzau (track and field, 1977-82); 1967 Sugar Bowl football team.

Class of 1998: Curt Gowdy (broadcaster, basketball, tennis, 1940-42); Eric Leckner (basketball, 1985-88); Bob Jingling (baseball, 1952-55); Kathleen Van Heule Romsa (track and field, 1983-85); Joe Mastrogiovanni (football, baseball, 1953-55).

Class of 1999: Darcy Cudaback-White (volleyball, 1986-89); Paul Roach (football coach, 1987-90); Paul Toscano (football, 1965-67); John Pilch (basketball, 1947-49); Galand Thaxton (football, 1984-87); Tony Windis (basketball, 1957-59).

Class of 2000: Jim Brandenburg (basketball coach, 1978-87); Amy Burnett (basketball, 1992-95); Bill Ewing (baseball, 1974-76); Lee Kizzire (football, 1934-36); Larry Nels (football, 1967-69); Curtis and Marian Rochelle (special achievement).

Class of 2001: Nick Bebout (football, 1970-72); Joe Capua (basketball, 1954-56); Ken Cook (special achievement); Mickey Dunn (track and field, 1949-51); Bill Garnett (basketball, 1979-82); Jean Jackson (administration), 1956 football team.

Class of 2002: Greg Brock (baseball, 1976-79); Mitch Donahue (football, 1987-90); Christine Fairless (basketball, 1986-89); Margie McDonald (basketball coach, 1975-83); George “Moe” Radovich (basketball, 1950-52); Reginald Slater (basketball, 1989-92).

Class of 2003: Ken Fantetti (football, 1975-78); Norma Hughes Scifres (swimming, 1990-92, 1994); Willard A. “Dutch” Witte (basketball and football coach, 1930-39); John Wodny (cross country/track, 1986-90); Ryan Yarborough (football, 1990-93); Bill Young (sports information director, assistant athletics director, 1960-81); 1959-60 wrestling team.

Class of 2004: Reese Andy (wrestling, 1994-96); Leon Clark (basketball, 1963-66); Marcus Harris (football, 1993-96); Bill Levine (football, 1961, 1963-64); Jimmi Jo Martin Ripsam (rodeo, 1988-90); Pat Rabold (football, 1984, 1986-88); Andy Welsh (diving, 1981-85).

Class of 2005: Ryan Butler (track and field, 1995-96); Phil Dickens (football coach, 1953-56); Joe Dowler (wrestling coach, administrator, 1973-87); Ann Melander (skiing, 1984-85); Theo Ratliff (basketball, 1992-95); Vic Washington (football, 1965-67); 1989 Cowgirl Volleyball Team.

Class of 2006: Ryan Christopherson (football, 1991-94); Jerry DePoyster (football, 1965-67); Stan Dodds (basketball, 1968-70); Robert S. “Bob” Hammond (sportswriter); Milo Komenich (basketball, 1940-43); Stacey Ward Straley (skiing, 1979-84); 1956 Cowboy Baseball Team.

Class of 2007: Brenda Graham Gray (track & field, 1980-84); Elsie Jo Bonger (football secretary, 1962-78); Jerry Jester (football, 1953-55); Dave McCleave (golf, 1989-92); Dick Sherman (basketball, 1963-66); Randy Welniak (football, 1985-88); 1968 National Champion Ski Team.

Class of 2008:  Thomas “Rupe” Garrison (track, 1987-91); Walker “Sonny” Jones, Jr. (football, 1948-49); Geir I. Kvernmo (skiing and track, 1977-80); Brian J. Lee (football, 1994-97); Dave Myers (wrestling, 1989-92); Steve Scifres (football, 1994-97); 1978-79 Women’s Basketball Team.

Class of 2009:   Jesseca Cross (basketball and track, 1994-97);  Sean Fleming (football, 1988-92); Quincy Hayden Howe (track, 1999-2002); Gene Huey (football, 1966-68); Mike Jackson (basketball, 1980-83); Al and Pete Simpson (special achievement); 1961 Rodeo Team.

Class of 2010:  Staale Engen (track, skiing, 1971-74); Jerry Frude, (wrestling, 1959-60, 1962); Steinar Hybertsen (skiing, 1973-75); Bob Jacobs (football, 1968-70); Chuck Lamson (football, 1960-61); Karen Sanford Gall (track, 1979-82); 1966 football team.  

Class of 2011:  Mike English (women’s volleyball coach, 1986-90 and 1992-93), Wesley Maiyo (track, 1974-75), Robert L. Mason (wrestling, 1949-51), Shauna Smith (track, 2003-05), Scott Usher (swimming, 2002-05), Jim Walden (football, 1958-59), and the 1986-87 “Sweet 16” men’s basketball team.

Class of 2012:  Dick Campbell (football, 1948-50); Len Kuczewski (football, 1957-59); Jordan Lintz (golf, 1997-2000); Selmer Pederson (football, 1949-51); Ray Sanchez (wrestling, 1967-68); Chris Lull Terjeson (volleyball, 1985-89); and the 1985 National Champion ski team.

Class of 2013:  Carrie Bacon (women’s basketball, 1999-2003); Josh Davis (men’s basketball, 1999-2002); Jason Gervais (track and field, 1999-2001); Jim House (football, 1966-68); Mike LaHood (football, 1965-67; deceased); Kevin McKinney (administrator/special Achievement); and the 1959 football team.

Class of 2014:  Dennis Baker (football, 1975-77); Rebecca Simning Erikkson (skiing, 1979-81, 1984-85); LeRoy Gabriel (administration, 1958-99); Harry Hall (basketball, 1966-69); Duane Schopp (track & field coach, 1984-97); Mark Smolinski (football, 1958-60); Jack Weil (football, 1980-83); 1933-34 men’s basketball team. 

Class of 2015:  Marcus Bailey (basketball, 1999-2003), Ashley Elliott (women’s basketball, 2002-05), David Hearn (men’s golf, 1998-2001), Jeff Huson (baseball, 1984-85), Don Miller (wrestling, 1965-68), Joe Ramunno (football, 1981-84), Quentin Skinner (ski coach, 1971-80), and the 1980-81 WAC Champion men’s basketball team. 

Class of 2016:  Jerry Durling (football, 1965-66); Aaron Kyle (football, 1972-75); Frank Shepperson (rodeo, 1961-64); Lynn Stetson (men’s swimming, 1980-83); Dave Walsh (special achievement); John Watts (football, 1954-56), Hanna Zavecz (women’s basketball, 2005-08); and the 1976 Fiesta Bowl Team.

Class of 2017:  Dr. Robert Curnow and Dr. David Kieffer (special achievement); Vince Guinta (football,1949-50); Mike Hamel (wrestling, 1983-86); C.T. Hewgley (football, 1949-50); Jim Weir (basketball, 1941-43 and 1946); the 1991 National Champion women’s rodeo team; and the 2007 WNIT National Champion Cowgirl basketball team. 

Class of 2018:  Sean Dent (men’s basketball, 1984, 1986-88); Jessica Fox Rasby (track & field, 2003-05; Art Howe, (baseball, 1967-69); Steven Suder (wrestling, 1975-79 and wrestling coach, 1989-2008); Cory Wedel (football, 1994-97); and the 1987 Western Athletic Conference Championship Football Team.

Class of 2019:  Andrea Everett Blocher (cross country, track & field, 1982-83); Wes Gasner (wrestling, 1983-84); Jay Martin (skiing, 1965-67); Mack Peyton (basketball and baseball, 1947-49); Courtney Stapp Pool (basketball, 1995-98); Larry Zowada (football, 1955-57); 1966-67 Men’s Basketball Team.

Class of 2020-2021 (Combined class due to Covid pandemic):  Jon Cogdill (football and wrestling, 1986-90); Dennis Dreher (special achievement); Brandon Ewing (basketball, 2005-09); Wiles Hallock (administration, 1949-60); Kevin Mannon (track and field, 1998-99); Mike Schenbeck (football, 1985-88); Tom Wilkinson (football and baseball, 1963-65).

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University Of Wyoming To End Mask Mandate Monday

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming will end its campus-wide mask mandate Monday, months after it was reimplemented in the spike of Delta variant COVID cases.

The university’s Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to rescind the mask mandate. The university was the last education system in the state to have such a mandate in place.

Longtime mask critic Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, celebrated the decision.

“I’m glad that UW is finally following real science,” he told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.

University spokesman Chad Baldwin told Cowboy State Daily that he could not find an initial date of masks being required, but noted it was “quite early” in the pandemic.

He did note that there was a period where the mandate was lifted last May, but was reinstated after Delta cases increased.

The board voted that masks would only be required in campus offices when requested by the office occupant, for employees in UW’s Early Care and Education Center and in medically-related units.

Masks will also still be required on UW Transit Service buses, in accordance with federal rules.

“We continue to recommend masks as a way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community but, by action of the board, we are moving to a new phase in the pandemic that will not include a mask requirement in most indoor spaces, including classrooms,” UW President Ed Seidel said. “Those who choose to continue wearing masks have the board’s and the university’s full support.”

The board’s decision on Wednesday followed its vote in December to extend the mandate. However, masks have not been required this academic year at voluntary public events such as athletics and music, theater and dance performances; voluntary social events, at private, by-invitation events that involve rental and/or use of UW spaces on campus and for patrons of Half Acre Recreation and Wellness Center when participating in recreational activities, sports or fitness.

As of Monday, there were 14 active COVID cases among the UW community, six students on campus, three students off campus and five employees.

“The COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are recommended, even for those who have had COVID-19, as people who have not been vaccinated are up to two times more likely to get COVID-19 again as those who have been vaccinated,” Student Health Service Director Mary Beth Bender said. “While COVID-19 infection does provide some natural immunity, the level of protection from prior infection is lower than the protection from COVID-19 vaccinations.”

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UW Names Building After Worland Native, Archaeologist George Frison

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The University of Wyoming’s Anthropology Building now bears the name of George Frison, a Worland native and UW graduate who achieved international acclaim as an archaeologist during a lengthy career as a university faculty member.

The UW Board of Trustees voted Friday to name the building in Frison’s honor, at the request of the university’s Anthropology Department, the university’s naming committee and President Ed Seidel.

The George C. Frison Building, a 53,000-square-foot facility that was completed in 2007, houses the Department of Anthropology, the State Archaeologist’s Office, the cultural records section of the State Historic Preservation Office, the Frison Institute, the State Archaeological Repository and the Anthropology Museum.

“Naming of buildings for certain individuals is a very rare honor at UW, but this is clearly a case when it’s absolutely appropriate,” Seidel said. “Dr. Frison was a huge figure in archaeology and put Wyoming and UW on the map in this important field of study. This is a great way to honor his legacy.”

Frison, who founded the Department of Anthropology and was the first state archaeologist, is the only UW faculty member ever elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

He died Sept. 6, 2020, at the age of 95.

“It’s only right that the university honor Dr. Frison’s decades of service to UW and the state by putting his name on the building that houses the programs that would not exist if not for his efforts,” said Professor Todd Surovell, head of the Department of Anthropology. “He easily ranks among the greatest field archaeologists in the history of American archaeology. His contributions to the field of archaeology, the Department of Anthropology, the University of Wyoming and the state of Wyoming cannot be overstated.”

Frison was born Nov. 11, 1924, in Worland and grew up on his grandparents’ ranch near Ten Sleep. He spent his early years working sheep and cattle and spent his spare time collecting arrowheads, exploring caves in the Bighorn Mountains while developing a love for the history and prehistory of Wyoming.

He enrolled at UW in 1942, but his education was cut short when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, serving in the forces of the South Pacific during World War II.

After being honorably discharged in 1946, he returned to the family ranch.

While operating the ranch, Frison joined the Wyoming Archaeological Society and was an avocational archaeologist, discovering numerous artifacts including atlatl and dart fragments.

His interactions with UW Professor William Mulloy prompted Frison to enroll at UW in 1962 at the age of 37 to finish his undergraduate work.

After earning his master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Michigan, Frison returned to UW in 1967 to head the new Department of Anthropology and serve as the first state archaeologist, a position he held until 1984.

During his decades of work at UW, Frison made major contributions to the understanding of the prehistory of the northwestern Great Plains in the areas of chipped stone technology, bison bone beds, Paleoindian systematics and Plains chronology.

His many books and papers, which include “Prehistoric Hunters of the High Plains,” made him an internationally recognized figure in archaeology.

More than 70 students graduated with the Master of Arts degree in anthropology during his tenure at UW, and many more students attended his classes and graduated with undergraduate degrees from the Department of Anthropology.

His many awards include the lifetime achievement award from the Society for American Archaeology, a Regents’ Fellowship Award from the Smithsonian Institution, UW’s George Duke Humphrey Distinguished Faculty Award, UW’s Medallion Service Award and the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Alumni Award.

Frison retired from the Anthropology Department in 1995, but continued to serve as professor emeritus.

He was named to the National Academy of Sciences in 1997.

Among his legacies is the George C. Frison Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology at UW, which funds archaeological research, supports student and faculty participation in international research and education opportunities, sponsors an annual lecture and public talks and provides for volunteer participation in field and lab programs.

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UW Reverses Decision To Mass Test Everyone For COVID Due To Worries Of Further Spread

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Concerns over the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant have prompted University of Wyoming officials to reverse their decision to test everyone who would be spending time on campus during the upcoming spring semester.

University officials said Monday, they will instead allow for voluntary COVID testing by students and staff.

University officials said they were concerned the risk of a mass testing event such as the one proposed earlier leading to a greater spread of the disease would outweigh any benefits from the testing.

“We are concerned about COVID spreading on campus, with or without the one-time testing of everyone,” UW spokesman Chad Baldwin told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. “That’s why we’re continuing our weekly random-sample testing, indoor mask requirement (until at least Feb. 16) and strong encouragement of vaccinations and boosters. At the same time, we’re encouraged by the fact that Omicron appears to be causing less severe illness, and there is reason for optimism that the Omicron wave will pass relatively quickly.”

Instead of requiring all students and employees to be test for COVID this week in advance of the spring semester scheduled to begin Jan. 18, the university will offer voluntary testing for members of the campus community. There are plans to resume weekly random sample tests of 3% of the campus community.

“There’s already good reason to believe that the virus, particularly the Omicron variant, is widespread in our community. Positivity rates are now growing rapidly, and the risk of creating an environment for further transmission at a mass testing event likely would offset information we would gain from it,” UW President Ed Seidel said. “We’re making this late change in plans in response to the rapidly changing landscape caused by Omicron, which is highly transmissible but appears to cause less severe illness than previous versions of COVID-19.”

As of Thursday, there were 82 active cases of COVID-19 among the UW community: 22 employees, 15 on-campus students and 45 off-campus students. As of Friday, Albany County had 280 active COVID cases.

