Editorial | Pitt’s move to guarded will do more harm than good


Kaycee Orwig | Assistant Visual Editor

Pitt announced on Friday its plans to move into the “Guarded risk” posture, the lowest tier of its reopening system, beginning Oct. 19.

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

Pitt announced on Friday its plans to move into the Guarded risk posture, the lowest tier of its reopening system, beginning Oct. 19. This is the posture that allows for most classes to shift to in-person instruction.

While some may be excited that the University is loosening some restrictions, Pitt has almost certainly made the wrong call. Moving into the Guarded risk posture, and by extension allowing for much greater in-person instruction, puts students and the greater Oakland community at risk.

The timing of the shift to the Guarded risk posture is concerning as it comes very soon after Pitt investigated Tower B for a potential cluster of COVID-19 cases. Though the residence hall was found not to have a cluster, it seems hasty to shift to the Guarded risk posture so soon after, even if Pitt is reporting low case numbers.

Data collected by The Pitt News. Original data collection by Ryan Yang, Online Visual Editor. Archival data by Spotlight PA and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Graph by Jon Moss, Editor-in-Chief.

Additionally, Pitt’s case numbers do not reflect the true number of cases in the Oakland community. Some students receive testing from outside sources, which means the total number of cases in the Oakland area is higher than the total number Pitt’s reports provide. Truthfully, there is no way to know the definitive number of cases in the area because some people who are infected may not seek testing, especially if they’re asymptomatic or don’t suspect that they’ve been exposed to the virus.

As the country has witnessed over the course of the fall semester, universities with in-person classes reported overall higher case numbers than those that remained entirely remote. For example, James Madison University saw more than 500 new cases between July and September — a rapid increase that forced the university to move classes entirely online and send students who were living on campus home.

It’s clear that even a hybrid system — where some classes are in-person and others are remote — can lead to a spike in cases, as seen at the University of Mississippi, where its home Lafayette County has added around 430 cases between the start of classes and the middle of September.

Additionally, at this point in the semester, many students have established their routines. We’re used to the virtual model of learning, and many, if not most, of us have grown comfortable in our schedules. And while perhaps it’s true that these schedules do not necessarily have to change, as students still have the option to continue taking classes virtually, there is no guarantee that faculty will be able to make a smooth transition from remote to in-person instruction.

Many professors struggled, and continue to struggle, with learning to conduct online classes via Zoom, and it will likely be challenging for them to simultaneously juggle both in-person and virtual instruction. This could negatively impact the experience of students who opt to continue learning remotely, potentially causing their academic performance to suffer.

Eric Macadangdang, the president of Pitt’s Student Government Board, said late Friday evening that he shared concerns about the shift from virtual to in-person learning.

“We’re just now getting settled,” Macadangdang said. “For many students it was very difficult to adapt to this semester. And I know for a lot of students, it takes a while to get used to the online semester and doing things so differently in so many different ways.”

Chris Bonneau, a political science professor and the president of the University Senate, voiced similar concerns about moving to the Guarded risk posture.

“I don’t want the perception to be that we should be loosening our guard or taking our foot off the gas,” Bonneau said.

These concerns are entirely valid, and Pitt should share them. Shifting to in-person learning at this point will be a change that is unnecessary at this point in the semester and will likely cause more stress for students in what is already a hectic semester.