By SUSAN JONES
One issue confronting meeting organizers at Pitt this fall is whether to remain virtual, like the past 18 months, or revert to in-person gatherings or do both simultaneously.
The benefits of virtual meetings include more participation and quick, easy access for anyone. But Zoom calls don’t offer the same platform for lively debate as in-person meetings do and it’s hard to catch a colleague for a quick chat after an online meeting.
During the pandemic, Senate Council held several virtual meetings that had more than 100 people tuning in. It would be difficult for that many to fit around the U-shaped meeting table at 2700 Posvar Hall, where meetings were previously held and where they will return this fall.
Robin Kear, the new Senate Council president, said Faculty Assembly and Senate Council meetings will be offered in person and on Zoom. The first meetings are Sept. 1 and 9, respectively. Find the Zoom information on the University Senate website.
The chairs of each Senate committee will decide on whether to have hybrid meetings or online only. For instance, the Plant Utilization and Planning committee has already decided that all of its meetings for the 2021-22 academic year will be on Zoom, and the Faculty Affairs committee has scheduled its fall meetings for online only. Many of the other committees are choosing virtual only. One reason, Kear said, is that it’s hard to find rooms to accommodate hybrid meetings.
Staff Council has decided to maintain remote-only meetings through at least December as it works to secure an in-person meeting space that will also allow the group to offer virtual attendance.
A quick look at the University Calendar shows that most events in early September will still be virtual only, except some student welcome back activities.
The Graduate School of Public Health’s Environmental and Occupational Health speakers series will be primarily in person, but anyone needing a virtual accommodation — such as people who are ill or have mobility challenges or are international — will be sent a Zoom link.
Kelly Tatone, administrative assistant to the EOH chair, said the hybrid meetings do present new challenges, including checking with IT to make sure all the hardware is present in the room, and being in the room to troubleshoot with the speaker the day and assist those having issues accessing the remote link. But she said despite the challenges, the hybrid model is more inclusive than fully onsite or in-person.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at email@example.com or 724-244-4042.
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