“Based upon what we’re seeing around the country and the state, it is no longer practical to think that we’re going to contain the Omicron variant in our community,” Seidel said. “What we can do is encourage people to take actions to protect their personal health, and that of their families and friends, by mitigating the spread to the extent possible and reducing the chance of severe illness, hospitalization and death.”

University officials will continue to emphasize the UW’s current mask requirement for most indoor spaces and encourage vaccination and boosters.

“While it appears the semester will start with a lot of COVID, with a shift toward milder symptoms or even asymptomatic infections, experts say there’s reason for optimism that we will emerge from pandemic conditions sooner than later,” Seidel said.

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University Of Wyoming Officials Delay Eliminating Some Programs Until 2023

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

University of Wyoming officials have proposed delaying the elimination of some programs and staff positions until 2023, it was announced on Friday.

Officials will present the proposal to the UW board of trustees later this month. The proposal, which follows months of development informed by thorough review and feedback from internal and external stakeholders, aims to position the university for a vibrant future at a time of uncertain state revenues, economic shifts and a changing higher-education landscape.

“We must consider where we are headed at the same time we make changes to budgets of our various units in response to reductions in recent years,” UW President Ed Seidel said. “The academic reorganization plan, combined with new initiatives to improve the student experience and higher education’s role in Wyoming’s economy, sets the stage for new synergies, scholarly coherence and efficiencies that aren’t possible under the university’s current structure. Overall, the plan aims to better serve our students and better position us for increased revenue streams from research agencies and corporate partnerships.”

Specifically, the proposal going before the trustees would, effective July 1, 2022, reorganize the College of Education, move and/or consolidate several academic departments and eliminate four low-enrollment graduate degree programs.

Additional academic reconfigurations, including movement of several academic departments from the current College of Arts and Sciences, and restructuring and renaming of the current College of Engineering and Applied Science and College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, wouldn’t be implemented until July 1, 2023, pending further refinement.

“After careful consideration of the feedback that we have received from faculty, students, staff and stakeholders, I believe additional time is needed for consideration of how best to implement the major reorganization of the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Engineering and Applied Science,” Provost and Executive Vice President Kevin Carman said. “I plan to engage in a robust discussion over the next year to carefully consider optimal alignments while minimizing unintended negative consequences of restructuring.”

While the proposed reorganizations were driven, in part, by budget considerations, they would not achieve the reductions necessary to respond to the drop in state funding and reallocate resources for the new initiatives: establishment of a School of Computing, a Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation, Tourism and Hospitality Initiative, which are integral to the new Wyoming Innovation Partnership involving UW and the state’s community colleges.

As a result, working with UW college deans, the Office of Academic Affairs has separately developed a budget reduction plan that achieves a $5.3 million reduction to academic programs, with work continuing for a total $13.6 million budget reduction.

Final details on reductions will come later, but the plan does include eliminating 20-25 faculty positions that have been vacated by resignations and retirements.

“We worked extremely hard with the deans to find ways to achieve our budget targets, continue to be strategic and not harm faculty who dedicate their careers to serving our students,” Seidel said. “We have succeeded in not eliminating faculty positions that are currently filled. And, by folding in final implementation of the reorganization with strategic planning, we will ensure strategic outcomes with faculty, staff and student input throughout the process.”

The proposal going to the Board of Trustees this month would:

  • Reorganize the College of Education effective July 1, 2022. The plan is for the college to have three divisions: one focused on educator preparation; one for graduate education; and one for innovation and engagement. A review committee would examine a proposal to discontinue two graduate degree programs, the Ph.D. in counseling and the Ph.D. in learning, design and technology.
  • Reorganize the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Engineering and Applied Science to better align the life and physical sciences, and the humanities, social sciences and arts, with full implementation by July 1, 2023.
  • Discontinue these degree programs: the Master of Arts in philosophy, the MBA in finance, the MBA in energy and the Ph.D. in statistics.

Among the changes that would take place by July 1, 2022:

  • Consolidation of the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
  • Movement of the Department of Physics and Astronomy from the College of Arts and Sciences to the College of Engineering and Applied Science, and consolidation of that department with the Department of Atmospheric Science.
  • Consolidation of the agricultural communications degree program with the Department of Communication and Journalism.
  • Movement of the American Studies Program into the School of Culture, Gender and Social Justice.

Among the changes that would take place by July 1, 2023, pending further refinement:

  • Movement of other physical sciences departments — Chemistry, Geology and Geophysics, and Mathematics and Statistics — from the College of Arts and Sciences to the College of Engineering and Applied Science.
  • Renaming of the College of Engineering and Applied Science, possibly to the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences.
  • Movement of the Department of Zoology and Physiology, the Department of Botany and the Life Sciences Program from the College of Arts and Sciences to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. With the additional time, work will be done to determine the optimal structure for the consolidated program and to consider alternative placement of life sciences faculty with discipline-specific expertise that aligns better with other academic units, such as those in the College of Health Sciences.
  • Renaming of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, possibly to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
  • Restructuring of the College of Arts and Sciences to emphasize and elevate humanities, social sciences and arts. With the additional time, work will be done to, among other things: possibly launch a Ph.D. program in English; explore opportunities for other Ph.D. programs; and explore partnerships with the planned School of Computing.
  • Movement of the Nutrition Program to the Division of Kinesiology and Health in the College of Health Sciences.
  • Movement of the Human Development and Family Sciences Program, and the Early Care and Education Center to the College of Education. With the additional time, work will be done to consider alternative placement of the Human Development and Family Sciences Program and faculty with discipline-specific expertise that aligns better with other academic units; consider the appropriate academic home for the Design, Merchandising and Textiles Program; and consider discontinuation of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences.

The additional year also would allow careful review of the potential implications of the proposed reorganizations of the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Those considerations include reallocation of staff support and academic advising, redistribution of operating budgets, assignment and stewardship of endowments and administrative structure.

A number of degree programs initially targeted for elimination would be maintained under the provost’s recommendations: bachelor’s degrees in German and French, as well as in Spanish, German and French secondary education; master’s degrees in political science, international studies, sociology and architectural engineering; graduate degrees in entomology; and the master’s degree in family and consumer sciences, pending potential reorganization of that department.

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University Of Wyoming Says COVID Is To Blame For Enrollment Drop

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The COVID pandemic is largely to blame for a 3% decline in the University of Wyoming’s enrollment in the last year, a UW spokesman told Cowboy State Daily.

According to census data collected on the 15th day of classes, UW has enrolled a total of 11,479 students this semester, down 3% from the overall enrollment of 11,829 last fall. The 15th class day is used because it falls after the class drop/add deadlines, and after the first tuition and fee payment is due.

University spokesman Chad Baldwin said that there were various reasons for students leaving the university, but all of them were related to the pandemic in some way.

“Regarding the overall enrollment decline, we know that we lost hundreds of students last year because so many classes were taught online due to COVID-19 and because of the campus pandemic restrictions, not to mention the financial difficulties the pandemic caused for students and their families,” he told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. “We’re working to re-recruit as many of them as possible, but research shows that once students pull out of college, a good number of them don’t return.”

The drop in nonresident students has been most pronounced, with a total of 3,644 students from out-of-state attending UW this fall, compared to 3,844 last fall.

There are 568 first-time nonresident students in this year’s class, down 6.7% from last fall’s 609.

During the 2020-21 school year, the university had limited in-person classes and events due to the pandemic. This year, the university board of trustees has implemented and indefinitely extended a mask mandate for anyone on campus.

The university has not implemented a vaccine mandate for either employees or students, but have created an incentive program for those who are vaccinated and also report it.

The university reported this week that the number of first-time students from Wyoming attending the university has grown by 11.5% this fall, contributing to an overall 3.7% increase in UW’s first-time student enrollment.

Some 909 students from Wyoming have enrolled in the state’s university for the first time, up from 815 the year before and topping the pre-pandemic number of 902 in fall 2019. As a result, the total number of first-time students this semester has grown to 1,477 from 1,424 last year.

“Our favorable in-state, first-time numbers are a reflection of intensive recruitment efforts and a return to a traditional fall semester with fewer pandemic restrictions, among other things,” Baldwin told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

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University Of Wyoming Sees 3% Drop In Enrollment This Year

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming saw a 3% drop in enrollment for the 2021 fall semester, the university announced this week.

According to census data collected on the 15th day of classes, UW announced Monday it has enrolled a total of 11,479 students this semester, down 3% from the overall enrollment of 11,829 last fall. The 15th class day is used because it falls after the class drop/add deadlines, and after the first tuition and fee payment is due.

However, the university also noted the number of first-time students from Wyoming attending the university has grown by 11.5% this fall, contributing to an overall 3.7% increase in UW’s first-time student enrollment.

Some 909 students from Wyoming have enrolled in the state’s university for the first time, up from 815 the year before and topping the pre-pandemic number of 902 in fall 2019. As a result, the total number of first-time students this semester has grown to 1,477 from 1,424 last year.

“We’re excited that our class of new freshmen, particularly those from Wyoming, has increased. It’s a sign that we are on our way to recovering from the losses incurred by higher education institutions nationwide,” UW Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Kyle Moore said. “After we enrolled the two largest freshman classes in UW’s history in 2018 and 2019, the financial and other uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have been impactful and significant. We’re working hard to rebound as quickly as possible.”

The drop in nonresident students has been most pronounced, with a total of 3,644 students from out-of-state attending UW this fall, compared to 3,844 last fall.

There are 568 first-time nonresident students in this year’s class, down 6.7% from last fall’s 609.

At the same time, the number of nonresident transfer students enrolling this fall rose to 251 from 223 last year, a 12.6% increase.

“Across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many students to stay closer to home to start their college experience. It also has resulted in large decreases in community college enrollments in Wyoming and nationwide, which impacts transfer numbers,” Moore said. “The pandemic seriously hampered our ability last year to do face-to-face recruiting out of state and bring nonresidents in for campus visits, and that is reflected in our current numbers. We’re redoubling our efforts to recruit students from outside the state while still making recruitment of Wyoming students our No. 1 priority.”

There was also a 4.9% increase in graduate and professional students, rising from 2,610 from 2,487 last year. Moore credited collaborative marketing and recruitment efforts with academic departments as factors in the increase.

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University Of Wyoming Indefinitely Extends Mask Mandate

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming has extended for an indefinite period of time its requirement that people within its buildings wear facemasks, the university announced on Friday.

The UW Board of Trustees voted Friday to extend the mask policy, as Albany County remains in the Wyoming Department of Health’s “moderate-high transmission levels” category for COVID-19. As of Thursday, the county had 150 active COVID cases.

“Our mask policy has helped us start our traditional fall semester without a major spike in COVID cases,” UW President Ed Seidel said. “We appreciate the willingness of our community members to follow this policy in classrooms, labs and high-traffic areas such as the Wyoming Union so that we can continue with in-person learning and activities.”

There currently are 63 active coronavirus cases among UW students and employees.

The policy will be revisited in subsequent board meetings.

Exceptions to the indoor mask requirement include voluntary public events such as athletics and music, theater and dance performances; voluntary social events; and private, by-invitation events that involve rental and/or use of UW spaces on campus.

For classes where the ability to see speakers’ mouths is essential, faculty members have the ability to seek exceptions to the masking policy.

Employees and students who have legitimate medical reasons to not wear masks can seek exceptions as well.

An additional exception approved by the board is for patrons of Half Acre Recreation and Wellness Center when participating in recreational activities, sports or fitness, or when a spectator at a voluntary public recreational event. Half Acre patrons will still be required to wear masks when entering and exiting the building, at all customer service desks and in meeting rooms.

UW continues to strongly encourage COVID-19 vaccinations, as well as the reporting of those vaccinations. Those who report vaccinations become eligible for weekly prize drawings.

As of Monday, 4,282 UW students reported being vaccinated.

Of 2,877 total benefited employees, 2,191, 76.2%, reported receiving at least one vaccine dose. Adding in non-benefited employees, 3,457 of the total 6,372 staff and faculty members, 54.3 percent, reported receiving at least one dose.

In an anonymous survey at the start of the semester, 88% of employees and 66% of students said they had been vaccinated.

“We would love to see those numbers continue to increase, as vaccinations truly are the best hope for ending this pandemic,” Seidel said. “The vaccines are proven to be highly safe and effective in preventing infection and serious illness, even for the easily transmissible Delta variant.”

UW continues to conduct weekly random-sample testing of 3% of the on-campus population. The test positivity rate of 1.47% last week was down from 2.89% the week before.

The university was the first educational system in the state to require masks for the fall semester. Local school districts, such as Laramie, Albany and Teton counties, across Wyoming have begun implementing mandates as COVID cases continue to rise.

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UW President: University’s Endowment Worth Almost $800M

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming’s endowment is worth almost $800 million, an extraordinary amount for a college its size, President Ed Seidel said earlier this week.

Seidel, speaking during his “State of the University” speech on Wednesday, said the endowment, or value of the university’s investments based on donated money and financial assets, totaled $794.7 million.

The university saw almost $50 million in private donations last year alone, Seidel said.

In a wide-ranging address that also touched on coronavirus and the budget cuts faced by the university, Seidel said the university reduced its spending by more than $13 million per year by eliminating 75 positions and multiple programs at the school.

The changes will allow the university to better support its students and generate new revenue streams, Seidel said.

Programs not discontinued or reorganized will still see their budgets cut by 3%, he said.

He added the university will save another $18 million over the next 20 years by refinancing its outstanding debt.

“There are lots of things behind the scenes that are helping us save as much funding as we can,” Seidel said.

The long-term spending reductions are in addition to $42.3 million in cuts made when Gov. Mark Gordon ordered state spending cuts in the fact of dramatic downturns in the state’s mineral income.

Turning to coronavirus, Seidel said vaccination rates have steadily increased on campus, with around two-thirds of the student population having self-reported that they are vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We’ve got some more work to do there, but we’ve done relatively well,” he said.

As of Thursday, there were a number of active COVID cases among the UW population: eight employees, 14 on-campus students and 43 off-campus students, according to the university’s COVID dashboard.

The university was the first educational facility that implemented a mask mandate, with students being required to wear masks while on campus until mid-September.

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1% Of University Of Wyoming Students, Employees Test Positive For COVID

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A total of 42 University of Wyoming students and employees have so far tested positive for COVID-19 in required testing to start the fall semester, a test positivity rate of 1.2%.

However, a survey conducted during the university’s mandatory five-day testing program last week found that 66% of students and 88% of employees reported they had been vaccinated against coronavirus, a much higher percentage than indicated by self-reporting to UW’s Student Health Service and Human Resources.

