Editorial | It’s worth celebrating in-person classes

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

Pitt is now beginning its second week of fully in-person classes since March 2020. It’s easy for news related to COVID-19 to all blend together — there’s simply so much of it — but it’s worth acknowledging that this is a huge deal.

No, the pandemic hasn’t disappeared. And no, Pitt’s handling of the return to in-person classes hasn’t been perfect. But let’s celebrate our return to a physical classroom — it’s been a hard-won step towards normalcy, or at least as close as we can possibly get. It’s not everyday that there’s such consequential good news to report.

For one, in-person classes seem pleasant in comparison to the virtual slog that defined our experience over the past 18 months. It’s much easier to be engaged in a face-to-face lecture in a room designated specifically for academic purposes, rather than learning in the same place you eat, sleep and at least attempt to take time away from school. We’re actually learning things.

And even if you’re not going to class introducing yourself to everyone you meet, there’s bound to be some incidental social interaction that, for some reason, goes a long way in making the day more enjoyable. Classes are a great avenue for meeting new friends or continuing a connection with old ones that was more or less cut off until last week. Unfortunately, breakout rooms, Zoom chat and GroupMe didn’t seem to have the same magic about them.

The main drawback of in-person classes is having to give a little forethought to making it to class on time. No longer can breakfast be made in the middle of class. Since we’re being so positive here, let’s reframe this from a burden to a challenge conquered. Look at you, waking up more than two minutes before class starts.

There’s plenty of good news on the public health front too. Remarkably, as of Sept. 16, 93% of undergraduate students have submitted proof of vaccination against COVID-19. That’s significantly higher than the general population and will go a long way in protecting Pitt students, faculty, staff and the wider community.

We also have an indoor mask mandate and a testing requirement for unvaccinated students that will further protect everyone, leaving little — though not invalid — reason to worry about an unchecked outbreak of COVID-19 on campus.

These past 18 months have consisted of a lot of frustration and disappointment, but in a way, the return to in-person classes represents a reset.

When it comes to Pitt administrators in particular, there’s plenty of tomatoes to be thrown about their pandemic response — we’ll be the first to admit that. If you’re a regular reader of our editorials, that goes without saying. And we won’t stop criticizing the University’s pandemic response where it’s necessary.

But we can also let some things go and instead bask in a little in-person honeymoon phase. It’s time to let bygones, such as Provost Ann Cudd’s inadvertent email about the fall 2020 academic calendar, be bygones.

Once again, we’ve entered a new era of college life — a far less depressing one than the last. Let’s embrace it.