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How Have COVID-19 Policies Affected Faculty?

by Maggie McLeod

Photo by Mufid Majnun on Pexels.com.

After almost two years of navigating the pandemic, Pitt stated that all administration, faculty, staff, and students on all campuses must receive a COVID-19 vaccine or an approved exemption by Dec. 6. The Insider spoke with faculty at Pitt-Greensburg to gather their opinions on the new policy as well as other COVID-19 mitigation measures.

Dr. Paul Adams, chair of the Behavioral Sciences division and associate professor of political science, and Dr. Pilar Herr, associate professor of history, are optimistic about the new change.

“My family’s from South America,” Dr. Herr said. “I have seen what diseases can do to people, and I am a firm believer of vaccines. … They prevent serious disease and death. They don’t prevent disease altogether, but they prevent serious disease.” 

Despite her advocacy for the vaccine, Dr. Herr said she is still “aware of the fact that there are very legitimate reasons for people not getting the vaccine … especially on a medical or religious basis.” 

However, she said that it is important that members of the University community who are not eligible for exemptions get vaccinated.

“When you are in an educational setting, it’s really important to think of other people besides yourself,” Dr. Herr said.

Dr. Adams is also in favor of the vaccine mandate.

“I think it’s the smartest pathway for us to get to a point where we can put this behind us,” Dr. Adams said. “The faster the better.”

The majority of Pitt students are vaccinated, but there is still a possibility of contracting a mild case of COVID-19 if one is exposed after vaccination. For students who do contract COVID-19, Zoom is currently the easiest for them to quarantine safely and still participate in classes. 

But many professors, including Dr. Adams, said that they feel students are taking advantage of this option by possibly lying about having come into contact with someone infected with COVID-19. 

It can take time for faculty members to confirm that a student must quarantine, as the Health Center is the only way for them to check, and Nurse Pam Freger, the director of the Health Center, is the department’s only employee.

“Now, theoretically, if they’d been testing, there should be some sort of record, but we don’t even necessarily get access to that,” Dr. Adams said.

Thus, professors sometimes must rely on students’ word about when they need to quarantine.

With COVID-19 being so unpredictable, many students fear they will have to sacrifice their grade if they are legitimately required to quarantine. This has become especially concerning after the University announced that it will not require professors to record classes or host virtual meetings for those that may have COVID-19. 

Dr. Herr and Dr. Adams both agree that offering Zoom meetings should depend on the type of class.

“Some courses just do not work in a recorded setting environment very well at all,” Dr. Adams said. “So, if we mandated that, it can become really problematic.” 

The University of Pittsburgh is following in the footsteps of other nearby universities, such as Duquesne University and Penn State University, which mandated COVID-19 vaccinations at the beginning of the fall semester.

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