“We’re encouraged by the results of this one-time testing event and the related survey on vaccination,” UW President Ed Seidel said. “While the numbers are incomplete, they show that we’re beginning the semester in conditions that will allow us to proceed with in-person classes and activities. We’re counting on those who’ve tested positive and those with whom they’ve had contact to isolate and quarantine as required by the state.

“Those who haven’t yet been vaccinated and are medically able should strongly consider doing so,” he continued. “Everyone should adhere to our indoor mask requirement to start the semester and follow basic health guidelines, such as staying home when you’re sick, so that we keep our infection numbers under control.”

A total of 9,296 students and employees were tested Wednesday through Sunday. The testing is required of all students and employees spending any time on campus this fall.

As of Monday, there are 70 active cases of COVID-19 among the UW community: 45 students off-campus, 18 students on-campus and seven employees. Some of the on-campus students have decided to isolate at home before returning to UW.

A much more limited testing program, also for both the vaccinated and unvaccinated, will resume the week of Aug. 30. Under that program, on a weekly basis, a random sample of 3% of the UW community will receive emails directing them to be tested.

Also as of Monday, 2,192 of UW’s total 2,897 total benefited employees, 75.7%, have reported they’ve received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. Adding in non-benefited employees, some of whom are students, 3,410 of UW’s 6,129 total employees, 55.6%, have reported receiving at least one dose.

As of Monday, 3,727 individual students have reported receiving at least one dose of a COVID vaccine on the Student Health Service portal, up from 3,216 one week ago.

The anonymous survey conducted during the testing program found that 4,402 students, or 66% of those who took the survey, said they’d been vaccinated. Of the employees who took the survey, 1,789 said they’d been vaccinated, or 88%.

“We had a good idea that many of our students and employees haven’t reported their vaccinations, and the survey indicates that’s indeed the case,” Seidel says. “We strongly encourage everyone to not only be vaccinated, but to also report their vaccinations.”

At this stage, the university continues to highly encourage, but not mandate, the COVID vaccine for faculty, staff and students, in concert with a directive from Gov. Mark Gordon.

Vaccinated, faculty, staff and students have been asked to report it to allow the university to track overall vaccination numbers. The information is not being used for any other purpose, except to enter those who’ve reported their vaccinations into the drawings for prizes.

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University Of Wyoming Requiring Employees, Students To Get COVID Tests

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming is requiring all employees and students who will spend any time on campus this fall to be tested for the coronavirus this week, the university has announced.

Students, faculty and staff are required to be tested sometime between Wednesday and Sunday. The fall semester begins Aug. 23 with face-to-face classes at full capacity, along with face-to-face student engagement programs, in-person athletics experiences and the like.

Those who do not follow the testing directive will face disciplinary consequences, up to and including dismissal for employees, and a loss of university access for students due to temporary suspension. The testing requirement applies to both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

The UW Board of Trustees directed that all employees and students be tested upon return to the university as part of a plan to proceed with a traditional, in-person fall semester while taking steps to manage COVID-19 amid an increase in cases locally and nationally.

“The testing upon return will give us a good idea of the prevalence of the virus in our community to start the semester, and allow those who are infected to take proper steps to reduce the spread,” UW President Ed Seidel said. “We understand that we are creating one more thing for everyone to do as the semester begins, but it is an important step to help us keep the campus as safe as possible. We appreciate the willingness of our community members to do their part.”

Those testing negative will be notified by email, usually within 24 hours. Those who test positive will also be notified via email and directed to take additional tests to confirm the outcome.

Students who must miss classes and employees who must miss work because of positive tests will receive authorized absences and other accommodations under UW’s quarantine and isolation protocols.

A much more limited testing program, also for both the vaccinated and unvaccinated, will resume the week of Aug. 30. Under that program, a random sample of 3% of the UW community will receive emails directing them to be tested on a weekly basis.

Students living on campus who test positive will be required to report those results, and quarantine/isolation housing will be available for those students. Voluntary diagnostic testing will continue to be available to asymptomatic faculty, staff, students and the public as well.

Other parts of the fall semester plan approved by the trustees last week are strong encouragement and incentives for COVID vaccinations, a requirement for masks in most indoor public spaces through at least Sept. 20; and a mandatory education seminar on the virus.

Vaccination clinics are being planned during several events on campus starting next week, including at the testing location. UW continues to highly encourage but not mandate the COVID vaccine for faculty, staff and students, in concert with a directive from Gov. Mark Gordon.

UW requires all faculty, staff and students who are vaccinated to report it to allow the university to track overall vaccination numbers. Additionally, those who report vaccinations become eligible for weekly prize drawings.

As of Aug. 12, there are 12 active cases of the virus reported by UW’s COVID-19 Hub — six students living off campus and six employees. The total number of confirmed COVID cases among UW students and employees since the pandemic began is 2,280.

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UW President Seidel Says UW Is Entering ‘Exciting Time’

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

The University of Wyoming and the state’s community colleges are partnering to help improve the state’s economy, UW President Ed Seidel said earlier this week.

Seidel, speaking in Riverton on Monday during the first of the university’s presentations on “The World Needs More Cowboys — And So Does Wyoming,” said by working together, the university and the state’s colleges can promote entrepreneurship.

“We are working with the community colleges to build the state’s economy,” he said. “We are building partnerships with the community colleges and aligning all forms of higher education. We are promoting entrepreneurship and statewide cooperation,”

Seidel cited the efforts of Central Wyoming College and its president, Brad Tyndall, to work with the university.

CWC hosted the event at the InterTribal Center on the campus.

Several current and former students spoke about the ease with which they could complete their first two years of college at CWC and transition smoothly to the UW. 

Seidel also pointed to the new School of Computing that is starting at UW that will also involve the community colleges. 

Meanwhile, he said COVID continues to be a problem at the university.

“We are prepared to do what is necessary,” he said.

He recalled some of the problems during last year’s school year with the university being open and closed.  He was proud of the fact that the UW was able to have an “in-person” graduation.  

“It meant a lot to everybody,” he said. 

Seidel also said he was happy to be the new president of UW, a position he was appointed to in March 2020. 

“I had waited until I was 63 years old to finally get the job I wanted where I wanted,” he said.

He added, however, that being greeted by a COVID pandemic and a $50 million budget shortfall were challenges. 

He invited everyone to come visit the campus to see what all is happening.  “It is a very exciting time,” he concluded.

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University Of Wyoming Will Have Mask Mandate Until Sept. 20

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming will require the use of facemasks indoors until at least Sept. 20, its board of trustees decided Wednesday.

The mask requirement is part of a COVID management plan approved by trustees that also encourages and incentivizes COVID vaccinations, requires students and employees to be tested for the coronavirus upon entry to the university, implements a mandatory education seminar on the virus, and expands the current weekly sample testing program to both vaccinated and unvaccinated employees and students — with 3% of the population to be tested weekly. The plan allows for changes and adjustments in rules as circumstances change.

The mask mandate won’t apply to people alone in their offices and private spaces, and there are medical exceptions.

The board also gave UW President Ed Seidel some discretion to lift the mask requirement in certain circumstances. At its Sept. 15 meeting, the board will revisit the requirement by considering data including case numbers, testing prevalence and vaccine uptake.

“Our hope is that the indoor mask requirement will only be necessary for the start of the fall semester,” Seidel said. “We will monitor the data closely between now and when the board revisits the issue at its September meeting.”

Details about the requirements for the educational seminar and one-time testing of all students at the start of the semester will be shared in coming days.

The current fall semester plan is in line with the board’s March 26 vote to fully reopen the university “consistent with the state and federal governments regarding COVID-19.” The fall semester will begin Aug. 23 with face-to-face classes at full capacity, along with face-to-face student engagement programs and in-person athletics experiences.

“We said in March that unless there’s a dramatic, unexpected development, such as an outbreak of some new dangerous COVID variant that is resistant to vaccines, we’d be back fully in person this fall. We are fulfilling that commitment, which has the support of the vast majority of our students and employees,” Seidel said. “At the same time, we are responding to the uptick in cases in Albany County and the state, as well as the highly transmissible Delta variant, to help assure that we can stay in person through the semester and the academic year.

“And, perhaps most importantly, we are doing just about everything we can, short of a mandate, to encourage and incentivize our employees and students to be vaccinated, to protect their individual health and that of the broader community,” he continued.

As of Monday, there are eight active cases of the virus reported by UW’s COVID-19 tracker: five students living off-campus and three employees.

The total number of confirmed COVID cases among UW students and employees since the pandemic began is 2,276. The positivity rate among tests conducted under UW’s random-sample program in the past week is 1.39%.

The Wyoming Department of Health has placed Albany County in the “moderate- to high-transmission levels” category, for which the state health officer recommends mask use for everyone indoors.

At this stage, the university continues to highly encourage but not mandate the COVID vaccine for faculty, staff and students, in concert with a directive from Gov. Mark Gordon.

“The vaccines are proven to be highly safe and effective in preventing infection and serious illness, even for the easily transmissible Delta variant,” Seidel said. “It remains our sincere hope that all of our employees and students who are medically able will choose to be vaccinated. We intend to provide our students and employees with every opportunity to receive the vaccine, and to provide accurate information to help everyone make the best decisions for themselves.”

UW requires all faculty, staff and students who are vaccinated to report their vaccinations to allow the university to track overall vaccination numbers. Additionally, those who report vaccinations become eligible for weekly prize drawings.

As of Monday, 2,876 individual students had reported receiving at least one dose of a COVID vaccine on the Student Health Service portal, up from 2,721 on Aug. 2, and up from the 1,665 reporting before the incentive program was announced July 9.

Also as of Monday, 2,121 of UW’s 2,880 benefited employees, 73.6%, have reported receiving at least one dose of the vaccines. Adding in non-benefited employees, some of whom are students, 3,252 of UW’s 5,851 total employees, 55.5%, have reported receiving at least one dose.

“Quite frankly, the current percentages are much lower than we would like to see, but we are optimistic that they will continue to increase,” Seidel said. “Our student incentive program, in particular, offers some excellent extra motivation to report vaccinations. And we’ll be looking at ways to augment the incentives for our community. The single most important thing one can do to protect one’s health, and to help us all pull out of this pandemic, is to get vaccinated.”

UW also is participating in an Albany County vaccination incentive program that will launch soon and be open to all employees and students.

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UW President Seidel Testifies Before U.S. Senate

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

University of Wyoming President Ed Seidel touted the university’s efforts to drive energy innovation and economic development during a U.S. Senate committee hearing on Thursday in Washington, D.C.

Seidel spoke to and answered questions from the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. U.S. Sen. John Barrasso is the committee’s ranking member.

“Universities across the nation are ready to become even stronger engines for science and innovation,” Seidel said during his testimony. “However, deeper partnerships with academia and industry are still needed.”

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, with an annual budget of over $7 billion, is the nation’s largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences, and the lead federal agency supporting research for energy production and security.

Seidel also addressed the energy research occurring at the UW’s School of Energy Resources as well as plans for a new School of Computing, a Center of Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Wyoming Innovation Partnership, in collaboration with Wyoming’s community colleges.

These efforts, focused on driving innovation and economic development, reflect the commitment and contributions that rural states such as Wyoming can make to the nation, he said.

“Great talent resides everywhere,” Seidel said, advocating that “rural areas must be embraced” in research funding opportunities because of their unique strengths.

Seidel encouraged development of a comprehensive funding plan that links science, education and innovation for growing the economy of the U.S. and competing internationally with countries that are investing more.

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University of Wyoming Cutting 75 Positions, Eliminating Multiple Programs

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming has cut at least 75 positions and will eliminate multiple programs to deal with projected budget cuts, officials announced Tuesday.

A proposal from UW President Ed Seidel to the university’s Board of Trustees would reconfigure UW’s colleges, discontinue or reorganize some academic programs and launch a School of Computing, a Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and a Wyoming Outdoor Recreation, Tourism and Hospitality Initiative, among other changes.

“The world, Wyoming and higher education are in the midst of major changes; UW must respond,” Seidel said. “In order to better serve our students and our state amid a significant decline in state funding, we must restructure to put UW on a sustainable path for the future. The goals of this plan are to enhance the student experience and train them for success; become a better engine for innovation and economic development; and develop new revenue streams.”  

The proposed changes would reduce spending by more than $13 million annually while allowing the university to better support its students and generate new revenue streams, the announcement said.

The restructuring and budget cuts would lead to the elimination of as many as 75 faculty and staff positions at the university, including up to 10 department heads.

Programs that are not discontinued or reorganized, including those at at UW-Casper, would see their budgets reduced by 3%.

The plan calls for changing the College of Engineering and Applied Science to the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences and College of Arts and Sciences into College of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts.

The departments of Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering would be removed from the College of Engineering and continue to be offered under other programs.

Likewise, the Department of Chemical Engineering would be discontinued, but its degrees would be maintained under a reorganized unit that would include the current Department of Chemistry. 

From the current College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Geology and Geophysics would be reduced in size and would join the Department of Petroleum Engineering in a new unit to include geological sciences that would preserve geological, geophysics and geosciences degrees.

From the current College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics would be consolidated with the Department of Economics in the College of Business. The program in agricultural communications would move to the Department of Communication and Journalism and the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences would be reduced, with the nutrition program moving to the College of Health Sciences and the Early Care and Education Center moving to the College of Education. 

In the current College of Arts and Sciences, the Creative Writing Program would be consolidated into the Department of English; the Department of Visual and Literary Arts would be renamed the Department of Visual and Performing Arts, incorporating the existing departments of Music, and Theatre and Dance. The Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies would be reduced. And the American Studies Program would move into the School of Gender, Culture and Social Justice, with a number of low-enrollment degree programs in that school combined into a single degree with various concentrations.

The School of Counseling, Leadership and Design would be discontinued in the College of Education, and the college would be reorganized.

Students currently enrolled in programs to be discontinued would be able to complete their degrees. A number of low-enrollment degree programs have been identified for discontinuation as well.

“It is never easy to restructure or eliminate academic programs and positions” said Kevin Carman, the university’s executive vice president. “The faculty positions being considered for elimination are filled by real people who work hard for this university, and the magnitude of what we are proposing is, as far as we can tell, unprecedented in the university’s modern history. But, the situation we face as a university, with a 25% drop in state funding in recent years and a need to respond to changing times, necessitates a reconsideration of the way we’re structured and what we offer. Our proposal will now go through the collaborative review process directed by university regulation, and we will consider all input in an effort to assure the best possible outcomes.”  

The new School of Computing and campuswide Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Wyoming Outdoor Recreation, Tourism and Hospitality Initiative are aimed squarely at training students in areas important for advancing key markets for the future economy of Wyoming.

