DeJong tells Staff Council most Pitt buildings will be open in fall


All Pitt buildings, and most spaces within them, should be reopened for use by those on campus this fall, David DeJong, vice chancellor for Human Resources, told the July meeting of Staff Council.

DeJong, who is also acting vice chancellor for Business and Operations, told the group that Pitt was almost done making certain that all University spaces met the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for air circulation meant to stem the potential spread of COVID-19 indoors. The exception, he said, may be some Cathedral of Learning spaces that lack air conditioning.

A “record” 4,400 freshmen are expected at Pitt this fall, he said. Housing assignments were announced July 21, with three hotels included in the mix, he said. Among the temporary classrooms being considered to help de-densify courses are the 500-seat Connolly Ballroom in Alumni Hall and spaces in the University Club.

Aside from nixing Labor Day as a holiday and adding the Monday after Thanksgiving as a make-up holiday, DeJong said he foresees no other calendar changes affecting staff, including no changes to the winter break.

A virtual town hall for Pitt employees is scheduled for 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Aug. 5, when Pitt will have released most of its COVID-19 plans, he said. In addition to DeJong, the online gathering will feature Scott Bernotas, associate vice chancellor for Facilities Management; Pete Chambers, director of shared research support services in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences; Geovette Washington, chief legal officer and executive sponsor of the Resilience Steering Committee; and John Williams, director of the COVID-19 Medical Response Office. Andy Stephany, president of Staff Council, will moderate. Information about registration will be available soon.

Several other areas remain up in the air, DeJong said. He expects more permissions for staff to enter buildings will be granted in the near future, but “not on a daily basis.” And he is uncertain when Pitt-themed masks will be distributed, adding: “It’s going to be fun to get some Pitt swag — I hope that builds a sense of community and camaraderie.”

Response to early retirement package

Mark Burdsall, acting deputy vice chancellor for Human Resources, told Staff Council that 60 staff members signed up for the early retirement paperwork on first day it was offered — July 14 — of the 840 eligible; the deadline is July 31, for retirement by Sept. 30.

Burdsall said HR is developing resources and tools for supervisors to handle retirement consequences, offering advice on how to prioritize and allocate work among staff and keep retiring staff engaged through their last day. He encouraged supervisors of retiring staff to conduct exit interviews so that retirees could offer partnerships and contacts that might aid their successors.

DeJong reported that, while Pitt has no set goal or quota for how many retirees will accept the offer, he noted that the 2012 early retirement program saw 50 percent of eligible staff members participating.

Retiring staff may come back temporarily through All-Temps to help with their office’s transition or its busiest times, Burdsall said. Asked whether retiring staff would be paid for unused vacation days up to the long-established cap for paid time off accumulation, or up to the number of extra days that have been allowed to accumulate since remote work began in mid-March, DeJong said this had yet to be determined.

Staff Council President Andy Stephany asked Pitt staff members to contact the organization if they had concerns about the University’s staffing situation following the retirement of a colleague, or in general.

“We’re going to be advocating very hard for the people who are here,” he said. “If you are doing significantly more work” than previously or find that your duties have changed, “reach out to Staff Council and we’ll make sure” the Office of Human Resources is aware of the situation, he added.

Performance evaluations and training

Burdsall said that his office would do a final check of performance evaluation completion by July 31, then work with “lagging units” to complete reviews that remained undone. By early September, he said, HR hoped to start examining the quality of reviews to potentially design an improved performance evaluation form.

Virtual supervisor trainings, to begin in September, he said, will include modules on compensation, hiring and performance management, among others. HR plans to test supervisors on all the content, which will include exercises focused on diversity and inclusion as well as interpersonal interaction.

Stephany concluded Staff Council’s meeting by announcing that the group’s equity and justice standing committee is evaluating the diversity of Staff Council membership, and that “I’m all ears in terms of how we can recruit” a more diverse membership of this all-volunteer organization, not only in traditional categories of race and gender but to cover all schools in the University as well.

The next Staff Council meeting is at noon Aug. 19. Check the University Calendar for details on how to attend virtually.

Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-758-4859.


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