Bonner tells Pitt students: ‘Your behavior is threatening a successful fall term for all of us’

University of Pittsburgh Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner wrote an open letter to all Pitt students on Aug. 19, making sure they take accountability for adverse actions that could permeate a large number of COVID-19 infections across Pitt’s campus. In-person classes were set to begin on Aug. 24, but the university has now postponed all in-person classes until at least Sept. 14. Classes for now are online-only.

Pitt students are already in residence halls, off-campus apartments and hotel rooms that the university has blocked off as de-facto dormitories.

COVID-19 has already forced changes at universities like Notre Dame and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. And late Tuesday, Aug. 25, the University of Alabama announced it had more than 500 positive cases on campus, and at Ohio State University, 80 students had tested positive.

The New Pittsburgh Courier has obtained the open letter to students from Pitt Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner:

Dear Pitt students,
Over the past few days, I have been alerted by students, parents and community members that a large number of students are holding and attending parties without wearing face coverings and without observing physical distancing guidelines.

Let me be clear: Your behavior is threatening a successful fall term for all of us.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, after only one week of classes, transitioned to an entirely remote plan for the semester when more than 170 students tested positive for COVID-19. Early reports indicate that off-campus house parties and parties hosted by fraternities and sororities played a significant role in spreading the virus. Last night, Aug. 18, the University of Notre Dame immediately suspended in-person classes following a surge of 80 new cases of COVID-19, which were linked to off-campus parties.

Your actions have consequences. If you want to experience campus life as well as in-person classes this semester, then support the health and well-being of the members of our community with your actions.

Let me be clear about the consequences:

When students and student organizations are reported for violating the Student Code of Conduct Health and Safety rules, interim housing suspensions and/or Persona Non Grata (PNG) restrictions will apply while a hearing is being conducted. PNG status means the student is restricted from access to all university buildings and grounds.

If a student hosts a large party and is found responsible for a violation, the student will be sanctioned to disciplinary suspension through the semester.

If a student organization hosts a large party or event and is found responsible for a violation, the organization will be sanctioned to interim suspension of registration for no less than the remainder of the semester. If the organization has an active conduct history, the suspension may be extended.

If a student living in a residence hall attends a large party and is found responsible for a violation, the student will be sanctioned to housing suspension through the semester.

If a student living off campus attends a large party and is found responsible for a violation, the student will be sanctioned to permanent Persona Non Grata (PNG) status through the semester.

My expectations are clear: Do not hold or attend parties where physical distancing is not possible or where attendees are not following face covering requirements. You need to exercise common sense. Most apartments cannot safely hold more than 4-5 people while accounting for physical distancing of 6-feet between people.

Do not socialize with people who are not part of your pod while you are sheltering in place.

If you are an off-campus student, your pod consists of the people you live with.

If you are an on-campus student, you have been assigned your pod.

Wear face coverings when indoors and near others who are not in your pod.

Wear face coverings when outdoors and when physical distancing is not always possible, as on a busy sidewalk.

When in doubt, wear a face covering.

Wear your face covering properly—it must cover both your mouth and nose.

Practice good hand hygiene and avoid touching high-touch surfaces with your hands.

These are reasonable and easy precautions to take during a pandemic, so hold yourself and others accountable. If you see Pitt-affiliates breaking these guidelines—students, faculty or staff—then report the behavior.

A report about a COVID-related concern can be filed on the website. A conduct referral on a student violating Pitt’s guidelines can be filed (online) or the “Public Health and Safety Conduct Referral” form can be found on the home page for Student Affairs. The more information you can provide, the better able we are to follow up with appropriate consequences.

Since February, we have all had the time to learn about this virus and adapt to our new public health environment. Now it is time to demonstrate that you understand this is serious business, with serious consequences. We have one chance to get this right.

So take care of business, start the semester right, and mask up.

Kenyon Bonner

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