The proposed School of Computing is envisioned to be a statewide asset led by the university with statewide and national impacts and global reach. It would provide the organizational infrastructure and emphasis to accelerate the growth and impact of computing, artificial intelligence and data science at UW across research, teaching, entrepreneurship and engagement.

The school would collaborate with all academic departments and UW Libraries, student success programs and discovery programs. 

Earlier this year, the university reduced its spending by $42.3 million through steps including the elimination of about 80 unfilled positions, centralizing budget, facility and operational activities, a utility cost savings initiative and the one-time use of reserve funds.  

“We are committed to making UW a best-in-class, 21st century land-grant university true to its Wyoming roots, and that means taking bold steps even during a time of financial distress,” Seidel said. “We look forward to our discussions with the Board of Trustees and our many constituents to refine our plans to serve the best interests of our students and the people of Wyoming.”

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Colorado Rockies Hosting Annual University of Wyoming Night In July

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Baseball-starved Wyoming fans will have a reason to celebrate next month as the Colorado Rockies hosts one of its most popular themed events — the University of Wyoming night.

Baseball may have been eliminated at the UW in 1996, but the Cowboy fans can still see the school’s name linked with America’s favorite pastime during the UW-themed night on July 17, when the Rockies will take on the Los Angeles Dodgers at 6:10 p.m. at Rockies Stadium in Denver.

Those who purchase a ticket package will receive a Wyoming Cowboys-themed Rockies hat. The baseball team will also donate $2 from every ticket sale to the Wyoming Alumni Association and Cowboy Joe Club.

Baseball fans in Wyoming lost their college team to cheer for in 1996, when budget cuts forced the elimination of the program. The team had been an NCAA Division I team with the Western Athletic Conference since 1962. Prior to that, the team appeared once, in 1956, at the College World Series.

Cowboy fans traveling to Denver for the game are encouraged to wear their best brown and gold gear to support their favorite university. Tickets are on sale now, with prices as low as $18.

This is an annual event organized between the Rockies and the university, although it was canceled last summer due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Rockies Stadium will return to hosting full capacity crowds of 50,000 beginning Monday. All tickets will now be digital.

However, due to coronavirus health guidelines, players can’t sign autographs or toss baseballs into the crowd.

Masks aren’t required to enter the stadium, but are encouraged for those who aren’t fully vaccinated.

All concession, ticket and retail transactions are cashless due to coronavirus guidelines, although the stadium staff have placed reverse ATMs throughout the venue to allow people to put money back onto their debit cards.

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UW Professor Researching Animals’ Adaptability to Climate Change

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A University of Wyoming professor is part of an effort to determine how animals change their habitats to deal with changing weather conditions.

Michael Dillon, an associate professor in the zoology and physiology department, was part of a research group that found animals’ ability to adapt to changing conditions likely depends on how well they modify their habitats, such as nests and burrows.

Dillon co-authored a paper, titled “Extended Phenotypes: Buffers or Amplifiers of Climate Change?,” that was published Tuesday in Trends in Ecology & Evolution, which publishes commissioned, peer-reviewed articles in all areas of ecology and evolutionary science.

The lead author of the paper is Arthur Woods, a biological sciences professor at the University of Montana. Other contributors to the paper were from the University of Tours in France and Stellenbosch University in South Africa.

The researchers found that birds build nests to keep eggs and baby nestlings warm during cool weather, but also make adjustments in nest insulation in such a way the little ones can keep cool in very hot conditions.

Mammals, such as rabbits or groundhogs, sleep or hibernate in underground burrows that provide stable, moderate temperatures and avoid above-ground conditions that often are far more extreme than inside the burrow.

The study investigated extended phenotypes, modifications that organisms such as birds, insects and mammals make to their habitats.

“An extended phenotype can range from simply a hole in the ground occupied by an animal to leaves rolled into cavities by insects, to nests of all shapes and sizes built by birds and mammals, to termite mounds and bee colonies,” Dillon said.

These modifications are important because they change the conditions the organism is living in, which is called a “microclimate.”

Because extended phenotypes are constructed structures, they often are modified in response to local climate variation and, potentially, in response to changing conditions. This process is called plasticity of the extended phenotype.

“One example might be a bird nest that is well insulated to protect eggs or young birds from cold. As climates warm, if the bird does not adjust insulation in the nest, it may, in fact, cause the young to overheat,” Dillon said. 

In another example, termites build mounds that capture wind and solar energy to drive airflow through the colony, which stabilizes temperature, relative humidity and oxygen levels.

Microclimates inside the dwelling of an animal or insect typically differ substantially from the climate outside, which means that the climate in an area may provide little information about what animals actually experience in their microhabitats.

As an analogy, although a weather station might tell the public that the temperature in Laramie is 90 degrees, simply by moving from the south to the north side of a building, one can experience microclimates that are strikingly different and often not captured by the weather data, Dillon said.

The same is true of animals of many different sizes.

For example, a moose can move from an open sagebrush landscape to a shaded river corridor to cool off, a snake can move from its hole to a sunny rock to warm up and an insect shuttling between the top and bottom of a leaf can experience temperature differences of more than 20 degrees.

“So, animals use microclimates, both by simply moving but also by building structures, such as nests, burrows, mounds and mines,” Dillon said.

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UW All Aboard on Juneteenth; Hopes Wyoming Will Make It A State Holiday

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Officials from the University of Wyoming joined Gov. Mark Gordon in celebrating President Joe Biden’s recognition of Juneteenth as a federal holiday this week.

UW president Ed Seidel and Jeff Marsh, chairman of the university’s Board of Trustees, noted that Gordon would have the full support of the university in his endeavor to formalize Juneteenth as a state holiday.

“Wyoming has recognized the Juneteenth holiday since 2003, when the Legislature passed a bill establishing the holiday on the third Saturday of the month,” Seidel and Marsh said. “The fact that we now have an officially recognized federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery, one of the darkest chapters in our great nation’s history, is something to celebrate.”

Juneteenth commemorates the date in 1865 when all enslaved African-Americans learned they were freed by former President Abraham Lincoln two years earlier.

While the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the South in 1863, it wasn’t enforced in many places until after the end of the Civil War two years later.

Confederate soldiers surrendered in April 1865, but word didn’t reach all enslaved black people until June 19, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to Galveston, Texas.

“The events of the last year across our nation show we have much work still to do,” Seidel and Marsh said. “We hope that everyone will take the time to reflect on the pain and progress that has brought us to this meaningful step, supported by our federal delegation, unanimously by the U.S. Senate and overwhelmingly by the U.S. House, and join us in celebrating this momentous progress!”

However, while this was a great step forward in Seidel and Marsh’s opinions, they agreed more could be done for equality and said they are dedicated to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all at the university.

“Freedom is always a cause for celebration and this is a momentous day in our nation’s history. I encourage people to observe this commemoration of the full enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation, which embodies the values of all Americans,” Gordon said on Thursday in signing a proclamation in support of the new federal holiday.

The legislation making Juneteenth a national holiday passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate and by a 415 – 14 vote in the House.

It’s been 35 years since the last federal holiday was created. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was first celebrated federally in 1986.

Many Cowboy State Daily readers were none too pleased to read the news of Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday, with some commenting that Biden was wasting his time with small issues and others questioning whether other holidays, such as Cinco de Mayo, should be federal holidays.

“Doubtful many Americans in Wyoming had slaves. Time to move on,” John Fox wrote.

“We don’t need it, its just pandering to the left. We are better than this,” Michael Jones said.

“So does this mean they can celebrate by burning down a city the whole month of June! That’s how they celebrate with victories these day’s. Remember white people were slaves too,” Linda Todd wrote.

“For crying out loud , dont we have enough holidays (or as I call them , excuses for people not to go to work) ?” W.D. Coe wrote.

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UW Professor: Global Warming Is Causing Larger Wildfires In Rocky Mountains

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A University of Wyoming professor has co-authored a new research paper stating that global warming is contributing to larger wildfires in the Rocky Mountain region.

“Global warming is causing larger fires in Rocky Mountain forests than have burned for thousands of years,” said Bryan Shuman, a professor in the UW Department of Geology and Geophysics. “The last time anything similar may have occurred was during a warm portion of the medieval era.”

Shuman was the main co-author of a paper, titled “Rocky Mountain Subalpine Forests Now Burning More Than Any Time in Recent Millennia,” that was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the world’s most prestigious science journals.

Shuman and his fellow researchers found that by November 2020, wildfires in southern Wyoming and northern Colorado were responsible for 72% of the total area burned in high-elevation subalpine forests since 1984.

In 2020, Colorado saw three of its largest wildfires on record.

The 2020 fire season saw distinctly higher rates of burning than in the last 2,000 years. The researchers used charcoal found in lake sediment records to assemble the fire history across the Rocky Mountains.

They discovered that since 2000, wildfires are burning nearly twice as much area, on average, compared to the last 2,000 years.

Over that 2,000-year period, fires in high-elevation, subalpine forests historically burned, on average, once every 230 years. In the 21st century, those fires now occur, on average, every 117 years.

Philip Higuera, a professor of fire ecology in the W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation at the University of Montana, was the paper’s lead author. Kyra Wolf, a Ph.D. candidate in paleoecology and forest ecology at the University of Montana, also contributed to the paper.

Higuera and Shuman conceived and designed the study, while Higuera and Wolf analyzed the data to understand how current fire activity compared to wildfires of the past.

“As the 2020 fire season unfolded, we realized we already had a well-defined understanding of the fire history of many of the places burning, based on over 20 lake sediment records our teams had collected over the past 15 years,” Higuera says. “When the smoke settled, we thought ‘Wow, we may have witnessed something truly unprecedented here.’ So, we combined the existing records for the first time and compared them to recent fire activity. To our surprise, 2020 indeed pushed fire activity outside the range of variability these forests have experienced over at least the past two millennia.”

In the Rocky Mountains of northern Colorado and southern Wyoming, 840,000 acres have burned between 1984 and 2019. Another 660,000 acres burned in 2020.

Approximately 1.1 million acres burned in the past decade in the Colorado-Wyoming study area, even though only 400,000 acres, less than half as much, burned in the previous 25 years.

“The results indicate that, if fires continue to burn as often as they do now, every forest in the region could be burned by the beginning of the next century,” Shuman said. “In the past, it would have taken 200 to 300 years, if not longer, for fires to affect that much area.”

Subalpine forests are becoming less resilient and more susceptible to fires because the climate is warming, the researchers showed. Because humidity was extremely low, temperatures were high and storm events produced high winds, forest management had little impact on the 2020 fires.

The fires burned designated wilderness and national parks with limited fuel management, heavily managed areas with substantial timber removal and intact forest and areas with extensive beetle kill.

The extreme climate completely overrode all types of forest management, Shuman said.

“Snowfall in our high-elevation forests is lower now than in past decades, and summers are hotter. The changes convert trees into dry fuel, primed and ready to burn,” Shuman said. “With less snow now, the fire season lasts longer than before. When areas burn, the fires are bigger. They can burn longer. 

Continual warming will reinforce newly emerging fire activity in these high-elevation forests, with significant implications for ecosystems and society, according to the paper.

“It may sound dire, but it’s critical to remember that we have ample opportunities to limit or reverse climate warming, while still working to adapt to the increasing fire activity expected in upcoming decades,” Higuera said.

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Severe Wildfires in Wyoming Last Year Killed Massive Numbers of Birds

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A University of Wyoming professor and some fellow researchers have discovered that extensive and severe wildfires and the smoke they generated led to mass deaths of various types of birds last summer.

The wildfires during the 2020 fire season led to bird deaths in 12 Western, according to the university. At the same time, snowstorms in the late summer also may have affected bird migration by cutting off the birds’ food supply and prompting migration before the birds were physiologically ready to make the trip.

Di Yang, an assistant professor in the Wyoming Geographic Information Science Center, headed a research group that investigated the environmental causes of massive bird die-offs by combining sociological data with observations of citizen scientists.

“Migratory die-off events in the western U.S. are significantly related to smoke and toxic gases released from wildfires, combining with the heavy snowstorms in some areas (as determined) by using a series of satellite images,” Yang said. “More importantly, citizens played an important role in observing this massive die-off event and provided invaluable data to iNaturalist, which is a citizen science platform.”

Yang is lead author of the research paper “Unprecedented Migratory Bird Die-Off: A Citizen-Based Analysis on the Spatiotemporal Patterns of Mass Mortality Events in the Western United States,” that was published in the April issue of GeoHealth. Other contributors to the paper were from Colorado State University, the University of Georgia, Oregon State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The study investigated bird migration and survival and how they were influenced by global climate change, natural disasters and ecological disturbance. The study covered Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

The American robin, barn swallows, flycatchers, mountain bluebirds and Wilson’s warblers were the bird species hit the hardest by the die-offs, based on the death numbers reported.

In Wyoming, during August and September, more birds were found in urban and forested areas compared with other types of lands. The researchers also found that the more cropland cover there was in an area, the more dead birds were found.

Overall, the study’s findings suggested that air quality and distance to wildfires were two major factors that caused the high bird mortality rates. Fewer bird deaths occurred closer to the wildfires, except during mid-August to mid-September in California.

Birds have evolved to cope with fires and adjust migration pathways, Yang said. However, due to the lack of forest management practices, such as prescribed burning and removing some standing dead trees, the wildfires burned far hotter and grew much larger than usual, which made it difficult for the migratory birds to adjust.

“The toxic gases that were released from the smoke made an impact on the respiratory systems of migratory birds, and birds are very sensitive to the toxic gases during their exhausting long flights,” Yang explained.

During the August and September 2020 study period, numerous dead birds were found by citizen scientists and were reported on the citizen science platform.

The use of citizen scientists improved the accuracy of the study because their use significantly expanded the sample set Yang said. As a result, she and her research team were able to build a national-level model by adapting a quality-control framework to the citizen science data.

The findings highlighted the impact of extreme weather and natural disasters on bird biology, survival and migration, which can provide significant insights into bird biodiversity, conservation and ecosystem stability.

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Documentary About UW Biologist Released Wednesday

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A short documentary film about a University of Wyoming biologist following the migration path of mule deer was released worldwide on Wednesday.

The film, “92 Miles: A Migration Study,” focuses on Wyoming migration scientist Patrick Rodgers as he completes a long distance run following the migration path of mule deer (92 miles along a route in southern Wyoming and northern Colorado) while also dealing with the grief of losing his father to cancer, according to the University of Wyoming.

The one-half hour film, sponsored by companies including Yeti and Sitka, was shot and co-produced by UW alumnus Benjamin Kraushaar. It can be viewed here.

The idea for the documentary originated as a plan to give audiences a new perspective of mule deer migration, through the lens of long-distance running.

Viewers will also learn about the science of migrations and the challenges migratory deer face. The film details the importance of wild, connected landscapes for humans and wildlife alike.

