Editorial | Students need guidance, not just consequences

Mask+wearing+is+required+on+Pitt%E2%80%99s+campuses.+

Kaycee Orwig | Assistant Visual Editor

Mask wearing is required on Pitt’s campuses.

In the most predictable turn of events since the return to campus began, some Pitt students are partying and not observing social distancing or mask-wearing guidelines. The University suspended five Greek life organizations Wednesday for allegedly violating health and safety rules.

Videos and complaints of the partying and congregating have been circling social media for the past five or six days, leaving many students who are observing proper health protocol feeling helpless and unsure of what to do. While students certainly have a responsibility to keep each other safe, Pitt administration seems radically unprepared to handle students who are violating health guidelines, and administrators had to know the violations were all but inevitable.

This isn’t to say that students don’t hold any responsibility for their actions. They do. But other universities struggled to curb partying over the summer, which signaled that partying in the fall would be all but inevitable. The administration chose to overlook that. Now, students are being asked to snitch on each other and take full responsibility for inevitable campus outbreaks for which administration is partially responsible. Consequences are necessary. But so is guidance.

Aside from making it clear that this was a community effort, Pitt made no real attempt over the summer to condemn partying or provide information on the consequences of violating social distancing protocols. Complaints about the influx of parties started to gain momentum on social media this past weekend, but Pitt took until Wednesday to even try to address it. 

In an email from Vice Provost and Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner to Pitt students, the University seemed to shift its “we’re all in this together” approach to putting health and safety entirely on students’ backs. Bonner laid out a series of consequences which include citations, terminating on-campus housing and denying entry to Pitt facilities for students living off-campus. He then laid out mask-wearing and physical distancing procedures. 

“These are reasonable and easy precautions to take during a pandemic, so hold yourself and others accountable,” Bonner said. “If you see Pitt-affiliates breaking these guidelines — students, faculty or staff — then report the behavior.”

Frankly, Pitt has been inconsistent with releasing guidance on a number of health protocols — including podding — the entire summer. Students on- and off-campus are expected to pod, though Pitt has offered unclear information on how to properly execute podding, even though it’s an action that requires meticulous work and careful attention.

At the end of the day, we’re all responsible for keeping each other safe. This means that students need to be social distancing and not attending large gatherings. But this also means that the administration needs to do its best to confront potential problems head-on, instead of waiting for them to happen, then responding with a list of consequences. We need to work together.

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