On Thursday, March 18, the Provost and Chancellor announced that the administration is planning to “maximize” in-person classes and activities next fall. Although many more of us will be vaccinated by then, I doubt we’ll be able to reach herd immunity that early, so it won’t be safe for us to return to ‘normal.’
As Nicole covered in our last issue, President Gregerson said about 80 percent of our campus would need to be vaccinated by the beginning of the fall semester for us to reach herd immunity. Currently, only approximately 7 percent of our campus community is vaccinated.
No one should be forced to go to in-person classes unless Pitt-Greensburg can prove that our campus has achieved herd immunity, which likely will not be until after the Fall 2021 semester is over.
Biden announced on March 11 that he “will direct” states to make all adults eligible for vaccination no later than May 1, but it’s still unclear how this will be enforced and whether it’s realistic.
Allegheny County has only recently begun vaccinating people between the ages of 50 to 64 in category 1A. Many people that fall in the 1A category are still waiting to schedule their first appointment. Will we really be able to finish phases 1A, 1B, and 1C before Fall 2021? Plus, if we finish the first three phases, will all of our students in Phase 2 be able to get vaccinated before the semester begins?
Considering these issues, it’s imperative that Flex@Pitt is continued through the 2021-2022 school year. We should be able to choose what’s safest for us on our own terms, including faculty, who shouldn’t be forced to teach in-person classes if there is any risk of contracting COVID-19.
In addition to this, Flex@Pitt has greatly helped students who may struggle attending in-person classes regularly, such as disabled students, non-traditional students with families and/or full-time jobs, and commuter students who live off-campus.
Students who are mothers can breastfeed while they attend lectures. Students working full-time can take asynchronous classes and complete their coursework while earning an income. Disabled students that have trouble sitting for an extended period of time can move around or lie down while they attend class, or they can rewind a class recording later to take notes on something they had trouble hearing during the live meeting.
Flex@Pitt should be made permanent to help make a higher education more accessible for these students, who have been forgotten and ignored for too long. Many of these students, both at Pitt and other universities, have asked for accommodations similar to the ones made for everyone during the pandemic and were denied them for no good reason.
Pitt has already spent thousands purchasing licenses for new computer programs, equipping classrooms with cameras and streaming equipment, and updating campus technology, too. Continuing Flex@Pitt will ensure this money doesn’t go to waste.
We should not rescind these opportunities. This hybrid mode of instruction has made an education at Pitt available to more students than ever before, and it should remain that way.
Other news from vol. 14, issue 3:
Summer Housing Won’t Be Offered This Year
Annual Faculty Evaluations Changing Amid Pandemic
What Is the Honors Program?
Campus Close-Up: SGA’s New Big 3
The “Revolution” Is All Elite
Opinion: My COVID-19 Vaccine Experience
Opinion: My Experience in the New Honors Program