“Migration is a journey of risk and suffering: dodging semis on perilous highways, tearing ligaments in barbed-wire fences, or searching for food while trying to avoid becoming food for a hungry mountain lion,” Rodgers said. “Indeed, life is fleeting. Yet, through it all, mule deer seem to possess a transcendental ability to keep their heads up and keep moving, as if their lives depend on it, which they do.

“My dad finished his life’s race Dec. 15, 2017. His life inside of me was a huge reason I kept my head up and finished those long 92 miles,” Rodgers continued. “Loss is an inescapable part of life’s grand migration and, without a doubt, I will have to grapple with that reality for the rest of my life. Yet, as I navigate this beautiful life, at least I know I’m not alone.”

Rodgers, who is from Casper, graduated from UW with a zoology degree in 2014 and completed his master’s degree in zoology in May 2020.

He received a National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship for his studies into the differences in migratory behavior of male and female mule deer, which involved capturing and outfitting 95 buck mule deer with satellite collars near Baggs to track their movements and compare them with the movements of does.

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UW Scientists Investigating Mysterious Melting of Earth’s Crust

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A group of University of Wyoming professors and students is researching an unusual belt of lava-formed rocks that stretches over 2,000 miles throughout North America, from Canada to Mexico.

The igneous rock belt runs through Idaho, Montana, Nevada, southeast California and Arizona. One clue to the origin of the belt of igneous rocks is that the rocks chiefly formed 80 million to 50 million years ago, during a mountain-building event called the Laramide orogeny.

“Geoscientists usually associate long belts of igneous rocks with chains of volcanoes at subduction zones, like Mount Shasta, Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainer,” said Jay Chapman, an assistant professor in UW’s Department of Geology and Geophysics. “What makes this finding so interesting and mysterious is that this belt of igneous rocks is located much farther inland, away from the edge of the continent, and doesn’t contain any evidence for producing volcanoes. In fact, all of the melting to generate the igneous rocks originally took place deep underground, five to 10 miles beneath the surface.”

Chapman is lead author of a paper, titled “The North American Cordilleran Anatectic Belt,” which was published online in February in the journal Earth-Science Reviews.

The paper is a result of a special course taught by Simone Runyon, an assistant professor in UW’s Department of Geology and Geophysics, and Chapman.

Runyon, six UW graduate students and one undergraduate student, who took part in the course, are co-authors of the paper.

“It was really fascinating to start with a scientific question in a classroom, then collect and analyze data, and eventually publish our results,” said Cody Pridmore, a UW graduate student from Orange, California and co-author of the paper. “It’s a process most college students don’t get to experience.”

The researchers have several working hypotheses about what caused the rocks to melt. One hypothesis is that water infiltrated the deep crust.

“The geochemistry of these rocks indicates that melting may have occurred at relatively low temperatures, below 800 degrees Celsius,” said Jessie Shields, a Ph.D. student at UW from Minneapolis, who is working to solve this mystery. “That is still very hot, but not hot enough to produce very large volumes of magma. Water lowers the melting point of rocks, similar to how salt lowers the melting point of ice, and could increase the amount of magma generated.”

This work has implications for what causes rocks to melt and where specific types of magmas can be found.

“Many of the igneous systems in the study area contain economically important ore deposits,” says Runyon, who specializes in ore deposits. “Understanding the large-scale igneous processes that form these provinces helps us to better understand how ore deposits form and to better explore for natural resources.”

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UW Employee Receives Threatening Email, Police Investigating

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Police are investigating the delivery of threatening, anti-Semitic email to a University of Wyoming employee last week.

UW spokesman Chad Baldwin confirmed to Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that an employee received an anti-Semitic email that threatened him with death and the incident is under investigation.

The email did not come from a university account, Baldwin said, but a Yahoo account. It was sent to Ben Herdt, the university’s manager of academic advising and a racial justice activist, according to the Laramie Boomerang.

The sender was identified as “Miley Lucas,” a person who does not have any affiliation with UW.

This incident comes just a few months after UW was a target of a racist attack on Zoom during a Black History Month event in February.

On Feb. 15, the five people sent racist and pornographic messages during a Zoom-hosted UW event.

Apparently, the UW was one of many schools across the country to have Black History Month events disrupted by such attacks. Institutions including the University of Southern California, Washington’s Gonzaga University and Rutgers University in New Jersey were “Zoom bombed” with similar hateful, violent words and images.

Baldwin said it wasn’t known whether there was connection between the threatening email sent last week and the racist Zoom attack.

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UW Professor Receives Prestigious Fulbright Scholarship

in Energy/News/University of Wyoming
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A University of Wyoming professor has been awarded a prestigious scholarship to conduct research related to changes caused by shifts away from fossil fuels.

School of Energy Resources Professor Tara Righetti has won a Fulbright Scholarship to conduct research at the Center for Legal Research and Perspectives in Law at the University of Lille College of Law in France.

During her 11-month sabbatical from UW, she will collaborate with researchers in Lille to formulate a comparative study of energy, industrial and workforce transition policies in Wyoming and France, with a focus on climate policies, sustainability and the circular economy.

“I am deeply honored to travel to Lille as a Fulbright Scholar,” Righetti said. “The award provides an incredible opportunity to develop new collaborations and research regarding energy transitions.”

Righetti’s current areas of expertise concentrate on legal issues related to split estates, subsurface trespass, energy transition and carbon capture and sequestration. Her proposed project will build upon her current competencies while allowing her to develop new partnerships and expand her research into international and comparative law.

“Professor Righetti is a leader in understanding complex energy policies and determining how Wyoming could be impacted, and identifying potential approaches to overcome negative outcomes,” SER Executive Director Holly Krutka said. “Professor Righetti’s choice to study parallel and diverging energy policies in Wyoming and the Hauts-de-France region is timely and important. I was thrilled to learn of her much-deserved recognition as a Fulbright Scholar.”

Righetti is among 800 U.S. citizens who will conduct research and/or teach abroad for the 2021-22 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program.

Fulbright scholars engage in cutting-edge research and expand their professional networks, often continuing research collaborations started abroad and laying the groundwork for forging future partnerships between institutions.

Righetti joined the UW faculty in 2014 and has worked to provide important scholarship for her discipline: informative resources for the Wyoming natural resources community; and educational opportunities for students.

Regularly sought out for her expertise and aid on major energy and carbon storage projects nationwide, she is a renowned expert on U.S. energy law.

In 2018, she was appointed as a trustee-at-large with the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation and, most recently, she was awarded tenure in the UW College of Law.

“Professor Righetti’s receipt of the Fulbright is an outstanding accomplishment and a unique recognition,” UW College of Law Dean Klint Alexander said. “In this special 75th anniversary year of the Fulbright program, she joins the ranks of many distinguished recipients of this honor who have gone on to become heads of state, judges, ambassadors, foreign ministers and business leaders.”

Alexander added that Righetti’s research in France next year will be an opportunity to work collaboratively with international partners in several fields and to “facilitate engagement between the United States and Europe on energy policy development in the 21st century.”

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to forge lasting connections between U.S. residents and the people of other countries, counter misunderstandings and help people and nations work together toward common goals.

Fulbright scholars address critical global challenges in all disciplines while building relationships, knowledge and leadership in support of the long-term interests of the U.S. 

Since its establishment in 1946, the Fulbright Program has enabled more than 390,000 dedicated and accomplished students, scholars, artists, teachers and professionals of all backgrounds to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and to find solutions of shared international concerns.

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UW, LCCC Explain Reasoning Behind Not Requiring COVID Vaccines

in News/Coronavirus/University of Wyoming
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming is following the lead of other colleges and universities in not requiring students or employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus to return to school this fall, a spokesman said Friday.

UW spokesman Chad Baldwin told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that many colleges and universities across the country have decided against requiring vaccinations as a condition of reopening their campuses.

“While several dozen private institutions are requiring vaccines, very few public universities are at this point, and none of our peer institutions in the Midwest-Mountain West region are,” Baldwin said. “At the same time, we are strongly encouraging everyone in the UW community to be vaccinated, because the vaccines have been shown to be highly effective and safe – and offer the best hope of ending the pandemic.”

However, the university continues to encourage its students and staff to get the vaccination, he added.

More than half of the university’s 2,941 employees, 56.2% — 1,653 — reported receiving at least one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines and 50 reported receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine as of Friday. Use of the the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was discontinued in April because of links to a rate blood clotting disorder.

While employees aren’t required to be vaccinated, UW is offering incentives for those who get the vaccine. Employees who report having been fully vaccinated are eligible for drawings for prizes such as iPads, AirPods and an Apple Watch, as well as a personal day off.

Baldwin said the information on employee vaccinations is being reported by employees themselves.

“”We’re asking students to do the same, but the numbers are just starting to come in, and we don’t have a good compilation yet,” he said. “I’m not sure when those might start to be available.”

As of Monday, the total number of active coronavirus cases among UW students and employees stood at 27, including 22 students living off-campus, three students living on-campus and two employees.

In spite of the increase in coronavirus cases this month at the university, the infection numbers and percentage of positive test results are far below where they stood at the same point in the fall semester.

The percentage of positive test results was 0.22% last week, the 13th week of the spring semester, compared to a percentage of 2.12% prevalence rate during week 13 of the fall semester.

Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne also will not require vaccinations, said spokeswoman Lisa Trimble.

Trimble said the decision was made because of a low COVID-19 infection rate at the college, as well as the continued use of face masks and observation of social distancing.

She added, however, that the college continued to provide employees and students with information on the vaccines.

“We are working to provide employees and students with information to help them make an informed decision regarding their personal choice to be vaccinated or not and feel that it is important to allow for everyone to have personal responsibility for the choices that they make,” she said. “We will continue to offer online and hybrid courses for those students that prefer to learn from home or are concerned about returning to the traditional classroom setting. These offerings also allow for flexibility in scheduling which is important for some of our students.”

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Teen Arrested For Murder of UW Football Recruit

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An 18-year-old man has been arrested in connection with last weekend’s shooting death of a University of Wyoming football recruit.

Keyshawn Evanta Harris, 18, was arrested and charged Thursday with murder in the death of Tony Evans Jr., although his bond has not yet been set, according to the Dallas Police Department.

Harris is accused of killing the 17-year-old Evans, who signed to play football at the UW this fall. Evans was found shot early Sunday inside of a hotel room in Dallas.

Evans was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The motive is still unknown at this time. A second shooting victim was in stable condition Monday morning.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Harris was accused of shooting the second victim.

Evans’ death broke hearts in not only his home state of Texas, but Wyoming, as well.

“Our hearts are with the Evans family as they go through this incredibly difficult time,” UW football coach Craig Bohl said. “We are so sad to hear of Tony’s passing.  We have been in contact with Tony’s family and are here to support them in anyway we can.”

Evans was signed by the university back in February. He was a native to Lancaster, Texas.

As a senior wide receiver, he had 13 catches for 268 yards and four touchdowns for Lancaster High School last season.

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Gordon Calls UW Water Bill Best Outcome Of Poor Options

in News/Mark Gordon/University of Wyoming
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A bill allowing the University of Wyoming to develop its own water system without regulation by the city of Laramie is a poor solution to the ongoing dispute between the university and the city, according to Gov. Mark Gordon.

Although he signed the bill into law on Monday, Gordon said he had many reservations about it.

“My decision to sign this bill into law is simply an outgrowth of selecting the best outcome out of a suite of poor options,” he wrote in a letter to House Speaker Eric Barlow, R-Gillette.

The bill stems from a years-long debate over water used to irrigate the Jacoby Golf Course.

According to testimony during committee reviews of the bill, while Laramie allowed the university to use its water to irrigate the course for more than 50 years, the city started charging for the water in 2007 and the university is now paying almost $200,000 a year for the water.

The university developed two wells on land adjoining the golf course, but was prevented from using it to irrigate the course by a Laramie ordinance that banned water from being imported into the city’s boundaries without city approval.

The bill, House Bill 198, would allow the university to develop and use its own water without restrictions by the city.

But Gordon said the bill amounted to using legislation to address a local issue, a practice state Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, referred to as “litigating through legislation.”

“I agree that compelling legal arguments were made on both sides in committee and on the floor,” he wrote. “But this matter also involved the state engineer and some authority of an executive branch entity. Broadly, I am disappointed that this is the outcome in front of me today.”

He added the bill provides a solution only for the university, not other private property owners whose rights to use their water may be affected by Laramie’s ordinance.

In addition, the bill did not address the issue of whether Laramie can regulate water use within its boundaries, a responsibility he said state law gives to the state engineer, Gordon said.

“These and other questions will have to go unanswered for the time being,” he said. “I hope you will continue to look into this situation and offer solutions.”

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UW: “Water Well Plan Makes Sense for Univ of Wyoming, Community”

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By Bill Mai, guest columnist
Bill Mai is UW’s acting vice president for governmental relations.

For many years, the University of Wyoming has watered much of the green space on campus with its own irrigation wells. At the same time, the university uses water from the City of Laramie’s system for both drinking water and irrigation, including the watering of UW’s Jacoby Golf Course, which is open to use by the community.

In the face of rising fees charged by the city — and with the support and sanction of the Wyoming Legislature and the State Engineer’s Office — the university has drilled two additional wells of its own. The new wells will be used in the same way as the existing ones, but their primary initial purpose will be irrigation of Jacoby Golf Course.

While this is simply an expansion of what UW has done for decades — as well a prudent move for efficient use of the community’s aquifer and the university’s financial resources — Laramie city officials do not agree with the drilling and use of new wells by the university. They passed an ordinance last summer to prevent the development and use of non-municipal water within Laramie’s corporate limits.

Since UW has the ability under Wyoming law to permit and appropriate water, state legislators are now considering House Bill 198, which makes clear that the Laramie City Council passed an ordinance beyond its authority — and which would nullify the ordinance.

Unfortunately, city officials are working against the legislation, and they have made numerous public statements that misrepresent the situation. Here are the facts:

— Best use — UW’s new wells will be used initially to solely irrigate Jacoby Golf Course. Rather than use much-needed domestic drinking water from the city to water the golf course, UW will use irrigation water from the new wells for that purpose. This will eliminate the inherent wastefulness of spending public money to purchase potable water for irrigation of a large green space in the community.

— Costs — Since 2007, total water charges to UW from the city have increased by 47 percent. Specifically for water to irrigate Jacoby, the charges have increased by 785 percent. Since 2012, total city water charges to UW for campus irrigation (non-Jacoby) have increased by 550 percent.

In 2020, UW paid the city over $1.94 million in water fees. Even after the new UW wells are connected to the golf course and campus for irrigation, UW will pay the city more than $1.44 million per year in water charges. The new wells will save UW money, but the university will remain a very significant customer of the City of Laramie water system.

