Look for safety concierges as buildings start to reopen


For months, getting into Pitt buildings on the Oakland campus took several layers of approval and an assist from Pitt police.

Now that students are back on campus, the doors to the University are slowly opening up, but only to members of the Pitt community.

David DeJong, acting senior vice chancellor for Business & Operations, said the campus centerpiece, the Cathedral of Learning, opened this week, but you have to enter from the Bigelow Boulevard side, either at the ground floor handicapped entrance or on the first floor, and exit on the Heinz Chapel side.

For now, Landmark Security staff and student workers are staffing the Building Safety Concierge desks inside each building, including Posvar Hall, William Pitt Union, Petersen Events Center and the Clapp, Langley, Crawford halls complex, which the provost approved for some in-person, lab-based classes.

Starting Sept. 14, most of the other buildings on campus will be open if in-person classes resume. The Building Safety Concierge desks will be at 30 locations, staffed by Landmark, student workers and volunteers, DeJong said.

“This is a very high need for us,” DeJong said about the staff volunteers. The volunteers will work in two-hour shifts and there are 1,250 shifts per week. The concierges will be at inside desks, protected by plexiglass, where they will ask people entering to swipe their Pitt IDs — to prove they are a member of the Pitt community — and operate thermal scanners and make sure those entering have masks.

If someone does not have a mask, they will be offered one and if they refuse to wear it, they won’t be allowed in the building, DeJong said. But mostly the concierges are there to help remind people of Pitt’s health and safety rules.

Staff can volunteer for times here (a Pitt sign-on is required). Time as a concierge can be counted as work hours under Pitt’s Pandemic Service Initiative. DeJong said it would be a perfect opportunity for staff who are working at less than capacity because of pandemic restrictions.

Anyone who comes to campus will have to do the health and safety training and separate training to be a concierge. The program is already up and running on the regional campuses.

DeJong said the positions have been great for work-study students, who have more limited opportunities for other jobs because of the pandemic.

Meetings, conferences and campus guests

A new set of standards and guidelines on meetings, conferences, events and campus guests were published this week. Key takeaways:

  • All University buildings are closed to the public under all operational postures. 

  • University members are strongly encouraged to hold meetings, conferences and events remotely to the maximum extent possible. 

  • If a gathering cannot be held remotely, it must comply with all applicable regulations from the state, county and University.

  • All units must limit the number of guests on campus as much as possible. In Elevated and High Risk postures, guests much be approved by department, school or unit heads. A guest request form is available on coronavirus.pitt.edu. If approved, a designated University member must be assigned to host the guest.

Unusual spaces

To help students and professors maintain social distancing, Pitt is expanding its classroom and study spaces to include some out of the ordinary places.

A partnership with Carnegie Museums will open up the Carnegie Music Hall and Carnegie Museum of Art Theater for Pitt classes. Students will enter and exit the Music Hall from the front entrance on Forbes Avenue and will enter and exit the Art Theater from the rear entrance facing the building’s parking lot. All of Pitt’s health and safety rules still apply. Seating will be spaced out, allowing the Art Theater to hold 60 students, and the Music Hall, 250.

A new tent on the Cathedral lawn near Fifth Avenue, will host at least four musical ensembles — Heinz Chapel Choir, Men’s Glee Club, Women’s Choral Ensemble and Bluegrass Ensemble and the Department of Theatre Arts.

Facilities and the provost’s office also have identified some nontraditional spaces for students to study in, including rooms in the Learning Research and Development Center and the University Club. Each of the spaces has been marked with occupancy limits and social distancing guides. A full list of study spaces and times can be found on the coronavirus.pitt.edu website

This is the first wave of new spaces that will be introduced this year. Others are expected to be announced later this semester.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at suejones@pitt.edu or 412-648-4294.


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