An Update for Our Neighbors

August 11, 2020

Dear Neighbors, 

As our friends and neighbors, we know you have questions about our plans for returning students, faculty and staff to our campus this month.  We also know that our surrounding neighborhoods are diverse, vibrant communities with both shared and unique concerns. While we don’t have all of the answers, we wanted to share with you some key highlights, as well as provide you with resources for where you can find additional information about our plans and updates. We appreciate your partnership as we work through these issues together and we ask for your patience as we work together in new ways. 

A Safer Return to Campus: Our return to campus plans are guided by world-renowned experts and the latest information. We are bringing students back in a phased approach to de-densified housing, using shelter-in-place strategies, conducting surveillance testing and adjusting as necessary. We’re also asking our faculty and staff to continue working remotely whenever possible to further limit the number of people coming to campus.  

Culture and Compliance: We know that none of these plans will work unless we all do our part.  And we know that you have concerns about how we will ensure that our students, in particular, will abide by the health and safety rules we’ve put in place.  We are addressing that in several ways.  

First, we are working on creating a culture of health and safety and our student leaders are playing a key role in helping us do this.  Student leaders from the Pittsburgh campus have created the Pitt Community Compact, which summarizes the expected behaviors of students, and have asked students, faculty and staff on all campuses to take this pledge to emphasize our culture of adhering to behaviors to protect the community. The Compact focuses on individual health and wellbeing, impact on others and accountability. 

It includes: I acknowledge that our campus is home to many beyond the University community, and those families and communities are impacted by my actions and decisions.

While we are confident that fostering a culture of health and safety accountability is the right way to start, we know the importance of having concrete ways to enforce our policies.  To that end, we’ve added  a new code violation regarding compliance with health rules has been added to the Student Code of Conduct: a student who “Fails to comply with guidance set forth by the University, federal, state and/or local authorities regarding public health and/or safety” may be sanctioned. Students who violate the Code of Conduct may be restricted from campus facilities, including classrooms when classes resume in person. Violations can also result in sanctions as serious as semester suspensions. 

Oakland-wide Community Meeting Recording: On July 28, Paul Supowitz, vice chancellor for Community and Governmental Relations, Dean Kenyon Bonner and Dr. Chris O’Donnell presented at the Oakland Planning and Development Oakland-wide community meeting. You can watch the whole meeting online, and look for that presentation to begin at the 52-minute mark. For those of you who are Pitt parents, students and families—or who are curious about questions we’re getting from students!—our recent student town hall is also available online. 

Help Spread the Message: We’ve created signage for use in our campus buildings and would love it if you’d consider picking one of your favorites and printing it to post in your window to reinforce the message in our surrounding neighborhoods. If you don’t have a printer at home but would like to request a copy, please let us know and we’ll be happy to put one in the mail for you. 

In Service to Community: In addition to our Pitt Pandemic Service Initiative, we’re continuing to find new ways to serve and support the communities we call home. Whether it’s helping to get technology into the hands of those who need it mostoffering virtual babysitting classes or getting meals to local families, our faculty, staff and students aren’t letting the pandemic stop them from partnering and engaging with our neighbors. 

Finding New Ways to Connect: If this were a normal year, we’d be planning block parties, Day of Caring service activities and voter registration drives in front of the William Pitt Union. Instead, we’re thinking about how we foster these values and strengthen relationships in new ways. In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing our plans for connecting student residents with neighborhood residents, orienting students to our neighborhoods and reinforcing our expectations of students as members of the broader community.

We also encourage you to visit Pittwire Live, where we feature many free, virtual events open to members of the community, like our Diversity Forum, daily exercise classes and children’s programming.

Fighting the Virus: Our faculty, staff and students are also doing amazing work to find a vaccine, better treat symptoms and address alarming racial disparities. Below are a few recent highlights from our campus newsletter, Pittwire. We also encourage you to subscribe to Pittwire, which often includes updates on our health and safety measures, plans for returning to campus and the latest research updates, and follow us on social media

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or to schedule a call with a member of our team.


Paul Supowitz

Vice Chancellor, Community and Governmental Relations