Opinion | The Pitt community should celebrate its successes

By Julia Kreutzer, Senior Staff Columnist

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I don’t know about you, but my brain seems to have turned to mush. 

Somehow, the oatmeal-like contents of my skull have powered my body long enough to get through a semester that can only be described as apocalyptic. I’d say it’s a miracle but that doesn’t seem to suffice. It’s not a miracle — it’s the result of weeks of turning chaos into the foundation for re-learning how to learn. It’s the result of action.

Whether I get the grades I had hoped for or end up needing to take advantage of the pass/fail option, I’ve made it through. That should be celebrated. I’m proud of myself. I’m proud of my peers. I’m proud of my professors. I’m proud of the Pitt community. I’m proud of all of us and I hope you are, too. 

There’s no other way to say this — this sucked. Sure, this may not be the worst period in world history. As a unit, college students are not the group most impacted by this crisis. Things could be worse, but this is certainly going down in the history books as undoubtedly, inescapably sucky.

When Pitt first announced we would be switching to a virtual learning system for the remainder of the semester, I was not only devastated to lose time on campus but incredibly intimidated by the prospect of learning from home. As someone who depends on discussion and communication as a means to absorb material, I felt it would be impossible for me to keep up with my workload. 

Bryan Robinson, contributor for Fobes.com, explains it’s incredibly common to doubt ourselves in times of crisis.

“Mother Nature equipped us with a negativity bias to keep us out of harm’s way,” Robinson said. “This bias causes us to overestimate threats and underestimate our ability to handle them.”

However, we were forced to find a way to “handle them.” In doing so, I proved myself wrong. Many of us moved out of our dorms with days notice. We turned childhood bedrooms — or in my case, storage units stuffed with a Christmas tree — into classrooms, libraries, computer labs and more. We took a diverse array of courses online — completing dance 101 in our garages, watching chemistry lectures from afar and presenting group projects 1,000 miles from our collaborators. 

Our professors did this multifold. In seven days, they moved weeks’ worth of curriculum to a completely foreign medium. They worked with us as we did the same. One of my professors, who is in her 80s and surprised the class when she revealed she even owned a computer, somehow learned to navigate Zoom, CourseWeb and email in days. 

We came together in ways I never expected. The Pitt Pantry continued to serve at-risk individuals in our community. Students who remained in Oakland continued to support local businesses, even when it is arguably easier to turn to giants like Amazon or Whole Foods during this hectic time. The University continued to pay student workers even when it was impossible to work remotely. Alternatively, members of our community continued to work at grocery stores and in health care. There has been an abundance of good news coming from the University in the past few weeks, despite the suckiness of the circumstances.

I vote that as we wrap up this semester, we allow ourselves to feel pride and celebrate surviving this wrench in our academic plan. Now more than ever, we need to award ourselves with all the joy our mushy brains can muster. I’ve got some ideas on how we can do it. 

Order delivery from a local bakery. You may not get to share a celebratory cake with all of your friends, but you sure can eat it yourself. Make Grubhub your friend. 

This year’s spring football game was yet another thing on the list of cancelled events but we can still relive some of Pitt’s best moments. Never forget that we beat Penn State in 2016 — no, I was not yet a student at Pitt, yes, it is still one of my favorite Pitt memories. But you can bet your bottom dollar I was here for our big win against UCF in 2019. Who needs Heinz Field when you’ve got your living room sofa?

You may not get to finish the year with an iconic Oakland bar crawl — but you sure can pretend! Recreate some of your favorite cocktails — or mocktails — from Oakland favorites. I’m relaxing with a Shirley Temple that rivals those at Fuel and Fuddle, but a little party never killed anyone (who drinks responsibly and is of age).

It’s so easy to focus on all we’ve lost. I’m lucky to have the opportunity to — hopefully — return to campus in the fall for two more years of a Pitt education but I know for so many of us, that is not the case. Graduations will be held virtually, parties moved to semi-awkward FaceTimes and goodbyes left unsaid. I know no amount of Zoom parties will ever make up for these losses.

I may not be a senior, but I am also mourning my spring semester. I hope all of us, no matter what we’re missing out on, can find some pride in the things we accomplished despite this majorly sucky bump in the road — like completing the semester. Don’t force yourself to also miss out on the joys of success.

Write to Julia at [email protected]