Office of the Provost

Dear Pittsburgh Campus Undergraduate and Graduate Students,

I hope you have had a healthy and restful summer. In the past few weeks, we have been working in real time to respond to the continually shifting landscape that the pandemic has presented to us.

I know that this remains a time of stress and unpredictability for many of you. The Delta variant is proving to be a very difficult opponent in the fight to control the COVID-19 pandemic. As you may be aware, colleges and universities around the country are changing plans for fall semester teaching and learning.

Our initial plans for fall, developed over the summer, were based on a set of assumptions that we must now reassess in light of new realities. The most recent message from the COVID-19 Medical Response Office (CMRO) points specifically to the challenges of the Delta variant in our communities and the importance of the vaccine. 

In light of this new environment, here is our latest thinking about the start of the semester on the University’s Pittsburgh campus.

Immediate Changes: Teaching and Learning This Fall

As you know, undergraduate fall classes begin next Friday, August 27, 2021. Given that we are still gathering information regarding the vaccination status of students and employees, as well as recent changes in infection rates in our community, we have decided to offer flexibility to both students and instructors by allowing remote access to our courses during the first two weeks of the term. There are a few exceptions detailed below. At the end of this period we will remove this availability and all classes will be in-person beginning on Monday, September 13. 

This flexibility will not be available in certain programs. Remote access will not be available to graduate and professional programs whose students generally do not take classes outside their program, unless the Dean for that program’s school chooses to allow for that type of access. Deans will communicate separately with their graduate and professional programs if remote access will be available. 

All field placements, practicum experiences, lab classes, and research labs will continue activities as planned.

During this time, undergraduate instructors and students will have the flexibility to choose between being in the classroom or using Zoom for synchronous course delivery. This means that:

  • Instructors may deliver classes from a location of their choice, including the assigned classroom.
  • Students may choose to attend class and learn from a location of their choice, including the assigned classroom. A remote experience must be made available for students who choose this option.
  • Campus study and experiential spaces—including all classrooms and libraries—will be open and available to all members of the University community to use during this time.
    Important Reminder: You will need to bring your current Pitt ID to gain access to campus buildings.

Students should reach out to their instructors with any questions. If you need support, please contact

A few other important notes about this increased flexibility:

We are still planning for outside-the-classroom student activities to continue as scheduled, including in-person Welcome Week events, club sports, and student organization events. Many of these events are already being offered virtually or in a hybrid format, and students should participate as they are comfortable, while following Pitt’s health and safety standards and guidelines.

Additionally, the Presidents of our regional campuses will evaluate the conditions in their respective communities and communicate separately to their students regarding the availability of this flexibility on their campuses.

Why Does This Transitional Step Make Sense Right Now?

  • Recent news about the transmissibility of the Delta variant, even among vaccinated people, has led many members of community to be hesitant about entering the classroom;
  • Allegheny County’s infection rate is concerning, given the transmissibility of the Delta variant;
  • Our understanding of the vaccination rate of our faculty, staff, and students is not complete. In addition, we are just beginning our testing program for unvaccinated community members; and  
  • Additional time will help us develop a more complete picture of vaccination status and the virus in our community, and allow us to determine whether any revisions are necessary to our health rules.

We will be following all the health guidance and mitigation protocols to keep our campuses and classrooms safe —including universal masking in classrooms and in every building on campus without exceptions. I recognize that universal masking is not ideal when it comes to teaching and learning, but it—like vaccines—is key to protecting us

While I certainly anticipate that everyone will observe our guidance, if you see behavior that may be out of compliance, the Pitt Concern Connection provides an easy way to share questions and concerns confidentially and anonymously.

As a reminder, if you have concerns about learning in person due to a medical issue, please contact Disability Resources and Services (DRS) directly to discuss reasonable accommodations. Work adjustments for student workers should be discussed directly with supervisors.

What Should You Do If You Are Unwell?

Do not attend classes or events if you are feeling unwell. Instead, if you are unwell or in quarantine or isolation, you should contact your instructors directly to make alternate arrangements for the classes you will miss.

Supporting Each Other in an Uncertain Environment

For students with children, I also want to mention that I am keenly aware of the challenges around childcare during the pandemic. The Office of Human Resources provides a list of resources that I hope will be helpful to you and your family as you prepare for the weeks and months ahead.

I realize that what I have outlined is an unexpected departure from our intended plans. I had the highest hopes for a fully in-person classroom start to this semester. But taking a prudent path now will help make that goal a reality in the near future.

Delta has shown us that different temporary strategies are necessary, and I want to thank you again for your ongoing and outstanding efforts—and incredible and continued resilience. Without question, this will be a year in which we will once again need grace, flexibility and kindness to do our collective best.

Hail to Pitt!


Ann E. Cudd
Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor