Pitt and Drexel change plans for in-person classes

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FILE – This file photo shows a sign at Drexel University in Philadelphia on Wednesday, May 5, 2019. A former university professor in Philadelphia spent federal grant money on strip clubs and other personal expenses, prosecutors said Monday, Oct. 7, 2019. Chika Nwankpa misappropriated grant money from the Navy, the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation over a period of 10 years, the U.S. attorney’s office said. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Two big universities in Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh and Drexel University, changed plans for in-person instruction this fall, as a top Pitt official on Wednesday admonished students in a stark warning about partying and ignoring social distancing.

Pitt’s decision to delay the start of in-person instruction came just a few days before it was to start Monday. Online-only classes began Wednesday and students moved into dorms last week. Now, in-person instruction is delayed until Sept. 14.

“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,” the dean of students, Kenyon Bonner, wrote in a message to students. “Let me be clear: Your behavior is threatening a successful fall term for all of us.”

Across the state in Philadelphia, Drexel University canceled in-person instruction for undergraduates for the fall quarter, with university officials saying they changed their minds after watching the difficulties at other large universities that have brought students back to campus.

It closed housing and will conduct all undergraduate academic courses remotely, except for some clinical programs in the College of Nursing and Health Professions, Drexel said.

Some smaller private colleges in Pennsylvania, including Lafayette College and Dickinson College, and several state-owned universities have also made the decision to go remote this fall.

The changes at Pitt and Drexel came a day after Carnegie Mellon University said its fall semester would begin online only for undergraduates.

Pitt Provost Ann Cudd told the campus in an email that the schedule adjustment will allow students to start in-person classes at the same time after they complete a staged arrival and shelter-in-place procedures. About 29,000 students attend Pitt’s main campus.

Pitt had said earlier this summer that it will offer certain classes through both in-person and remote instruction. Carnegie Mellon University has said it will offer a hybrid model in which some classes will be conducted strictly online while others will be offered through both in-person and remote instruction.

Pitt initially reported low rates of infection based on early tests of students who arrived on campus.

At Drexel, President John Fry said it had exceeded the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s guidelines to reopen.

But, while local coronavirus conditions have improved recently, “we are seeing incredibly troubling trends,” Fry wrote on the university’s website. “There are reports of nationwide campus-based disease outbreaks and cases rising among college-age individuals. Such reports are on the rise exponentially and they greatly concern us.”

Drexel has a responsibility to everyone in the campus community and people living nearby, Fry said.

“What we see happening across the nation on university campuses — outbreaks coupled with high rates of quarantine and isolation — we do not want to happen here,” Fry wrote.

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