You’ve Reported a COVID Concern. Now What?

Blue signs on a lawn in front of the Cathedral of LearningThe University is working hard to ensure a culture of health and safety during the pandemic, as well as accountability and responsibility to each other. In addition to adhering to physical distancing and other health guidelines, that can include being vigilant around campus.

To that end, Pitt has incorporated into its coronavirus response website a platform to report COVID-19 concerns, like encountering large gatherings of people (which is prohibited).

Sharing a concern through the form is simple, with fields for the nature and location of concerns and a way to attach images or videos. People can file reports anonymously, but those who choose to provide an email address will receive a follow-up.

Once a concern is submitted, the University response begins.

Receipt

All concerns route to a mailbox managed by Laurel Gift, assistant vice chancellor in the Office of Compliance, Investigations and Ethics. Each concern submitted is assigned a number and logged.

Those who identify themselves when they submit concerns receive emails from Gift within a day; that correspondence acknowledges receipt, provides a reference number and discloses follow-ups taken.

“Our ability to respond depends upon the level of detail provided,” said Gift. “The more details concerning time, place, nature of the observation and participants, the more likely we are able to take effective and responsive action.”

Response

Concerns made anonymously are forwarded to the appropriate University office, including the regional campuses; for example, a report that staff members are not wearing masks properly would be sent to the Office of Human Resources and appropriate personnel office, who would then inform Gift of how these concerns were addressed.

That could mean additional training or education, or direct intervention when enough information is provided.

Barbara Ruprecht, director of the Office of Student Conduct in the Division of Student Affairs, and her staff receive concerns that involve both off- and on-campus student behavior. Reports that have enough information to identify a particular individual and behavior that may violate the Student Code of Conduct, move through the conduct process, as defined by the Student Code.

Anonymous concerns and reports that lack detail can be challenging to process as a conduct violation. If the student conduct office can identify that a student resides at a named location (like a residence hall or apartment), staff will send an email or schedule a Zoom conversation to remind the student of the University’s health and safety rules. The office shares repeat concern off-campus addresses with the Pitt Police’s community relations team for “knock and talks”—in-person conversations about behaviors and the expectations of students living in surrounding community.

“We’re trying to address concerns in myriad ways,” said Ruprecht, who also noted that the University isn’t saying students can’t gather, but is stressing that they do it safely and within the requirements for the operational risk posture we’re in currently. “They’re permitted to gather. The concern is adhering to health and safety guidelines, and in particular, remembering to practice social distancing and to wear face coverings.”

Follow-up

Those who provide an email address when they file a concern will receive personal emails about follow up from Gift or others on the COVID compliance team. The compliance team includes representatives from Office of Compliance, Investigations and Ethics; Student Affairs’ Offices of Student Conduct and Residence Life, Office of Community and Government Relations, the COVID-19 Medical Resource Office and Pitt Police and members meet virtually seven days a week to review activity and concerns.

“This system demonstrates the University’s commitment to fostering a culture of response, engagement and compliance with our health and safety standards and guidelines,” said Gift. “From the Campus Community Compact to filing concerns, the Pitt community is being proactive about doing everything in the Power of Pitt to ensure the health and safety of our campuses and campus communities.”

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