Masks Come Off and Pitt’s Verdict Is In

The news of Pitt’s mask mandate being lifted on March 28 marked the beginning of the end of the pandemic.

But since being lifted, mixed feelings have been stirring among Pitt’s population as it undoubtedly changed the course of the college experience for many students across the country. For the first time in almost two years, students are seeing the full faces of their peers and professors, and this radical change has produced for many a feeling of uncertainty for what the final weeks of the semester may hold. 

As for one of the biggest culprits for this uncertainty? Peer acceptance. The fear of being associated with anti-maskers is real, especially for Pitt students attending a notoriously liberal institution. Are you an anti-masker if you decide to no longer wear a mask? Just because Pitt has lifted the mask mandate does not mean it is immediately socially acceptable to trash all of your masks.

Universities and businesses can still enforce their own mask policies that have forced students and employees to follow the rules. And now that the number of COVID-19 cases has significantly dropped in the United States, universities and businesses have reevaluated their policies and made the mask mandate more of a flexible option.

Most people would assume this reevaluation to be a positive sign, signaling that the end of the pandemic is nearing. The problem is that while masks may be going away, the stigma remains.

Student Sami Semiatin said she was excited for the end of the mask mandate, but explained her hesitancy to not wear one in the first week of this trial period. In her eyes, she wanted to first observe the actions of her fellow classmates before making her final decision.

She explained that many of her classrooms were brimming with students, and that even with masks, she felt way too close to her classmates. If the classrooms were bigger and the students were more spread out, she would have less of an issue not wearing a mask.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any students who were in full support of ending the mask mandate. I can only deduce that a minority of Pitt students accept lifting the mask mandate without traces of concern clouding their minds. The mask mandate has now been officially lifted for two weeks, and many students are enjoying the option to wear or not wear a mask. 

If the classrooms were bigger and the students were more spread out, she would have less of an issue not wearing a mask.

The prospect of no longer fogging up your classes while breathing or being shamefully out of breath while racing to class is difficult to pass up. Yet it is my understanding that the fear of judgment is stronger. 

I learned multiple approaches for dealing with this unprecedented situation after talking to a handful of students. One of my peers, Julia Koehl, suggested following the professors’ lead. For instance, if a professor wears a mask to class, then she will continue to wear hers as well. If a professor comes to class without wearing a mask, she will feel more comfortable leaving her mask in her backpack.

Her approach to this situation is commendable and she explained that her reasoning behind her logic is based on the age difference between students and professors. The age difference, sometimes small and other times large, between professors and students is something to note.

Older professors are more at risk if they are to catch COVID-19. Further, students who go to social outings frequently and then choose to not wear a mask in the classroom, put older professors in a potentially dangerous situation.

But a question keeps running through a majority of students’ minds is how to act under this new policy. In other words, what does it mean to not wear a mask? Many Pitt students I spoke with said they will base their decision on what their peers and professors decide to do.

From the beginning of the pandemic, wearing a mask was a highly politicized decision. COVID-19 temporarily changed the lives of many people living in the United States as strict measures were enforced to protect the lives of American citizens.

The debate over this precautionary measure eventually came to the forefront of COVID-19 politics. So, a stigma surrounding wearing a mask was formed.

Initially, wearing a mask was seen as a necessary requirement to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Although, there was significant pushback against mask mandates as many citizens believed this requirement infringed upon their freedoms.

Moving forward, I plan to use a combination of the strategies discussed above. My desire to not wear a mask anymore is just as strong as my desire to respect my professors and not be viewed as an anti-masker.

The end of the mask mandate at Pitt is a positive sign that the world is slowly reverting back to its normal self, but I will continue to approach this policy change just as I have approached the pandemic — with caution and care.

Featured photo by DS stories on

Pitt’s SafeRider Services Frustrates and Endangers Students — Once Again

Each year Pitt receives almost $3.5 million from its undergraduate body to pay for services like shuttles and the SafeRider service.

While each student pays a security, safety, and transportation fee of $180 every year, some students have had upsetting experiences using the shuttle service. 

The frustration appears to be nothing new.

Fifteen years ago, in 2007, students lamented the service for “stranding” them in the cold. In 2016, SGB attempted to overhaul the SafeRider service after numbers dropped, and as recently as March this year, SGB listened to students express their concerns for the SafeRider’s poor service.

