Gallagher: Key fall semester dates now in question


TPN file photo

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher at a Senate Council meeting.

By Benjamin Nigrosh, News Editor

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said in a Friday afternoon email that the University is now uncertain of when students will return for the fall semester and other key dates, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The news comes as some students, faculty and staff have urged the University to join the growing number of colleges that are moving to online-only classes in the fall, to avoid the risks of bringing students back to campus.

Pitt previously announced students would begin moving into on-campus housing in three weeks on Aug. 13. The University has also said it would introduce the new Flex@Pitt teaching model to allow students to experience classes “in person, remotely, synchronously or asynchronously,” and not require faculty to teach in person.

But Gallagher said the on-campus move-in date and other elements of fall plans — including the start of any in-person instruction, housing and room arrangements and available dining options — are subject to change.

“While we will be issuing planning guidance to help you prepare for likely outcomes, this guidance can and will change to accommodate the latest advice from our medical experts,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher added that despite weeks of COVID-19 case numbers moving in the “wrong direction,” the University’s three-tiered reopening system allows for campus to operate safely. He said while the current state of the pandemic does not “invalidate” the University’s current preparations, the exact timing of many crucial student activities is still in the works.

The email also arrived two days after the chancellor expressed cautious confidence in the University’s “robust” plans for fall in the face of the pandemic.

“We are taking the safety very seriously, but in the face of a really dynamic environment,” Gallagher said on Wednesday. “I’m going to lean on the very best health professionals that we have.”

Eric Macadangdang, the president of Student Government Board, said “nothing is off the table” in terms of the University’s plans, and said it would be best for Pitt to keep its options open.

“I hope that the structure that the University has in place where they are being guided day-to-day by the pandemic medical office, the healthcare advisory [group] and other key members like that, they will ultimately make the safest decision,” Macadangdang said. “That may include being entirely online come fall.”

Contributed reporting by Jon Moss.