Pitt Community Compact stresses shared responsibility

Students and parents crossing Fifth Avenue with belongings


Students, faculty and staff who are returning to campus are being asked to watch a health and safety video and acknowledge a Pitt Community Compact about protecting public health.

For students, verifying that they’ve read the compact is required if they want to access any of the features of my.pitt.edu, including Canvas and PeopleSoft.

For staff, compliance with watching the video and reading the compact is being monitored by each unit. Your supervisor will send the link to the training when they notify you of your return to campus. Prior to coming to campus every day, employees are required to attest to their health using the Daily COVID-19 Health Check app, which is available on the Pitt Mobile App and my.pitt.edu.  Find more information here.

The compact was developed by undergraduate, graduate and professional students. It includes the basic guidance that has become familiar: wear masks, wash hands, practice social distancing.

Students who don’t follow these rules can be sanctioned under the Student Code of Conduct, according to Eric Macadangdang, Student Government Board president who was involved in drafting the compact.

Other sections ask Pitt community members to “encourage my peers to also uphold these standards” and to “serve as an active bystander by stepping in and speaking up when appropriate to make our campus a healthier, safer place for everyone.”

This gets a little trickier to enforce. “There’s obviously no way, shape or form that if you don’t tell your friends to do this, you’re going to get penalized,” Macadangdang said.

Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner told Faculty Assembly last week that the active bystander part of the compact is no different from what is asked of Pitt community members if they see sexual misconduct on campus. “If students see something concerning or they’re with their friends and they feel uncomfortable with what’s happening, we’re asking them to step in and say something. We do that all the time, we do it for sexual misconduct, we do it for other issues and so this is no different.”

Students also are being asked to “uphold the policies that the University puts in place and understand it takes precedence over state guidelines.” Pitt has said that its health policies will never be less restrictive than state, local and federal government guidelines or orders.

Any Pitt community member can report a student code of conduct violation either online or emailed to the Dean of Students. Anonymous reporting for violations by any member of the Pitt community can be reported through Environmental Health and Safety’s anonymous form. Tips about non-compliance also may be submitted through the RAVE Guardian mobile safety app, which is free for Pitt community members.

Pitt is recruiting Pandemic Safety Ambassadors among staff to encourage colleagues to abide by the rules, and Building Safety Concierges who will monitor people entering University buildings (see related story). But Jay Frerotte, assistant vice chancellor and director of Environmental Health and Safety, made clear in a meeting Aug. 10 about the two new roles that neither is deputized to mete out disciplinary action for noncompliance.

Bonner said the compact also outlines “the culture that we’re setting on our campus that we are all responsible for each other. And if we all do our part in following these guidelines, we’ll have a safer community and we’ll get through this together.”

After talking with students, Bonner said, “I do have confidence that our students, on balance, are really concerned and caring and mindful individuals. And to the extent that we have exceptions to that understanding or that competence, we have a process to manage those students’ behavior and, if necessary, remove them from the community or restrict them from certain areas so that they don’t harm other people.  

“For students who have no interest in the well being of others, they need to stay home or I will send them home,” Bonner said at Faculty Assembly, which voted at the meeting to endorse the Pitt Community Compact.

Some schools, such as West Virginia University, have announced they will fine students who don’t comply with new health rules.

Macadangdang said the students who wrote the compact, “believed that we should not fall into the trap of being so punitive as creating fines, having the Pitt police or the city police, literally, tracking down students for not doing this right. We are erring on the side of positive reinforcement and this sort of shared responsibility. … If I go onto the street and I see all of my friends, all my teachers, all of my mentors, all of the staff members wearing a mask, maintaining distance, … then that will in large part, influence me to partake in those behaviors.”

There also is a return to campus acknowledgement which outlines the risks of COVID-19, as well as the safety measures that Pitt is taking, Bonner said. It highlights that the students have a choice as to whether or not they want to attend anything in person this year, and that they’ve thought through the risks of COVID-19 before coming back to campus.

On the coronavirus.pitt.edu website, Pitt states: “This document is not a waiver of liability. Students are not being asked to give up their right to sue the University or any other legal right.”

At Faculty Assembly, Patrick Loughlin, a professor in engineering, asked: “How do you get a 20-year-old to care about we old staff and faculty? One colleague commented she was talking with her advisees over the summer … and they said they were looking forward to coming back to campus and not that they were looking forward to getting COVID-19 but I guess they expected it. She was sort of taken aback by that and said, ‘Why would you think that way?’ And they said, ‘Well, we don’t want to get it while we’re home and might endanger our parents. Left unspoken was, so much for you old faculty.”

Bonner said they have a social media campaign planned to make students aware of the Community Compact and return to campus acknowledgement. When students sign onto my.pitt.edu, it is the first thing they see and they won’t be able to proceed without reading and clicking on a box to verify that. All students living in residence halls were supposed to watch the training video and acknowledge the two documents by Aug. 10; others have until Aug. 24.

“We know we need to put it in a delivery method that they’re used to consuming, which would be using our Instagram, using Snapchat, using Twitter to really get it into the places on their phones where they are actually watching it and looking at it and paying attention to it,” he said.

In addition, Bonner said faculty and staff need to connect with students and tell them, “this is how this is affecting me. This is how I feel about it. We are real people, too. We’re concerned, and we need your cooperation as well as you need ours to keep us all safe. The students are really going to determine, as well as faculty, staff, but if we’re looking at the largest population, they’re going to determine whether or not we have a semester totally remote or in person based on their behavior.”

Macadangdang said his concern is students’ avoiding large gatherings and abiding by the 14-day shelter-in-place guidelines.

“A lot of students go to college, not just because they want to pursue their degree, but they want that college experience. They want to have these social gatherings, go to parties, hang out, be amongst other college age students. It’s very difficult to say, but for this semester that in large part is not going to be a part of the college experience, at least not physically.”

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


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