Editorial | Pitt should have never given us the choice of in-person or online classes

Pitt announced Friday that there would be a remote option for classes for the first two weeks of the semester, allowing students to choose whether they want to attend class in person or online.

As cases rise in Allegheny County, both students and faculty will now have to make a very tough decision — attend classes in person and risk getting COVID-19, or stay online and sacrifice two more weeks of in-person social interaction with peers, which are arguably the two most important weeks of the semester to get to know people.

Pitt’s last-minute decision to give us the option between remote and in-person classes is half-baked, noncommittal and puts unnecessary stress on both students and professors who shouldn’t have to make this choice in the first place. The decision shifts responsibility from the University onto the people who have had more than enough of Pitt’s lack of assertiveness when making COVID-19-related decisions. 

Pitt needs to commit — to either in-person classes or online — and deal with the resulting consequences, rather than putting the decision on students and professors. 

Masks and social distancing haven’t always been enforced for the entirety of the pandemic. Testing at Pitt has been lackluster at best compared to other schools that test their students on a consistent basis, and the posture guidelines were often confusing, as we all strolled around campus clad in masks while Pathfinders made their way down Bigelow followed by hordes of prospective first-years.

Students and professors alike had been waiting in anticipation for Pitt to announce over the summer that we would be mandating vaccines. When that announcement didn’t come, many students expressed anger, fearing that that decision would lead us into another online semester. Lots of students feel that this could have been avoided with a simple vaccine mandate. Neighboring Carnegie Mellon University is going full speed ahead into its in-person fall semester with one. 

And it seems that this week will be the start of a semester that may or may not continue to be online. Last week’s announcement just a week before the semester begins surprised nobody as people started flooding back to campus. It only followed a pattern of neutral stances and ineffective and unclear responses from the University regarding the pandemic.