By DONOVAN HARRELL
Senate Council President Robin Kear says anti-Semitism has no place at Pitt.
“Anti-Semitism is real, and it hurts people,” Kear said in her report to Faculty Assembly on Feb. 16. “The officers and I condemn any anti-Semitic comments, analogies, jokes or actions in our community.”
Kear’s remarks follow an incident, first reported by the Pitt News, where a visiting lecturer allegedly compared wearing masks while lecturing to being gassed in a Nazi concentration camp. The political science lecturer, Vasili Rukhadze, denies he made these comments.
“These types of comments have no place in an institution of higher education and serve to create an environment that is hostile to learning and harmful to our community,” Kear said. “Regardless of intention, jokes can cause harm.”
Kear then called for the Pitt community to take a moment of self-reflection and think about the damages anti-Semitic remarks inflict on the Pitt community, especially Jewish students, and the University’s goals for becoming more inclusive.
“I stand with and support our Jewish colleagues who have been harmed by overtly anti-Semitic utterances,” Kear said. “We cannot look away but must acknowledge and repair and always strive to do better.”
The meeting also included an update from leaders from Pitt’s COVID-19 Medical Response Office, and a report from the Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination Advocacy committee (EIADAC) that offered support for implementing holistic admissions practices.
John Williams, head of the CMRO, told Faculty Assembly members that Pitt is “doing really well” overall when it comes to COVID cases and vaccination rates.
Case numbers are decreasing, Williams said, with 98 percent of students and roughly 96 percent of Pitt employees being vaccinated.
“That’s terrific news,” Williams said. “Our vaccination rates are fantastic. … And I think it’s very important because that both lets the campus have a somewhat more normal existence. And it means things are getting better.”
However, it’s not time yet to get rid of mask mandates, Williams added. While case numbers on campus and in Allegheny County are decreasing, there are still thousands of cases reported each day. A year ago, these case numbers would be shocking, he said.
Additionally, the University must follow orders from the Allegheny County Health Department, which still requires masking, and the Pitt still has a “substantial” number of immunocompromised people.
But the Pitt community won’t wear masks forever, Williams said, if cases continue to decrease and vaccination rates stay high.
“I think we’re going to be at a really good place this fall,” Williams said.
Natasha Tokowicz, a co-chair of EIADAC, presented the committee’s report on holistic admissions practices.
This comes after a majority of Pitt’s graduate and professional programs reported in February 2021 that they had stopped using the GRE in their admissions processes, citing possible bias in the test, the cost of taking it and recent research that suggests the test doesn’t accurately predict success in graduate programs.
The document is a “user-friendly, concise guide with pointers to other documents that folks can go to if they wanted to,” Tokowicz said.
This document is important, Tokowicz said, because some faculty who prefer the use of the GRE and standardized testing said they were concerned about the decision’s effect on recruitment. These faculty were looking for advice on how to implement more holistic admissions practices.
Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-383-9905.
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