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With Pitt’s spring semester starting online and new COVID-19 protocols, on-campus student Dan Timmermann said he struggled to navigate added safety requirements while moving in.
“I don’t really know what the plan there was,” Timmermann, a sophomore political science and economics double major, said.
Students received a Dec. 30 email from the University explaining that, much like the fall, the spring would open with two-and-a-half weeks online. The move affected many students’ decisions on when to move back to Oakland. For students in on-campus housing, the University added additional procedures including a staggered move-in schedule, virtual welcome week and grab-and-go dining services for the remote period in an attempt to decrease transmission.
Beyond these policies, all unvaccinated students living on campus are required to submit a negative COVID-19 test before returning to University housing. All students need to submit a test immediately following their move in.
“All students living in University housing will be required to submit a COVID-19 test after arriving on campus. The test should be ordered and sent to their University address prior to traveling to campus,” an email from the COVID-19 Medical Response Office said. “Students should not go to class until they’ve received a negative COVID-19 test result. Students who test positive will be provided more details on how to isolate.”
Pitt spokesperson David Seldin said the move-in process and required testing component went smoothly.
“The process has gone well so far, both from a testing perspective and the student response,” Seldin said. “While this is not how we hoped to start the spring term and understand people may be frustrated by changes, we remain grateful for our students’ flexibility, patience and care for one another as we navigate the changing course of the pandemic together.”
Timmermann said he had already planned his trip back to campus before learning about his assigned move-in day.
“I didn’t have any way to adjust my travel plans. I was planning on taking the Pitt buses back. I live in New Jersey, so I took the bus here,” Timmermann said. “So I already had to come in two weeks before my intended time, which is fine. It just means I’m here not doing much for the next week and a half.”
Timmermann said his floor in Panther Hall was assigned to move in the weekend of Jan. 21. But even though his bus ran through the University, there wasn’t a way he could find to adjust the ticket once he was assigned a move-in time.
“We got an email like three days before my bus, which was on the ninth, that said the buses will basically run as scheduled,” Timmermann said. “I don’t think I could have ordered another bus, I think this was the only day they had available. But if I could have ordered another bus for a later date, I would not be able to get the $125 refund for the bus I already spent money on and I didn’t have a ride for later.”
Timmermann said despite arriving in Pittsburgh almost a full two weeks before his scheduled time, he didn’t have to check in before moving in.
“My floor was supposed to come on the 21st. I came on the ninth. It wasn’t annoying having to get in, like I was still allowed in, which is something, like I was allowed in outside my cohort. Like I had a valid reason but anyone could have done it, I think. So, I don’t really know what the plan there was,” Timmermann said.
First-year finance major George D’Atri had a similar experience with his transportation, but said he got luckier with his move-in time.
“For our floor, our assigned move-in dates were the eighth and the ninth. And I came in on the seventh,” D’Atri said. “So I just stayed at a friend’s hotel room for like a night and then moved in the next morning, when we could move in. So the doors were open, I wasn’t breaking protocols or whatever.”
D’Atri said he felt like the University could’ve helped students like himself and Timmermann by sending out plans and information earlier.
“Well, they kind of sent it out late, what their plan was. And I know definitely for out-of-state people, like me, we had our travel plans already purchased. I already had my flight purchased, and it was just a coincidence that it overlapped,” D’Atri said. “But if I had it, and then I was on a different floor or something, and my move-in day was later, I’d be stuck here for another week or whatever, or I’d have to rebook the flight.”
D’Atri said around 15 to 20 of the nearly 45 people on his floor didn’t get their tests on time. He said he got his test more easily because of his position with Pitt athletics as one of the managers for the men’s basketball team.
“I tested with the athletic trainer, but a couple of my friends on my floor had trouble getting [tests]. The tests came in a lot later, during the week, but I think they said that they would be here so that if someone did test positive, you could quarantine for the next five days, before the next group of floors would come in. I’m pretty sure that’s how it was supposed to work. But, like, they didn’t get the tests here on time,” D’Atri said.
Timmermann said he had issues getting his test before he came to campus.
“I forget when we got the original email. I did wait like a few days, because I had other things going on. But I ordered it around New Year’s. And according to FedEx, it should be two-day shipping,” Timmermann said. “I’m assuming it’s in the mailroom or stuck there somewhere. But also the FedEx Tracking says it’s pending. So I’m just not sure. I don’t know.”
Undeclared first year Sophie Meyer, who said she felt the move-in process went smoothly, had troubles with the testing through Quest.
“The tests that they offered through Quest didn’t arrive at my house,” Meyer said. “Like, they offered free tests before you arrived, even if you were vaccinated, so I figured, why not? And it just didn’t come before I left. So it felt kind of useless. And then the Quest tests that came upon arrival, some people got them early in the week, and then some people didn’t get them until like, Friday. So it was kind of like, how accurate is that anymore?”
Meyer said despite the difficulty other students had obtaining their tests, her arrival test came on time. She said she just picked it up from Litchfield Towers, took it and received results a day and a half later.
Meyer, who moved in the weekend of Jan. 8, added that she felt safe while moving in during her floor’s scheduled time.
“It was fine, because people moved in at different times of the day. So it wasn’t like everyone arrived at like noon or something,” Meyer said. “This weekend, I think, felt a little more crazy, just because there were so many more people than last week.”
Meyer said while she doesn’t think the University made a wrong decision, she’d have preferred to move fully in person faster.
“I mean, it’s kind of hard to say that they’re making a bad decision just because I’d rather do in-person classes but I think like, they took one route, whereas some people took another,” Meyer said. “It is safer not to do in-person classes, but they could have offered a hybrid model again, for students who didn’t feel comfortable coming in, and then letting the rest of us go in.”
But Meyer said she felt like Pitt’s messaging could have been clearer.
“I feel like there were three or four emails that were sent out at once. So it’s kind of like, where do you look?” Meyer said. “I guess the main gist of information was given, but I feel like they could have given it more succinctly. It was a little confusing.”
D’Atri said he felt like the restrictions and safety protocols are noticeable, but it doesn’t change how he thinks people are acting on campus.
“Like, if you wanted to go to Chick-fil-A or something, you could still go to Chick-fil-A. I mean, the gyms are closed, and some of the eating places are closed and the Eatery is like takeout now, so I guess that helps a little bit,” D’Atri said. “In some ways, it does make me feel safer, but like, it’s not that different.”
He said he doesn’t think the University has done much to enforce some of its restrictions, and he personally doesn’t mind. But he wondered how it might affect those more at risk.
“I’m glad they didn’t really enforce [the restrictions]. Because then that’d be kind of annoying for me. Like going to get like Chick-fil-A or something,” D’Atri said. “But for someone who’s really vulnerable to COVID, they would probably feel more safe with different protocols going, you know?”