Pitt classes return fully in person for first time in 18 months


John Blair | Staff Photographer

The first week of fully in-person classes began Monday, after two weeks of an in-person optional format.

By Colm Slevin, Staff Writer

It’s not just your imagination — from the Snapchat stories from “Welsfest” or a record-breaking number of first-year students, Pitt’s campus has been much busier lately.

In the library, the quad and all your favorite study spots, open seats are hard to find. The clamor of students discussing everything from academics to weekend plans fills the air.

The first week of fully in-person classes began Monday, after two weeks of an in-person optional format. After an academic year of mostly remote classes, the once desolate Oakland is now flooded with students cramming the streets and swarming the entryways.

While many students are happy about a return to fully in-person classes, some are worried about the rising number of cases on campus. The COVID-19 Medical Response Office recorded 78 cases among students, faculty and staff from Aug. 27 through Sept. 7.

The CMRO also reported on Sept. 9 that 89% of undergraduate students, 88% of graduate students, 78% of faculty and 81% of staff on Pitt’s Oakland campus submitted proof of vaccination against COVID-19.

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said in a Sept. 3 interview that there is still no “secret playbook” for how to manage an ever-changing health situation and a “pretty volatile time” in history.

“We’re all going through a pandemic for the first time in our lives, so there’s no secret playbook that some people have that others don’t,” Gallagher said. “Consultation and information and idea sharing has been really important.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic originally began, most Pitt students were at home over spring break. Gallagher sent a University-wide email on March 11, 2020 and said that due to an “unprecedented scenario” for U.S. universities, Pitt would add a week to spring break and then move classes online for the foreseeable future.

Pitt administrators said last academic year that classes would shift back in person in late August, but amid shifting guidelines, most classes remained entirely remote for the year.

While Pitt is currently not mandating a COVID-19 vaccine, it has implemented measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as wearing masks in Pitt buildings. Additionally, unvaccinated students are required to take weekly COVID-19 tests. Anyone who fails to produce a negative COVID-19 test will lose access to University buildings.

The CMRO also said the majority of reported cases are mild and among vaccinated individuals. They said this emphasizes the importance of people wearing masks — especially when in large gatherings — and getting vaccinated as soon as possible. The Pitt CoVax Vaccination Center, located in the ground floor of Nordenberg Hall, is open six days a week with expanded hours throughout September.

Pitt administrators also addressed students’ heightened anxiety and stress with returning to in-person activities by making the University Counseling Center more accessible. Provost Ann Cudd also said professors can consult the University Center for Teaching and Learning for tips on how to accommodate both student and professor absences.

Rebecca Johnson and Jon Moss contributed reporting.