Q&A from Return for Fall 2020 Student Town Hall

Health and Safety

Please see the latest updates from the Healthcare Advisory Group.


What is “Flex @ Pitt?”
Flex @ Pitt is Pitt’s own unique take on how we can try to deliver the best possible educational experience to all of our students regardless of what their personal situation is during the fall term. We endeavor to have an in-person or live experience for all students for all classes at least once per week. We will strive to have all in-person classes livestreamed so that students attending remotely can engage in that synchronous activity. We will also record that livestream so that students who can’t engage synchronously will be able to watch it afterward. The majority of classes will be able to have at least some portion of students in person together, and we are also looking into a “rotating cohort” model where small groups within the class would take turns rotating in and out of the in-person classroom and engaging remotely when not in person. This allows the greatest flexibility possible.

Just for clarification, is the Flex @ Pitt plan saying that students can choose to come to campus or stay home in the fall?
Students can engage in their lecture-based classes completely remotely if they so desire or if their health status requires that they do so. Certain types of classes—such as clinical rotations and internships—may require in-person engagement. Individual academic units will be the best resources for information on engagement options for these specialized classes.

Will I be able to go to every class in person if I want? I don't like online learning.
We anticipate that most classes will have in-person experiences available for each student at least once per week.

Why are the first three days listed as remote instruction days?
This is in part to accommodate the extended period for student move-in, and also for students who had already made plans or signed leases with the original start date in mind. This is also for students who might be operating in a course with a rotating cohort, or who otherwise might need time to get set up remotely. By beginning remotely, all such students can be coached on the operational mode of the class in a uniform way.

What does social distancing look like in the classroom?
This will ultimately depend on what the Healthcare Advisory Group recommends, but we are in the process of looking at classroom capacities and anticipate they’ll be significantly reduced.

How will all classrooms be equipped for the needs of individual students—physical movement, social distancing, multimodal learning, etc.—to equitably allow learning?
Disability Resources and Services is working with every student who has accommodations to address these important concerns. The Center for Teaching and Learning also has resources available to faculty members to help them personalize their classroom in-person and remotely.

Does the Flex @ Pitt system apply to all students, including graduate students? Will each school have its own way of handling classes?
Flex @ Pitt will be the default teaching mode for all Pitt classes in the Fall, regardless of student career level (i.e., undergraduate vs graduate/professions). Schools, deans, academic departments and faculty will make decisions about how individual classes will adhere to the Flex @ Pitt guidelines.

Will exams be online or in-person?
In most cases, exams will need to allow for remote options in order to adhere to Flex @ Pitt guidelines. Many exams, including some final exams, will have the potential to be offered in person.

When can first-year students register for classes?
First-year students should meet with their academic advisors and put classes in their shopping carts. We will use that information as we assign classrooms and potentially to modify classroom capacities. As soon as we complete our space survey—and employ the Healthcare Advisory Group recommendations on safe spacing—we will be able to place those courses into classrooms and we will release the hold. We will communicate when the holds are released.

If a student lives on campus but their class is online, where do you envision the student experiencing the online class?
A student’s residence hall room or apartment is a good option for this, but we are exploring offering other spaces for students to use as they engage remotely in class. We will send more info on this as it becomes available.

When should courses be decided by/enrolled in for the fall semester?
Please check the academic calendar, which is available online.

Will the student bookstore be open or will books be available ahead of time?
Updates will be provided in the coming weeks on The University Store website.

How many exams can we expect to happen on the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving?
While the exact number is still being calculated, it will be significantly decreased. Faculty will work with their department chair and/or dean to request scheduling of an in-person final. Priority will be given to “departmental exams” (i.e., those that have common exams across many sections of a course). Under Flex @ Pitt guidelines these in-person exams should also be offered in a remote fashion.

Do you know what graduation might look like for those of us graduating this fall?
No decisions have been made at this time.

Should we expect class times to change, and if so, when will we be notified?
We are in the process of reassigning classrooms and in that process we have decided to expand the time between classes. By the end of July, PeopleSoft will be updated with meeting times and classroom assignments. The changes will be universal, so we don’t anticipate a lot of conflicts, but we will be reaching out to individual students who may be impacted.

How will research labs operate?
Many research labs are opening now or are in the process of reopening with mitigation.

How will classroom capacities be addressed?
In general, classroom capacities will be reduced significantly. We’re also working to add non-traditional spaces to the roster of classrooms as well.

Graduate Students

Will graduate students be able to choose between online and in-person classes, too?
Similar to undergraduate students, the vast majority of seminar and lecture-based graduate courses will offer the option to engage in person or remotely. There are some graduate programs that require in person training or practica, so we will be constructing ways in which those kinds of practical experiences can be done with proper mitigation measures in place so students can get the training and credentials they need for those programs.

