University Communication to Students
This week brought news that we are in the two darkest months of the pandemic considering current infection rates and the growing prevalence of the new more contagious strain of the virus. Dr. Bogen with the Allegheny County Health Department therefore emphasized the need for patience and compliance with mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing while we wait for access to the vaccine. Valuable information for this week includes:
New This Week:
Vaccine Availability and Distribution
The Allegheny County Health Department reported that vaccine acquisition has been challenging, leaving many in the 1A group currently unvaccinated. On campus, we have been able to vaccinate 205 students and personnel in the 1A group. Our partner, IH21, is confident they will be able to obtain the vaccine necessary to meet campus need as each eligibility window opens. As each vaccination grouping opens, and we are clear who falls into each category, we will be contacting students directly with instructions on how to sign up. No one will be required to get the vaccine, but it is strongly encouraged. For information on what to expect after getting the vaccine, read: What to Expect after Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine | CDC.
Campus Resources – Open Spaces
Recognizing students are balancing on ground and remote classes, sometimes back-to-back, we have designated several classrooms students can use during this semester for study space or their online classes. These include: AJP 113 and 118, Antonian Hall 101 and 403, and Aquinas Hall 106 and 206. These rooms are different than what we used in Fall 2020.
Stimulus Funds for Student Support
In the latest round of CARES Stimulus funding, the federal government again designated that a portion of funds should go directly to student support. The University is working to gain clarity on criteria for distribution and the timeline for the disbursement of funds. Once we have clarity, we will share information so that you can anticipate what that might mean for you. As these will need to be direct payments to each student, please make sure your local address and contact information is up to date.
All students who return to campus at any time during the Spring semester for on-ground classes are required to be tested twice. Testing will be available twice weekly, generally Monday and Thursday, in the Frances Warde Hall Campus Assembly Room. Additional dates and times will be added to help with efficiency. Upcoming dates available are Monday January 25, and Thursday January 28, both 12 Noon – 5 p.m. Sign up for testing.
FWH Ground Floor Entrance
Students and employees who have a disability need for access to enter the Fifth Avenue (ground floor/side entrance) of Frances Warde Hall should meet with the DSO or HR departments and provide documentation for the disability. Everyone may exit from that door, but it is locked to entrance, so only those who qualify will be added to the ADA list for entrance.
Students who will be attending Art classes in the ground floor studio in Frances Warde Hall must enter through the third-floor entrance and check in with the Dispatch office. They must wear masks, self-screen, and follow all Common Good guidelines. Students may not admit classmates via the Fifth Avenue entrance.
Requesting Accommodations for Temporary Disability Related to COVID or for Chronic Disability
Students requesting accommodation should complete a confidential request form. Each request will be considered on a case-by-case basis and include an interactive conversation with the student to determine qualification for the accommodation. Approved accommodations will be relayed to faculty electronically.
Campus Resiliency and Re-entry Information
Counseling Services Available
During the pandemic, Counseling Services is fully accessible via a telehealth model. Learn more about counseling services.
If you are experiencing symptoms, experience a known exposure, or test positive for COVID-19, stay home and contact Health Services at +1 (412) 578-6174. Whether on or off campus, and whether or not you have been on campus, please keep us updated on any of the above as it helps us understand the full picture of how the pandemic is impacting the campus community. Reported instances of positive cases for those on or coming to campus will be included in the Campus Dashboard.
Be Wary of Misinformation About COVID-19
Experts are finding an immense body of inaccurate information regarding the pandemic and COVID-19 virus, which can be deadly if we are not critical of what information we consume about it. Misinformation spreads easily on the internet because social media platforms are incentivized to promote eye-catching emotional content over the facts. To see firsthand how easy it is to manipulate these algorithms with false and misleading information, check out the game “Go Viral” from the information experts at the University of Cambridge. It is a fun and short game, check it out!
Campus Is Open
The State of Pennsylvania has encouraged remote work when possible. The campus itself is open and operational during business hours and after hours. Many at the University are working remotely, so please call via phone, reach out through Teams chat, or email before coming over. Some phones are ringing to computers, phone messages are being answered, and emails will be returned in a timely manner. Please leave a message or send an email to the respective office and allow a reasonable amount of time, as the semester beginning is quite busy. However, if you are having difficulties, please reach out to the Student HUB (by phone: +1 (412) 578-6389), or Student Affairs (by phone: +1 (412) 578-6293 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will be happy to assist.
Take care and be well,
Timothy P. Phillips, Ph.D.
Vice President of Student Affairs & Dean of Students