Bonner, McCarthy address student concerns in virtual town hall


Via the Office of the Provost |

Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner and Vice Provost of Undergraduate Studies Joe McCarthy held a virtual town hall through Zoom for Pitt students to address questions regarding housing, grading and technology concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Ashton Crawley, Senior Staff Writer

During a time where much is uncertain, Pitt students had the chance to meet with administration and ask questions about topics like housing, grading and new technology — virtually, of course. 

Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner and Vice Provost of Undergraduate Studies Joe McCarthy held a virtual town hall for 230 Pitt students Thursday to address various questions regarding student concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re not able to connect in the normal ways — running into each other in the Cathedral or the William Pitt Union or across campus — so we’re happy to engage you in this virtual mode and hopefully we can continue this into the foreseeable future,” Bonner said. 

During the hour-long Zoom event, students could type questions into the Q&A section for McCarthy, Bonner or another staff member to answer. Students also had the option to pre-submit questions through a link on Pitt’s website.

A major topic of discussion was the University’s decision to allow students to choose if they wanted to have their grades counted as satisfactory/no credit instead of a letter grade. McCarthy said students have a week after grades are posted at the end of the semester to decide. He also said in the future, regardless of the semester, if students need to change a grade from this semester from S/NC, they will be able to contact the University to change it back to a letter grade. 

McCarthy said the University will not allow any uncompleted or “G” grade courses to expire this semester, and students with a Pitt scholarship based on GPA will not be penalized for choosing to move a course to S/NC.

According to McCarthy, the University has also decided not to put any students on academic probation or academically dismiss anyone this semester due to extenuating circumstances.

“We’re trying to be as flexible as we can, accommodate as many student needs as we can,” McCarthy said.

One way the University is helping students is through the new Student Emergency Assistance Fund, where students can apply for help covering various personal costs. Bonner said the University has already assisted students with funds for traveling. 

Bonner also reiterated the University’s decision to refund money to students who moved out of on-campus housing by a certain date. Students who held a parking pass will also get a pro-rata reduction.

McCarthy and Bonner gave students resources to reach out to for help with new technology like Zoom, such as the IT Help Desk

The issue of this year’s commencement event, which has been indefinitely postponed, was also addressed. McCarthy apologized to this year’s graduating class, but said the University would still be giving out their diplomas on time, except for possibly a week’s delay due to the S/NC credit option.

McCarthy said the University is working with graduating seniors right now and will schedule an in-person commencement ceremony as soon as it is safe to do so. The University is also considering an online option for the ceremony.

“We absolutely want to celebrate your success,” McCarthy said. 

To wrap up the town hall, Bonner encouraged students to continue social distancing and stay safe. Bonner also stressed the importance of staying connected to others as well as reaching out to University resources like the Counseling Center.

“This is an extremely challenging time. I think it’s important to take the time to acknowledge that all of us are trying to figure out how to adjust,” Bonner said. “Reach out to folks. Make sure that you’re reaching out to people virtually, that you’re getting the help you need.”