Can you talk about graduate orientation?
We are in the process of building out a set of activities, all of which will be virtual. Graduate students will be notified about this in the coming weeks.

International Students

See here for Fall 2020 Information for International Undergraduate Students.

See here for Fall 2020 Information for International Graduate Students.

Residence Life

Please view the FAQ on Panther Central for additional information.

How will University housing work in the fall?
Arrival will be August 13-16, 2020. Orientation will be August 16-18, leading up to the first day of class. We are working on a plan to de-densify our residence halls. Assignments will be communicated in mid-July.

What if a student in the residence halls gets sick with COVID-19?
While additional guidance will be released in the near term, we have developed a detailed plan for students who need to quarantine or isolate during the fall term, which includes dedicated locations when needed, support staff who can ensure they have the necessary items and health care professionals who can respond to medical needs. To the extent they are able, they can also continue attending classes remotely.

What about dining services?
We are working with CDC and health guidelines to develop our plan for our dining facilities. Dining will also follow the recommendation of the Healthcare Advisory Group, and we are planning to have a variety of different dining options available with mitigation measures in place, such as physical distancing, increased options for takeout and changes to dining hall layouts. Additional details will be provided as plans are finalized.

How do you plan on handling housing for students who have non-guaranteed housing?
We are currently working on this and more information is forthcoming. You can reach out directly to Panther Central (panthercentral@pitt.edu) for the latest information.

Will we be assigned a specific day to move in or can we move in anytime during the move-in period? Are move-in times/days different for returning students?
Panther Central will be in contact with students.

What if students need to remain on campus after Thanksgiving break?
Please reach out to Panther Central and your Resident Director at the beginning of the semester if you anticipate extended housing needs.

Can off-campus students purchase a dining plan?
Yes, contact Panther Central at the end of July to do so.

Will people from the Pittsburgh area be asked to commute to de-densify the dorms?
We are planning to be able to house all students that have guaranteed housing.

If an off-campus student gets sick, will the university provide support for that student to isolate?
Yes, we have a plan to support our students in this case.

When will we find out our residence hall assignments?
Returning students should already have their assignments. Students with non-guaranteed housing will receive communication about this in the coming weeks. First-year students will find out in mid-July.

If we choose to continue classes online and not return to campus in the fall, will we lose our housing guarantee for the Spring?
We are still working on this process and will share information on that soon.

Will residence halls be sanitized before move-in?
Yes, and we have a plan for ongoing disinfection to frequently clean public spaces.

If a student chooses to not stay on campus in the fall, do they still have to pay for housing?
No, they do not. If they already have signed up for housing, there will be information in an upcoming communication about this.

How will roommates be assigned?
We are making every effort to honor roommate requests when possible. Room assignments will be communicated in mid-July.

Will we be able to have visitors in the residence halls?
Specific guidance is forthcoming.

Can you talk about move-in?
Additional details will be provided in the coming weeks. A number of options are under consideration, including providing students with the ability to mail belongings to campus prior to arrival and limiting the number of individuals moving in at one time.

Student Affairs and Student Services

What will Welcome Week look like for new and transfer students?
Welcome Week will officially be Sunday, August 16 through Tuesday, August 18, but there will be programming starting as early as August 13 and through the first week of classes. Students will be required to attend events on August 16-18, including Convocation and other trainings and events. All events that are required for students will be held virtually and will be recorded for those who can’t attend synchronously. Other optional events may take place in-person or in a hybrid format (in-person and virtual). All in-person events will follow the forthcoming guidelines and protocols from the Healthcare Advisory Group.

What will happen with the Internship Fair?
More information on the Internship Fair and all other career services can be found on the Career Center website. Many career services are already offered virtually, as well.

How can I get my student ID card?
You can submit your photo through Panther Central and you will be mailed your ID.

Will student services be remote in the fall like they were over the summer?
This will ultimately depend on what the Healthcare Advisory Group recommends, but we are planning for at least some Student Affairs offices to be open and available for students in person this fall. It will vary depending on the office and the program. For example, our Student Health Center is already in the process of developing protocols aligned with the Healthcare Advisory Group. More information about which offices will be operating remotely, in person, or hybrid (with flexibility for remote or in-person services) will be available in the coming weeks.

How will the Activities Fair work?
The Activities Fair will be held virtually, and we are purchasing a dynamic platform to make it as engaging as possible.

What will happen with student group meetings, club sports and other campus life?

This will depend on the Healthcare Advisory Group recommendations, but our intent is to create a very dynamic experience where student organizations can program and function as best as possible. It will look different from the way things were last fall, and it will depend on the guidelines for people gathering, but our team is working on this and we want to provide as much of those kinds of opportunities as we safely can.

Submit a question

If your question was not addressed above, please submit your question and we will forward it to the appropriate group (for example, the Healthcare Advisory Group) to be addressed in future communication from the university.