Students are deciding to remain in residence halls, despite University request to move out due to pandemic


Emily Wolfe | Contributing Editor

An empty hallway in the Forbes-Craig apartment building.

By Anushay Chaudhry, Staff Writer

Zane Elgogari is soon going to be a resident assistant without any residents. Unlike most students, he’s going to remain in on-campus housing for the rest of the semester.

“Watching everyone leave is definitely disheartening,” Elgogari said. “It was really hard to watch my residents leave at first and then watching my friends leave really hit home.” 

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher announced last week that Pitt was shifting to online classes indefinitely in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, followed by a request the next day that students not return to their University housing after spring break, if possible. While students can submit an Extension to Stay Request, Panther Central staff members will review each request based on several factors, including travel issues, co-op standing, campus employment, financial hardship and personal safety.

Despite Pitt’s decision to issue partial room and board refunds to those who move out before April 4, there are still students determined to stay. 

Elgogari said despite being released from his RA responsibilities, he still decided to spend the rest of the semester at Pitt.

“I work as a medical assistant in a doctor’s office and we are short-staffed at this time, so they really needed me to stay if I could,” Elgogari said. 

University spokesperson Kevin Zwick has said that there is no information yet on the number of students that are expected to stay in residence halls. However, an email sent by Gallagher on Wednesday said students staying may be required to relocate to a different room or residence hall in order to safeguard student well-being. 

“With this transition, we will limit residence hall access to students who have registered with Panther Central to remain on campus,” the email stated. “These measures will enable us to ensure the safety of remaining students and help us manage the impacts of this public health crisis on our campuses.”

Despite the inconvenience of moving to a different room or residence hall, Lauren Kowalski, a resident assistant in Tower A and out-of-state student from Illinois, is still spending the rest of her semester at Pitt, due to the difficulties associated with moving out at such short notice. 

“My parents don’t have the availability to drop everything and come move me out for at least a few weeks,” Kowalski said. 

In addition to the possibility of relocating to another room, Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner announced in a separate email that students choosing to remain in residence halls will face numerous new restrictions to food services, computer labs and more on-campus services. 

Despite limited access to certain facilities on campus, Karina Elizabeth Hester, a first-year student, said her decision to stay was heavily influenced by the timing of the transition to online classes, as well as the infeasibility of traveling during the pandemic. 

“I’m an out-of-state student from California, so changing my ticket home at the last minute wasn’t exactly a possibility,” Hester said. “There’s also more cases of the virus in California, so I felt safer here.”

The serious concerns raised by COVID-19 have caused many students to reevaluate their course of action in the coming months. However, for some, staying in residence halls still proves to be the most beneficial option.

“I’d like to enjoy Pittsburgh while I still can,” Hester said.