— Scope — The university has no plans to create its own municipal potable water system for the Laramie campus. The new wells are planned for irrigation purposes. Nor does the university intend to build its own water systems for other properties it owns in municipalities around the state.

— Impact on existing wells — The State Engineer’s Office carefully analyzed the UW wells during the permitting process and addressed all concerns regarding impact on the aquifer. All of the concerns and objections raised by the city have been addressed by the State Engineer’s Office during the permitting process. The state engineer has dramatically limited the amount of water that can be produced from the wells to protect all water resources in the Laramie region.

UW and Laramie city government have been strong partners for many years to move our community forward. While there is disagreement on the issue of UW drilling new wells to irrigate Jacoby Golf Course, we’re confident that we will continue to work together on many issues of importance to the university and Laramie community.

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UW to Fully Reopen For Fall Semester After Pandemic

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

For the first time in more than a year, the University of Wyoming will be fully reopened to students, faculty and staff this fall.

Improving coronavirus infection numbers, along with vaccine availability and acceptance, have made it possible for the University of Wyoming to move forward with plans for a traditional fall semester with in-person experiences and fewer restrictions, the university announced..

The UW Board of Trustees on Thursday adopted a resolution to fully reopen the university for the fall semester as long as officials are consistent in applying health policy guidelines and state and federal health directives. This will include allowing face-to-face classes at maximum capacity, face-to-face student engagement programs, in-person athletics experiences and other activities and events.

Originally, the board wasn’t supposed to decide on fall semester plans until June.

“What we’re seeing with infection numbers and vaccine availability and acceptance has given us a high degree of confidence that we’ll have a pre-pandemic campus environment for the fall semester,” President Ed Seidel said. “Unless there’s a dramatic, unexpected development, such as an outbreak of some new dangerous COVID variant that is resistant to the new vaccines, we’ll be back fully in person this fall.”

As of Thursday, the total number of active COVID-19 cases among UW students and employees stood at eight: four students living off-campus and four employees living off-campus.

The percentage of samples testing positive in the university’s testing program has decreased from 0.34% at the start of the spring semester to 0.06% in the last week.

Additionally, coronavirus vaccines have been made available to all UW employees and are expected to be available to all students age 18 and over in Albany County in a matter of weeks.

“This has been a difficult time for everyone, and we’re so excited that our students will be back to the traditional campus experience this fall,” Board of Trustees Chairman Jeff Marsh said. “The board strongly supports a full reopening of the university and has heard loud and clear the concerns voiced by so many of our constituents throughout the state.”

Last week, the university announced that the significant decline in coronavirus cases and increasing vaccine availability prompted an adjustment to UW’s spring semester plan, allowing students and faculty the option of continuing in-person experiences throughout the semester.

Instead of asking students to leave UW’s residence halls and encouraging students to not return following UW’s abbreviated spring break from March 31-April 4, the university will maintain residential hall living as an option, as well as continue to offer student support programs and activities.

Some faculty members may continue with virtual lessons or convert to face-to-face classes through semester’s end.

Requirements for the wearing of masks, social distancing and COVID-19 testing will continue through the spring semester, including at the in-person commencement ceremonies May 14-15.

“We’re encouraged at the level of acceptance of the vaccines by members of the UW community,” Seidel said. “Whereas a month ago we weren’t sure if students would have access to vaccines until later in the summer, it’s clear now that the rollout will be much sooner than that. We’re counting on the level of vaccine acceptance to continue at a high level.”

For the fall semester, a much higher percentage of classes will be conducted face-to-face, and it is expected that distancing, gathering and testing requirements will be eased.

It’s not yet certain whether there will continue to be any requirement for face protection.

“While we will need to decide a few details later, we’re very confident in saying that students this fall can expect a much more traditional experience than we’ve been able to provide the past three semesters,” Seidel said. “In the meantime, we encourage everyone to continue following our requirements and public health guidelines, and especially to make sure they’re vaccinated, so that we can put the pandemic behind us.”

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UW Professor Helps Identify Jaguar at U.S./Mexico Border

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A University of Wyoming professor has helped discover a species of jaguar not seen before in the United States near the Mexican border.

An image of the jaguar was captured recently by an Arizona graduate student and suggests habitat connectivity might remain between the southwestern U.S. and the northernmost jaguar subpopulation in Sonora, Mexico, which is more than 100 miles south of the border.

Ganesh Marin, a doctoral student in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Arizona, discovered the jaguar while reviewing footage from wildlife cameras deployed as part of a research project studying mammal diversity and movements in the borderlands region.

John Koprowski, the dean of the University of Wyoming’s Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources, is Marin’s graduate adviser and professor emeritus at the University of Arizona. He is also leading the project that led to the discovery.

“This is an exciting discovery that highlights the importance of finding ways to sustain connectivity of our landscapes so that we can maintain wild and working lands in functional ecosystems today and for future generations,” Koprowski said. “The University of Wyoming and the state have a long history of working to facilitate animal movements and migration, and this new discovery, as part of a joint project by the University of Wyoming and the University of Arizona, adds to our leadership in wildlife conservation.”

In addition to jaguars, the area is rich in biodiversity and provides habitat for many other species, including ocelots, beavers and the Mexican gray wolf.

Jaguars are the largest species of big cats native to the Americas and are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Historically, the animals occupied a continuous range extending from central Argentina to the southwestern U.S. states of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

However, since 1900, that range has decreased due primarily to human disturbance and habitat loss, and is now believed to span an area from northern Argentina to northwestern Mexico.

By 1990, jaguars were thought to have been eliminated from the United States.

Although individual cats have been observed in areas of southern Arizona and New Mexico in recent years, the jaguar observed in the project by Marin and Koprowski — dubbed “El Bonito” — is almost certainly from the Mexican Pacific subpopulation located in the Mexican state of Sonora and is the most northern jaguar reported for Mexico.

The finding indicates the need to maintain and conserve habitat connectivity and water resources on which the animals rely.

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UW Police Mourn Loss of K9 Colleague Mulder

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming Police Department is currently mourning the loss of its K9 colleague, Mulder.

The department announced the loss of Mulder on Saturday, noting it was unexpected.

Sgt. Chad Bade told Cowboy State Daily that Mulder had recently been diagnosed with cancer and there wasn’t a firm timeline on when he might pass.

“He took a quick turn,” Bade said, adding the department ultimately decided to put Mulder to sleep to keep him from suffering.

Mulder was 10 and had worked for the police department since 2012.

He worked with his handler, Sgt. Josh Holland, as an explosives investigator, doing sweeps at various sporting events at the University of Wyoming, in the Laramie community and for events such as Cheyenne Frontier Days and the National High School Rodeo Finals.

“Mulder was kind of a ditz and in la la land, but when it came time to go to work, it was game on for him,” Bade said. “He was really well-liked in the office. Everyone loved Mulder. You had to know his personality, but he was great.”

Bade added Mulder was good friends with Enzo, his K9 that passed away back in September. Now, the department is without any K9s and Bade it is definitely not the same in the office.

“These dogs were a huge help at the games at UW, because they help put the public’s interest at ease,” Bade said. “We’re sad. We miss Mulder.”

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UW Classes Resume In Wake Of Storm That Leaves Highways Closed

in News/weather/University of Wyoming
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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Classes at the University of Wyoming resumed Tuesday as southeastern Wyoming continued to dig out from a winter storm that left record-breaking snow depths in its wake.

Even though highways around Laramie remained closed Tuesday, classes resumed at the UW one day after the snowstorm shut down the campus Monday for both online and in-person classes.

However, the university encouraged employees who were able to work from home to do so to give UW workers extra time to dig out from the more than 18 inches of snow fell Laramie during the blizzard.

Laramie resident Sarah Froehlich said it wasn’t necessarily the amount of snow that fell that caused the worst of the problems — it was the blowing and drifting.

“On Saturday night the wind was horrible! I’ve never heard it that bad,” she said. “It kept me up that night. You could hear the snow hitting the screens and windows.”

Froehlich added that the roads in town are still drifted, except for the main streets, and added the closed roads could be keeping some businesses closed.

“I think the drifting has been the worst issue, people just can’t get out,” she said.

Although the UW was open Tuesday, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported the Laramie campus of Laramie County Community College remained closed.

Highways to the northwest, southeast and northeast were still closed as of Tuesday afternoon, and WYDOT updates warned that portions of Interstate 80 between Rawlins and the Nebraska border may not be open until sometime Wednesday.

But it’s not just people who are suffering because of the storm. 

The Albany County Emergency Management office released a notice that some ranchers are having trouble feeding their livestock, due to hay shortages or inability to access the animals because of the storm. 

The office is offering to help to anyone who may be experiencing such difficulties. 

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Bill Blocking UW From Creating Gun Rules Clears Senate Committee

in News/Legislature
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A bill that would prohibit the University of Wyoming and the state’s community colleges from creating their own firearms rules was approved for full debate on the Senate floor by a Senate committee Friday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 4-1 in support of Senate File 137, which sponsor Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, said would prevent a “patchwork” of gun regulations from being in effect across the state.

“(This bill) is just intended for those who have reservations about repealing our gun-free zones but don’t like the idea of a patchwork of regulations across the state,” he told the committee.

The bill stems in part from a case in which a delegate to the Wyoming Republican Party convention in Laramie in 2018 was cited for trespass because he refused to remove the handgun he was carrying. The university said it had a policy against firearms on campus, however, there is no state law banning firearms on campus.

A state district court judge upheld the citation, saying state law gives the university the authority to regulate Wyoming-made guns.

Kinskey said the section of the law referred to by the judge was the result of a legislative error and would be corrected with the bill.

The bill would also specifically list “institutions of higher education” as being among the governmental entities that cannot adopt gun regulations more stringent than those adopted by the state.

Wyoming law is intended to give only the state government authority over regulating firearms, Kinskey said.

Terry Armitage, representing the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police, agreed the uniformity in regulations provided by Kinskey’s bill is needed.

“Law enforcement doesn’t want to have to guess if they go to a college if there’s a different set of rules,” he said.

The bill was approved despite arguments from community college officials that they need the authority to regulate firearms on their campuses.

“(If) you pass this bill, it will impact our ability to do the state’s work of educating our citizens,” said Joe Schaffer, president of Laramie County Community College. “Can I tell you exactly what that means or how it will play out? No. But we have all the anecdotes and examples across other states and other communities.”

Erin Taylor, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Community College trustees, said trustees from all seven of the state’s community colleges are opposed to the legislation.

“They want to have the ability to make those decisions locally,” she said. “There are situations on a community college campus where it is not ideal to have a weapon involved.”

Kinskey said his legislation is a “backup” to Senate File 67, another bill he is sponsoring that would eliminate “gun-free zones” around the state and allow people to carry concealed weapons on public property including schools.

He added he expects no action on SF137 unless SF67 is killed.

SF67 is awaiting its first full review on the Senate floor.

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Three UW Students Killed, Two Injured In Weekend Car Crash

in News/University of Wyoming/Accident
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Three University of Wyoming students were killed and two were injured, one critically, in a two-car collision south of the Wyoming state line over the weekend.

The accident occurred late Saturday afternoon on U.S. Highway 287, several miles south of the Wyoming/Colorado state line, according to the university.

The students killed were: Sienna Potter, 18, a first-year student in early childhood education who attended high school outside of London but had family in Laramie; Rebecca Marley, 19, a first-year student in marketing who attended high school in Dubai and had family in The Woodlands, Texas; and William Malone, 21, a senior in computer science from Fort Collins, Colorado.

Two other UW students were injured in the crash. One was reported to be in critical condition Monday at the Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, Colorado. The other was hospitalized in Fort Collins.

Three other UW students, traveling in a third vehicle, witnessed the accident.

“Words fail us, as they simply can’t express our sadness,” UW president Ed Seidel said in a statement. “Our hearts are broken for the families, their friends and our entire community.”

The university’s dean of students office has been in contact with all of the family members of the victims and will continue to reach out to those close to those involved in the accident.

“During what has been an extremely challenging academic year for all of us, this unspeakable loss seems to be almost more than our community can bear,” Seidel said. “As we grieve the loss of these students and seek to recover from other tragic and distressful developments in recent weeks and months, let’s do our best and pull together, support those who are suffering, and show the compassion and kindness that characterize what it means to be part of this community.”

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No Evidence Tying UW Racist Zoom Callers to Students, Community Members (So Far)

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

No evidence has been found to tie any of the callers who disrupted a University of Wyoming Black History Month video conference to the university’s students or community members, according to the university.

According to UW’s Chief Diversity Officer Emily Monago, four of the five attackers involved used “virtual private networks” or VPNs located in the U.S. and Germany to hide their true locations.

The attacker who did not use a VPN service appears to have connected from a residential broadband connection on the East Coast. The UW Police Department and the FBI are continuing to investigate.

“So far, there is no forensic evidence to tie any of the attackers to UW,” Monago said. “We’re glad that is the case, but it does not reduce our outrage at this vile occurrence, nor the imperative for us to take action to address problems with racism in our community. And we commit to holding members of our campus accountable if further investigation uncovers a UW connection.”

On Feb. 15, the five people sent racist and pornographic messages during a Zoom-hosted UW event.

Apparently, the UW was one of many schools across the country to have Black History Month events targeted by this type of attack. Institutions including the University of Southern California, Washington’s Gonzaga University and Rutgers University in New Jersey have been “Zoom bombed” with similar hateful, violent words and images in recent weeks and months, the release said.

UW’s network security analyst strongly suspects that all of the attacks are related and coordinated.

Many of UW’s community of color have expressed that they feel unsafe of the campus now, Monago said, despite the fact there is no evidence the attacks originated in Laramie.

“While the racist attack appears to have come from outside the university, it understandably caused our students, employees of color and other people in our campus community to feel unsafe,” she said in her statement to students. “It brought to the forefront the existence of hate speech and racist behavior here in our own community. And it has shone a brighter light on the need for the university to address ever-increasing efforts to increase our diversity as well the existence of racism, so that we can be a welcoming, safe place for everyone, regardless of ability, age, country of origin, culture, economic class, ethnicity, gender identity, immigration status, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation or world view.”

After the incident, University President Ed Seidel, along with university trustees, vice presidents, deans and department directors on Wednesday released a statement condemning the incident.

“The First Amendment may allow expression that is reprehensible, but we have a responsibility to answer it,” it said. “Make no mistake, the words and images to which the Zoom discussion participants were subjected are unacceptable and absolutely contrary to the values of our university. UW immediately began working with local law enforcement to address this matter.”

The statement also said the university would use the technology available to it to block such attacks in the future

However, during a listening session held by the UW’s Council on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Subcommittee on Black Lives Matter and Systemic Racism, many of the 50 or so participants complained that the university’s initial statement about the incident was not strong enough and made it clear UW could do more.

