Dear Members of the University Community:
As the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic escalates, the University of Pittsburgh will be taking additional steps that reduce—to an absolute minimum—the need for faculty and staff to be on our campuses, while allowing our core teaching and research mission to continue.
I am directing University leadership at all five campuses to immediately begin to reduce our operating presence, with the intention of achieving this reduced posture by 5 p.m. on Friday, March 20.
While many of our activities have already moved online and our on-campus population has dramatically decreased, this transition will affect many remaining activities. Some key points on this front are:
- Senior Vice Chancellor for Research Rob A. Rutenbar will be issuing guidance later today to initiate a planned and orderly reduction of on-campus, research-related activities—with the aim of retaining only activities that are deemed essential. Research faculty and leaders will work with their schools, Pitt Research, or your campus president to identify these activities. Access to laboratories and other research facilities will be restricted to identified personnel who have a specific need to be on campus, supporting essential activities or associated facilities and equipment.
- In a separate message, we will be announcing the closure of many on-campus academic support facilities, except to specific personnel. These changes will affect access to nearly all of the remaining shared facilities, such as libraries, recreational facilities, computer labs, study areas and group spaces, that are currently available to University faculty, staff and students. At the same time, we are working to ensure that these support facilities can continue providing essential services to support our ongoing teaching and research activities.
- After these changes are in effect, most faculty and staff will be in a work-from-home status, and Vice Chancellor of Human Resources Dave N. DeJong will be providing additional information to support this transition. I want to emphasize that, because of the highly restricted access to our campuses, we are attempting to do as much of our work from home as possible—and all University faculty and staff will continue to be paid as usual.
- For faculty and staff who are identified as essential and must be on campus to support critical activities: We will continue taking all appropriate measures necessary to ensure that on-site activities can be performed safely and in a manner that is consistent with measures intended to reduce the transmission of the virus. These steps may include: minimizing staffing; staggering schedules; requiring minimum distances between individuals; disinfection; personal protective equipment; and other strategies. Supervisors will be providing detailed guidance to these employees, and I encourage affected faculty and staff to reach out to our Environmental Health and Safety team, 412-624-9505, with outstanding questions or concerns.
- Vice Provost and Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner will be issuing guidance later today to students who remain on campus. Students who must or have elected to stay on campus should note that these changes will severely limit the facilities and services available to them. Additionally, remaining students may need to relocate rooms or residence halls so that we can offer adequate staffing to ensure their continued safety and well-being. With this transition, we will limit residence hall access to students who have registered with Panther Central to remain on campus. These measures will enable us to ensure the safety of remaining students and help us manage the impacts of this public health crisis on our campuses.
- Members of our regional campuses: Your respective presidents will be issuing additional guidance that is specific to your campus communities in the coming days.
- I also want to emphasize the vital steps that each of us can take to protect ourselves, our families and our colleagues. These steps seem simple, but are among our most valuable tools: wash your hands; self-isolate if you have any cold or flu-like symptoms or if you’ve recently traveled in any area with community-based transmission; take extra precautions if you are in a high-risk group; and practice good social distancing.
I realize that these changes are significant—and that they limit or eliminate many of the things that we associate with being a university community. However, we face an unprecedented challenge, and we have a responsibility to do everything we can—both as individuals and as an institution—to slow the spread of this pandemic. The stakes couldn’t be higher: We are fighting to prevent an overloaded health system—a system that is an integral part of our university and is a second home to many of our faculty, staff, students and alumni.
Finally, I am deeply grateful to everyone for the steps that you are taking each and every day to respond to this global health emergency. I am aware of the amazing—even heroic—efforts that Pitt faculty, staff and students are engaging in to ensure that, even with these remarkable restrictions, our core mission will continue.
Despite our forced separation, our community is finding new ways to connect and support each other. One significant milestone is that our classes resume in an online format on Monday. Equally important: Our vital research efforts will continue to make the breakthroughs that we are all counting on.