Robert Morris hits the ground running at start of spring semester


Evelyn Luthringer

Winter Storm Izzy dumps almost a half a foot of snow at Robert Morris

MOON TOWNSHIP — On Dec. 30, Robert Morris University announced that all students would be required to participate in COVID-19 intake testing to return to in-person classes for the Spring 2022 semester.

The university began testing students on Jan. 5 and has continued throughout the first several weeks of classes. Vice President and Dean of Students John Michalenko has been managing the school’s COVID-19 policies and practices since the pandemic began. Michalenko was pleased with the student’s cooperation throughout the whole testing process.

“Our students have done a remarkable job of providing us the information that we need to keep us safe and open,” Michalenko said. “I would probably say we are best in class and when we talk to our colleagues in Pittsburgh and we talk to our medical directors at UPMC, we got high remarks for how our students are doing.”

He said that 98 percent of students have complied with the COVID-19 re-entry testing or have provided them with the information that would allow students to participate in on-ground classes.

The omicron variant has swept across the nation over the past several months shutting down schools and businesses left and right, but, Michalenko said that the university has actually seen a decline in cases.

He said, “We have seen a decline in the state and the county. {Allegheny} county was running around a 20 percent positivity rate and a couple of our colleges locally were running around a 30 percent positivity rate.”

But compared to other universities in Allegheny County, Robert Morris University has limited the amount of COVID-19 cases on the campus.

“We {Robert Morris} were around 9.7 percent. We have done actually very very well with all of the tests that we have conducted. When you think about it, 10 percent of our population provided a positive test,” he said

Other universities across the Pittsburgh region such as Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Duquesne University have either started off the semester with remote learning or have resumed in-person classes for the first time all semester this week. Michalenko discussed some of the factors that went into Robert Morris’ decision to not delay the start of on-ground classes.

“Prior to the Omicron variant, we had a high percentage of our students that were fully vaccinated with 78 percent of our undergraduates are fully vaccinated which was prior to the boosters being implemented. People were playing it safe for the most part and we were very impressed by the mask compliance so we felt that we were very comfortable to start school,” Michalenko said.

As the spring semester progresses Michalenko believes that the university has found a good blend for students and staff to enjoy their time here on campus while still complying with the COVID-19 policies that they have implemented.

“You can still go to a basketball game and still go up to the recreation center, the Greeks are meeting so everyone is doing their thing and we are doing it safely,” he said.

Michalenko said that he does meet weekly with the COVID team here on campus and he continues to be impressed with how the students are reacting to all of the different guidelines.