“I took these concerns to heart and committed to do better, and so do others working at UW,” Monago said.

On Friday, Monago met with the UW marketing and communications team members, who are going to assist her office with developing a plan to better communicate diversity, equity, justice, and inclusion information and the university’s commitment to inclusive excellence.

“In closing, all I have left to say is that we see you, we hear you, and we commit to doing better,” Monago said.

Gov. Mark Gordon even commented on the Zoom attack last week in a statement.

“I am saddened and angered that anyone would invade a constructive educational moment with such vile sentiments of hate, and adamantly condemn these atrocious actions,” the governor said.

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Gordon Condemns Racist Disruption of Black History Zoom Event

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Wyoming Gov Mark Gordon issued the following statement on the racist disruption that occurred earlier this week during a Zoom discussion that was part of the University of Wyoming’s Black History Month activities.

“I am saddened and angered that anyone would invade a constructive educational moment with such vile sentiments of hate, and adamantly condemn these atrocious actions.

“The degenerates who committed this act should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for their faceless cowardice and reprehensible behavior.

“Wyoming’s Constitution is clear and unambiguous. In assuring the rights of all “its citizens shall be without distinction of race, color, sex or any circumstance.”

“As I have stated previously, Wyoming is not, and never will be, a place where bigotry and hatred is tolerated, and I am committed to ensuring it is welcoming to all.

“I support the investigation that has been opened into these events and I hope that the perpetrators are held accountable.”

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University of Wyoming Make Early Plans for Fall Semester

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming is planning for a fall semester with more in-person classes and fewer coronavirus-related restrictions, but this is contingent upon vaccine availability and acceptance, along with continued downward trends in virus infection numbers.

UW faculty, staff members and students living in residence halls are slated to be part of the group to be vaccinated under phase 1C group of the Wyoming Department of Health’s guidelines, so university leaders are optimistic for a more traditional semester this fall.

Additionally, there are indications all students may have access to the vaccine by late summer.

“Much could change between now and the start of the fall semester, including transmission of new variants of the virus and other unforeseen developments. However, we see great reason for optimism that we’ll have much more of a pre-pandemic campus environment this fall,” UW President Ed Seidel said. “Of course, it all hinges on the university community and the state adhering to public health guidelines to continue bringing down infection numbers and, especially, receiving the vaccine as soon as possible. At this point, we’re not requiring faculty, staff and students to be vaccinated, but significant voluntary vaccination will be essential for our plan to work.”

Under the plan, UW faculty and staff members would need to have access to the vaccine at least six weeks ahead of the scheduled Aug. 23 start of the fall semester in order for the semester to proceed with face-to-face classes at maximum capacity.

Additionally, relaxation of Wyoming Department of Health rules and guidelines regarding gatherings and classroom capacity will be necessary.

At this point, at least 70% of the UW community will need to be vaccinated to achieve necessary levels of immunity for the vaccine to have efficacy.

University leaders expect to have enough information on those matters in early June to make a final determination.

UW is collaborating with Albany County Public Health and Ivinson Memorial Hospital to administer vaccines to county residents who are in categories 1-3 of the phase 1B priority schedule.

 It’s not yet known when Albany County will begin phase 1C, though.

All students are encouraged to receive the vaccine as soon as possible, based on their current locations.

As of Thursday, the total number of active coronavirus cases among UW students and employees stood at 15: 11 students living off-campus, two students living on-campus and two employees living off-campus.

The university is administering a rigorous testing program this spring semester for those spending time on campus, with undergraduates being tested twice per week and faculty, staff and graduate students being tested once per week.

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UW Researchers Find Major Impacts Due to Political Division

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The polarization between the two major political parties has far-reaching impacts on American life, University of Wyoming researchers have found.

A paper by researchers from UW and five other universities who looked into all the impacts of political polarization was published in January in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing of the American Marketing Association.

The study concluded the impacts go far further than most had expected, touching even on mental and physical health, said Dave Sprott, dean of the UW’s College of Business and one of the paper’s authors.

“I think we’re all aware of how political polarization has affected our elections and system of government, but the impacts go far beyond the political arena,” he said. “Ultimately, polarization harms mental and physical health, financial welfare, relationships and societal interests through its impact on psychology, marketing and public policy outcomes.”

The researchers referenced previous studies that suggested political polarization in the United States is more pronounced now than in the past, at least among members of the nation’s major political parties, with Democrats significantly more likely to identify as liberal and Republicans as conservative.

Additionally, those questioned for the studies indicated they believe the parties ideologies overlap less now than they did in previous years, and the portion of people who hold extreme political opinions is increasing.

Research also showed that political identities, such as Republican, Democrat, liberal or conservative, help determine people’s behavior, attitudes and perceptions.

Those identities can be reinforced by people selecting social groups with shared belief systems, consumption of media that only align with those beliefs and even creation of a “group-specific shared reality,” the researchers wrote.

From a public policy standpoint, political polarization makes it more difficult for elected officials to effectively govern, the paper asserted. This is due to a number of factors, including a lack of trust in scientists in policymakers and prevalence of misinformation.

“For instance, as society has become increasingly polarized, politicians’ objectives diverge and their animosity toward the opposition grows, thereby reducing opportunity for compromise,” the researchers wrote. “Partisan incivility is a major reason for failed dialogue: Uncivil exchanges result in disagreement and greater polarization regardless of the evidence presented.”

This political polarization is reflected in the marketplace, as consumers connect with brands that they perceive reflect their values and beliefs.

“In effect, activist consumers will increasingly expect brands to help spur social change, and will be more likely to respond to brand actions through a political lens,” the researchers wrote.

For example, they noted that the expressions of support for former President Donald Trump by the CEO of Goya Beans, a Latin food company, resulted in liberal consumers boycotting the company’s products and conservatives promoting them during 2020.

Similar situations arose for companies including My Pillow, Home Depot and Chick-fil-A when their corporate leaders expressed support for conservative causes.

Even when companies aim to be apolitical, the nation’s polarized environment increases the chances that they will be viewed as being political, the researchers said.

“As the population becomes more polarized, initiatives that were previously viewed through an apolitical lens may be viewed as favoring one political identity over another, as a polarized population is more likely to view corporate actions through a political lens,” the researchers wrote.

Ultimately, according to the researchers, consumer welfare suffers because of political polarization in these areas:

Finances: With political positions influencing decisions, people may sacrifice wages, lose out on jobs, make suboptimal purchases and disregard opportunities to save. For example, research has found that employees accept lower wages to work for politically like-minded entities, and people may select higher-priced products or ones that offer less-functional value.

Relationships: Polarization has the potential to prevent neighbors or colleagues of opposing parties from developing friendships. This ultimately deprives individuals of intellectual diversity, among other things.

Health: Obstruction of social relationships stemming from political polarization can cause both mental and physical harm. Additionally, “the politicization of coronavirus prevention techniques has seemingly slowed their adoption and obscured dissemination of scientific facts, thereby amplifying the spread of a deadly disease.”

Societal interests: For instance, beliefs relating to global warming, affirmative action, wealth inequality and gun control often tend to reflect individuals’ political affiliations rather than a deliberate processing of relevant information that results in evidence-based decision-making.

“In addition, the broader negative impacts of these policy areas on society as a whole have the potential to harm individual mental and physical health over the long term,” according to the researchers.

The researchers suggest a number of potential measures to limit the effects of polarization, including reducing the spread of misinformation, using messaging techniques to try to bridge the different values of liberals and conservatives and limiting the length of political campaigns.

At the same time, the researchers acknowledge that some level of conflict is good and natural for society, and that polarization has been shown to increase voting and political participation.

“Future research should consider the possibility that while political polarization can be harmful, there may be silver linings and reasons for hope,” the researchers concluded, suggesting inquiry into “what types and levels of societal conflict result in positive versus negative outcomes.”

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Central Park Five Member to Speak at UW for MLK Event

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

One of five youths falsely accused of raping a woman in Central Park in the late 1980s will be the keynote speaker for the University of Wyoming’s Martin Luther King Jr. Days of Dialogue event.

Yusef Salaam, a member of the group dubbed the “Central Park Five,” will discuss the case and his work at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 9 through a virtual presentation for the university.

The Martin Luther King Jr. “Days of Dialogue,” which begins Feb. 8, is in its 17th year at the university. The event is designed to celebrate the continuing impact of King’s life, according to event co-directors Erin Olsen Pueblitz and Melanie Vigil.

“The MLK DOD tradition is intended to expand institutional and community awareness about issues of diversity and social justice, to foster an inclusive community, and to empower individuals to act in solidarity with Black lives and marginalized communities,” they said in a statement.

Salaam was 15 at the time he and four other Black and Latino teenage boys were wrongfully convicted of raping a white woman jogging in Central Park in New York City in 1989.

He served six years and eight months in a juvenile facility before the five men’s cases were overturned in 2002.

After members of the group spent up to 13 years of their lives behind bars, unidentified DNA from the Central Park jogger case, unlinked to any of the five, was finally matched to a convicted murderer and serial rapist who confessed to the crime.

The convictions of the boys, now men, were overturned.

In 2014, the five received a multimillion-dollar settlement from New York City for the injustice.

Since his release, Salaam, now 47, has committed himself to advocating and educating people on the issues of false confession, police brutality and misconduct, press ethics and bias, race and law and the disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system.

Salaam received a President’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016 from then-President Barack Obama and was awarded an honorary doctorate of humanities from Anointed by God Ministries Alliance and Seminary in 2014.

Salaam was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal organization that is committed to exonerating individuals who it claims have been wrongly convicted, in 2018.

He currently resides in Atlanta and is a motivational speaker.

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UW, Colleges Launch Collaborative Effort To Improve Wyoming’s Economy

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming and the state’s seven community colleges are launching a collaborative effort to better prepare Wyoming students for the state’s evolving economy and encourage entrepreneurship, officials announced Monday.

Gov. Mark Gordon, in a news conference with UW President Ed Seidel and presidents from the state’s community colleges, announced the launch of the Wyoming Innovation Network, a joint effort by all the schools to focus more on Wyoming’s economic needs.

“The economic challenges Wyoming is facing are going to require us to develop and deploy innovative solutions,” Gordon said. “It is critical to have this coordinated effort from our state’s institutions of higher education.”

Under the WIN program, community colleges and UW will work to align courses to prepare students for industries that will need skilled workers in the future, such as tourism, advanced manufacturing and digital technology, Gordon said.

He added by working together, the schools will also help students become entrepreneurs and help make Wyoming more attractive to new businesses by making sure they have access to a skilled workforce.

“Our goal is a unified effort that will help launch this economic development as well as strengthen our economy and help our workers succeed here in Wyoming,” Gordon said.

The initiative will also look at ways to increase the availability of higher education to students who might not be otherwise able to access it, perhaps through digital means, he said.

The effort will require the UW and community colleges to develop closer relationships with private industry, Seidel said, both to determine what skills employers need and to seek financial support for the effort.

Seidel and the presidents of the community college have already formed a working group which will meet regularly to determine how to move forward with items such as making educational programs align and making sure community college students have access to the university.

Darren Divine, president of Casper College, pointed out the university and community colleges are already working along those lines, such as with the development of a bachelor’s degree in applied science and the bachelor’s of science in nursing.

In addition, a program announced Monday will allow community college students to know exactly how their college credits will apply should they attend the UW, Divine said.

“The community colleges and the university are very cohesive and aligned more now than ever before,” he said. “This new effort will enhance Wyoming’s ability to meet the challenges created by our current economic environment.”

There will be a cost connected to the effort, Gordon said, but he said his direction to the presidents was to look at what could be done and then perhaps look to sources other than the state for at least part of the funding.

“Then comes the part of how do we raise the funds,” he said. “We’ve got to reach out to the private sector. That’s something that Wyoming is going to have to do more of. We can’t depend entirely on the (legislative” block grant, on what the Legislature does.

“What is important here is a new direction in a way to collaborate among our institutions, to work from the ground up,” he said. “As money comes its direction, as it proves its worth, then more investment will result in more success.”

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Fans to Again Be Allowed at UW Athletics Events

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

After nearly two months, the University of Wyoming is allowing fans back at its athletics events.

Beginning Thursday, a maximum of 2,000 fans will be allowed to attend events held at the Arena-Auditorium and a maximum of 170 fans will be allowed in the UniWyo Federal Credit Union Sports Complex.

The newest attendance guidelines for University of Wyoming Athletics events were approved by the Wyoming Department of Health as they follow the department’s public health orders governing COVID-19 and gathering sizes.

These guidelines apply to all UW Athletics events for all sports.  Attendance guidelines may change based on future coronavirus-related public health orders issued by the Wyoming Department of Health.

Single-game tickets for the remaining games will go on sale to season-ticket holders at 10 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 25, and will go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 27. 
 
University of Wyoming students will not be allowed to attend any UW Athletics events prior to Feb. 1, per UW coronavirus guidelines that place students in a limited contact period as they return to campus for the spring semester. 

This will be the first time fans have attended a UW athletics event since early December, when Gov. Mark Gordon issued stricter health orders due to a rising number of coronavirus cases in the state.

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UW Prepares For Spring Semester In Midst of COVID

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

With the start of the spring semester just one week away, University of Wyoming students returning to campus are reminded that a limited contact period begins Thursday and extends through Jan. 31.

Additionally, students and employees are expected to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance upon returning from winter break, including reducing nonessential activities for up to 10 days and being tested for the coronavirus three to five days following their return to campus.

The semester will begin with two days of online-only instruction Jan. 21-22, and face-to-face classes will start Jan. 25.

For students living on campus, the residence halls will open Tuesday, with students arriving on assigned dates between then and Jan. 24.

Students living off campus should take a coronavirus test before returning to in-person classes or activities on campus.

During the limited contact period, students are allowed to attend in-person classes, participate in work and worship engagements and be outside but are expected to limit their in-person contacts to people living on the same floor of a residence hall or the same apartment/residence.

“These measures are necessary to give us a chance to be successful in providing a safe face-to-face engagement on campus amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Cases are on the rise again in Wyoming and across the country, and it is important we do our part to mitigate that spread,” UW President Ed Seidel said. “We’re very hopeful that, with vaccines being administered to targeted populations now and wide administration expected by this summer, our fall semester will be much more in line with pre-pandemic practices.”

As was the case during the fall semester, UW will continue measures throughout the spring to limit the spread of COVID-19, including a rigorous testing, quarantine and isolation program, requirements for face protection and physical distancing and limits on gatherings.

Students, faculty and staff coming to campus or returning to work will be required to participate in UW’s surveillance testing program, using UW’s laboratory-developed, saliva-based tests.

Students not returning to campus at any time during the semester will not be required to participate, but need to receive testing exemptions. Students living on campus, working on campus and taking in-person classes are automatically included in the testing program and will receive emails to schedule their tests once the semester begins.

Undergraduate students who are part of the surveillance program will be tested twice per week. Graduate students and employees will be tested once per week.

UW employees and students will continue to be expected to use the COVID Pass tool daily to self-screen for coronavirus-like symptoms. Those who are noncompliant with the testing requirements will receive a “red” flag similar to an individual with symptoms, restricting access to campus.

The spring plan approved by the UW Board of Trustees calls for a semester that includes 10 weeks of in-person instruction, a three-day spring break and five weeks of fully online classes to conclude the term.

In addition to the abbreviated March 31-April 4 spring break, no classes will be held on Presidents Day, Feb. 15.

Starting April 5, all classes will move to online delivery, with the final day of classes May 6 and finals week will take place May 10-14.

The university is working with the Wyoming Department of Health and Albany County Public Health to make coronavirus vaccines available as soon as possible to mitigate transmission of the virus and allow the other preventative measures to be more effective.

It’s uncertain when all students and employees will have access to the vaccine.

As a result, the move to online-only course delivery following spring break follows the same rationale for the decision to go online during the fall semester following Thanksgiving break: to help minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission that would be caused by students leaving campus and then returning.

While close to 40% of UW courses currently are slated to be delivered fully online in the spring, up from the historical figure of 15%, about 60% are planned to include in-person components during the Jan. 25-March 30 period.

The in-person classes will continue to be held in classrooms that are arranged to meet physical-distancing requirements, along with enhanced cleaning measures.

Under the plan, the university continues to track and monitor a set of key indicators of coronavirus prevalence on campus to support data-based decision-making. These include the total number of symptomatic cases among students and employees, testing sample disease prevalence, capacity for isolation and quarantine and hospitalizations.

Since the pandemic began, UW has reported a total of 1,865 cases of COVID-19 among its employees and students, with 1,846 people recovered.

As of Thursday, there are 19 active cases: one on-campus student, nine off-campus students and nine employees.

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No Fans Allowed at UW Cowboys Games Until at Least Jan. 25

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Fans won’t be allowed to attend any University of Wyoming sporting events until at least Jan. 25, according to a recent announcement from the university.

The limits follow the most recent Wyoming Department of Health orders, which limits gatherings of more than 10 people, the university said.

Only a limited number of family members of student-athletes and coaches, along with essential personnel working the events, will be allowed to attend events through Jan. 25, the announcement said.
 
These guidelines apply to all UW Athletics events.
 
The initial public health order affecting UW Athletics events, as well as many other public events throughout the state, was originally set to expire on Friday, but Gov. Mark Gordon left the order in place through Jan. 25.

UW stopped allowing fans at athletic events in December, after Gordon and state health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist issued new health orders, which included a statewide mask mandate and limitations on both indoor and outdoor crowds.

The order limiting gatherings does not apply to religious facilities, funeral homes, residential buildings or grocery stores. Nor does it apply to retail businesses as long as patrons remain at least six feet away from one another. 

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UW Acquires Medical Facility For COVID Testing, Vaccine Distribution

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming purchased a medical facility adjoining the campus where coronavirus confirmatory testing and the eventual administration of the virus’ vaccine will take place.

The purchase was made possible through the use of federal CARES Act funds.

The acquisition of the Mountain View Medical Park building at 2710 Harney St., for the appraised value of $8.4 million, also consolidates the university’s land ownership on the northeast end of campus and provides space for UW’s WWAMI Medical Education Program and other future health sciences and related program needs.

The purchase includes the 31,255-square-foot, two-story building and 5.12 acres. The current tenants of the facility, medical and dentistry offices for several local firms, will remain in the building under existing leases that extend for two more years.

UW already is putting the facility’s unused space to use for its coronavirus confirmatory testing, with plans to administer the coronavirus vaccine there to members of the UW community when it becomes available.

“We appreciate the governor’s allocation of CARES Act funding to make this purchase possible and address some immediate needs related to the pandemic,” UW President Ed Seidel said. “The acquisition also will provide long-term benefits for the university due to the location, it’s surrounded by UW-owned property, and our need for future space for our programs.”

In fact, UW has been leasing space in the building for the WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) Medical Education Program to use for instructional activities.

College of Health Sciences Dean David Jones said the facility could be a home to other programs envisioned in the college’s long-term planning.

“While this purchase will meet an immediate health care need, we’re excited about the opportunities it presents for the future,” Jones, who oversees sample collection for UW’s rigorous COVID-19 testing program, said. “It’s a wonderful facility in a great spot for us. We deeply appreciate the governor’s quick action to take advantage of a great opportunity.”

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UW Survey Shows Wyoming Residents Approve Of University’s Path To Success

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A large majority of surveyed Wyoming residents believe that the University of Wyoming provides a strong undergraduate education, prepares students to participate in the state’s workforce and is an appealing place for Wyoming students to attend college, new survey results show.

Additionally, 64% of Wyomingites surveyed believe the UW is spending its budget wisely and 60% say the university does an excellent or good job responding to the needs of the state, according to the biennial election-year survey conducted by the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center.

Asked to rate the university the same way students are graded, 31% of respondents gave UW an “A” and 37% offered a “B” rating, with the average of all responses equating to 3.10 on a scale of zero to 4.0.

This year’s statewide telephone survey of 614 Wyoming residents was conducted in October, with cellular and landline phone numbers randomly selected to ensure equal probability of selection for all Wyoming residents. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

“We’re delighted that the people of Wyoming regard their state’s university highly,” UW President Ed Seidel said. “We intend to do everything we can to build on that foundation and increase our educational and research excellence, as well as our level of service to the state, during a time when the state needs us perhaps more than ever.”

UW received particularly high marks in the survey for the quality of education students receive.

Of the respondents, 23% rated UW’s performance as excellent an “providing an excellent undergraduate education,” with 45% rating it good (68% combined, up from 64% two years ago).

Asked to rate UW’s performance in “educating young people to participate in Wyoming’s workforce,” 19% said it was excellent and 42% said good (61% combined, 1 point higher than two years ago).

Asked “How well do you think UW appeals to Wyoming students and their families as a desirable place to attend college?,” 26% responded excellent and 61% said good (87% combined, up 2 points from two years ago).

Just 7% said “fair” and 1% said “poor.”

Asked if UW has steadily improved during the past several years, 60% expressed agreement (down 2 points from two years ago).

The percentage of those who believe UW is spending its budget wisely is 63% (up 6 points from two years ago), and 69% agree that UW and the state’s community colleges are working together to provide high-quality education for Wyoming students (down 2 points from two years ago).

Most of the survey respondents, 86%, didn’t have a degree from UW. Of those who did, 49% rated the quality of their UW educational experience as excellent and 43% as good (92% combined). Asked about the relevance of their educational experience, 43% rated it excellent and 44% good (87% combined).

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UW To Refund Some Fees To Students Due To COVID Impact

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming is going to disperse partial refunds to full-time students due to the impact of the coronavirus.

Each full-time student taking classes on the Laramie campus will receive a total of $141.17 credit to their UW account for fees that were previously charged for athletics, music/theater and recycling because the pandemic largely eliminated the opportunity to attend events and receive those services.

“The fall semester was unusual in so many respects, and the student experience was altered by being unable to attend in-person athletics and cultural events,” Vice President for Student Affairs Kim Chestnut says. “We’re happy to be able to provide this refund in recognition of the fact that students didn’t receive what they normally would for these particular fees they pay.”

The university limited many events and activities, such as all of the athletic events, due to the pandemic. UW also operated on a phased opening system over the previous semester, meaning students were allowed to return to campus in waves.

By phase four, though, the university moved all of its classes online for the last few weeks (some classes were already fully online for the semester) to prevent the continuing spread of the virus.

The UW coronavirus rules have required everyone on campus to wear face coverings except when in private spaces, maintain physical distancing, use the COVID Pass tool, submit to regular coronavirus testing and to implement enhanced cleaning measures across campus.

Testing, contact tracing and isolation/quarantine remain an important part of the phased return plan.

Classes began as planned on Aug. 24, but were all held virtually for the first few weeks of the semester, and the student population in Laramie was capped for a time.

By mid-September, some classes went back to in-person instruction and more students were allowed on campus.

On Wednesday, the university announced plans for the spring semester that included 10 weeks of in-person instruction, a three-day spring break and five weeks of fully online classes to conclude the term.

To mitigate the impact of possibly infected students returning to campus from across the country, the plan includes a “limited contact period” for students Jan. 14-31.

During that period, students will be allowed to attend in-person classes, participate in work and worship engagements, and be outside, but will also be expected to limit their in-person contacts to people living on the same floor of a residence hall or the same apartment/residence.

While close to 40% of UW courses currently are slated to be delivered fully online in the spring, up from the usual figure of 15%, about 60% are planned to include in-person components during the Jan. 25-March 30 period.

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UW Spring Semester Plan Approved By Board Of Trustees

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees on Wednesday approved a plan for the spring 2021 semester that includes 10 weeks of in-person instruction, a three-day spring break and five weeks of fully online classes to conclude the term.

The semester will begin with two days of online-only instruction on Jan. 21-22, and face-to-face classes starting Jan. 25.

Following an abbreviated spring break that will run March 31-April 4, all classes will move to online delivery, with the final day of classes set for May 6 and finals week to be held May 10-14.

Working with the Wyoming Department of Health and Albany County Public Health, UW will implement an emergency shift to fully remote instruction and student programming with limited in-person operations, or to take other actions, if warranted by major changes in conditions.

To mitigate the impact of possibly infected students returning to campus from across the country and beyond, the plan includes a “limited contact period” for students Jan. 14-31. During that period, students will be allowed to attend in-person classes, participate in work and worship engagements, and be outside, but will also be expected to limit their in-person contacts to people living on the same floor of a residence hall or the same apartment/residence.

As was the case during the fall semester, UW will continue measures throughout the spring to limit the spread of the coronavirus, including rigorous testing, quarantine and isolation programs, requirements for face protection and physical distancing and limits on gatherings.

“Based upon our experience in the fall semester and our testing program, which is one of the most advanced in the nation, we are confident that we can be successful with an on-campus experience in the spring semester,” UW President Ed Seidel said. “But our success depends upon compliance with our testing protocols and other requirements. We’re counting on all members of the UW community to do their part.”

The university intends to make coronavirus vaccines available as soon as possible to mitigate transmission of the virus and allow the other preventative measures to be more effective. However, it’s uncertain when students and employees will have access to the vaccine.

As a result, the move to online-only course delivery following spring break follows the same rationale for the decision to go online during the fall semester following Thanksgiving break this semester.

“We reinstituted a spring break in response to many requests by our students,” Seidel said. “We would have liked to plan for a full semester of in-person instruction but, considering the uncertainty about the timing of the vaccine and about the extent of the pandemic at the end of March, we think it prudent, at this point, to not bring students back after spring break.”

Additionally, no classes will be held on Presidents Day, Feb. 15.

While close to 40% of UW courses currently are slated to be delivered fully online in the spring, up from the usual figure of 15%, about 60% are planned to include in-person components during the Jan. 25-March 30 period.

The in-person classes will continue to be held in classrooms that are arranged to meet physical-distancing requirements, along with enhanced cleaning measures.

“We expect the spring semester will look much like the fall semester and, as a result, we understand it will present difficult circumstances for many of our students,” Seidel said. “Our spring plan puts a particular emphasis on student emotional health and well-being. We are dedicated to making sure they have the support and services they need to be successful.”

Students, faculty and staff coming to campus or returning to work will be required to participate in UW’s surveillance testing program, using UW’s laboratory-developed, saliva-based tests.

Students not returning to campus at any time during the semester will not be required to participate, but they need to receive testing exemptions.

For students moving into UW’s residence halls, coronavirus testing will be required the morning of their move-in date. For students living off-campus who plan to participate in on-campus activities, testing will be required the first week of classes beginning Jan. 25.

Students who return early to campus for university-sanctioned activities will be required to test upon arrival.

For employees who are returning to work after being away from campus, testing will be required the week before their return to on-campus work.

Those returning directly after the winter break will be tested during that week and self-isolate as much as possible until a negative test result has been received.

Employees who plan to work from home or fully self-isolate on campus throughout the semester will not be required to take part in surveillance testing.

Undergraduate students who are part of the surveillance program will be tested twice per week, while graduate students and employees will be tested once per week.

UW employees and students will continue to be expected to use the COVID Pass tool daily to self-screen for coronavirus-like symptoms. Those who are noncompliant with the testing requirements will receive a “red” flag similar to an individual with symptoms, restricting access to campus.

Under the plan, the university will continue to track and monitor a set of key indicators of COVID-19 prevalence on campus to support data-based decision making. These include the total number of symptomatic cases among students and employees; testing sample disease prevalence; capacity for isolation and quarantine; and hospitalizations.

There are no automatic actions to be triggered by hitting certain indicator thresholds, but UW will continue to coordinate closely with state and local authorities to assess conditions in the community and determine appropriate interventions.

Since the pandemic began, UW has reported a total of 1,812 cases of COVID-19 among its employees and students, with 1,797 people recovered.

As of Wednesday, there are 15 active cases: two on-campus students, 10 off-campus students and three employees.

With the end of the fall semester last week, only a small number of students remain in UW’s residence halls, and many traditional-age students who were living off campus in Laramie have returned to their homes around the state, the country and beyond.

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No Fans Allowed At UW Athletics Events Until At Least January

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

No Cowboy fans will be allowed at any University of Wyoming sporting events until at least early January, the university announced on Tuesday.

Tickets will not be available for any athletic events until at least Jan. 8. Following this date, approval will have to come from the Wyoming Department of Health.

This announcement comes after Gov. Mark Gordon implemented new health orders until at least Jan. 8 requiring people to wear face coverings in all public spaces, both inside and outdoors. In addition to this, crowd sizes were limited.

The governor reduced the number of people allowed in gatherings to 10 or fewer. Indoor facilities may allow more than 10 people to be at their locations, but may allow no more people than 25% of the facility’s capacity.

Outdoor facilities may also allow more than 10 people on-site, but must limit the number of people to no more than 50% of capacity.

The order limiting gatherings does not apply to religious facilities, funeral homes, residential buildings or grocery stores. Nor does it apply to retail businesses as long as patrons remain at least six feet away from one another. 

Fans who purchased tickets to the UW men’s basketball game versus Omaha on Dec. 17 will receive refunds.

For men’s and women’s basketball games scheduled from Dec. 13 to Jan. 8, only team family members will be allowed to attend via the NCAA complimentary admissions process.