“When SafeRider came about I was really really excited,” said Isha Shah, a sophomore finance major.

As a female living off campus who often travels to her apartment from the library late at night, she worries a lot about the dangers of the city. She mentioned one incident that occurred less than a block away from her home in which two gunmen robbed a local store, one with an AK-47 style rifle. 

“I think I have a very valid reason to be worried,” Shah said.

To ease her fears getting home, Shah said he uses the SafeRider service. But she added that she’s had poor experiences. 

According to information from Pitt’s website: “SafeRider provides complimentary transportation during the evening and early morning hours when special non-emergency needs arise,” but does not provide “travel on an established bus or shuttle route.” 

“I always get really anxious because I know that the SafeRider’s gonna tell me no,” Shah said because of her close proximity to the shuttle route along Forbes Ave.

Shah said she’s disappointed with the unreliable and time-consuming shuttles that don’t even drop students off directly in front of their residences. 

During the very late hours of the night, walking even small distances can be dangerous, especially for young female students. When it comes to the shuttles, while “real-time tracking” is available, “Route times are subject to change.” 

Like Shah, Carolyn Fochek, a sophomore sociology major at Pitt, has been denied SafeRider’s services in the past.

She lives on upper campus and during a period of time when the shuttles did not pass her street due to construction, the SafeRider driver refused to drive her multiple times. 

“It was just a very toxic environment,” Fochek said, “and I was very avoidant of using SafeRider because it didn’t feel comfortable for me to have to justify using the SafeRider to someone who was responsible for driving me.”

Like Fochek, Shah’s experience with the SafeRider app is often unreliable and uncertain because of cancellations and unclear communication. As a result, Shah feels like she can never really depend on either the shuttle or SafeRider service. 

Fochek has also had problems with a lack of communication.

“Once I got a notification that my SafeRider was gonna be there within like three minutes, so I grabbed my stuff, walked outside, and by the time I got out there, the SafeRider left,” Fochek said. 

Another time, Fochek had to wait outside late at night for the SafeRider to show. 

“The problem is I would get a notification that they’re approaching in a few minutes, and then it would be like fifteen minutes waiting outside in the rain or the cold in order to get this SafeRider that I could’ve just waited inside a little bit longer for,” Fochek said. “It just wasn’t a good situation to be in as a student waiting for a driver at night.”

Unfortunately, even when Shah was able to successfully book a SafeRider, the driver sometimes made her feel uncomfortable, and she isn’t the only student who feels that way. 

“For a long time, the Z-trip safe driver would tell me I had to sit in the front seat,” Fochek said. “He would ask me a lot of questions that I just did not feel like I needed to answer.” 

On one instance, Fochek witnessed a SafeRider refuse service to a girl who was visibly very drunk after a party.

“We all watched her boyfriend carry her off,” Fochek said, “because this driver refused to take her.” 

Driving safety is another one of Fochek’s concerns.

“Sometimes the drivers do not drive safely,” Fochek said. “I remember once I was sitting in the back of my SafeRider and my driver was on the phone looking at a map or looking at a message or something…Other times they’re not adequately stopping at stop signs.” 

Fochek said she believes that there are solutions that can help make the SafeRider and shuttle services better for both the students and the drivers. In her eyes, the University needs to provide better pay and working conditions for the demanding jobs they do, as well as hire more drivers. 

“These drivers are overworked, underpaid, and under-appreciated,” Fochek said. “I don’t blame any of the drivers for how they’ve responded to the conditions they’ve been put in, but I do hope we can rectify it.”

Fochek also imagines that there might be a simpler and more efficient system for late night shuttle services. As it is now, late night shuttles often have the drivers running routes in circles all night, and there are usually very few students during these hours. 

“The late night shuttles that run a specific route all night long are just not valuable to the overall late night transportation system,” Fochek said. 

Instead, she believes that the shuttles should either stay at Hillman during the night, where students can hop on at any point to be driven to their destination, or the shuttles can work as SafeRiders and be requested through the app. 

While it’s clear some students are not satisfied with the transportation services they are receiving at a cost, it’s not so clear what the university is doing and should be doing about it. Ultimately, it comes down to the financial needs of students and the way drivers are being treated.

“It is just so frustrating to me to see the school pretending to care for students when in reality it’s just another thing to attract more tuition dollars and attract parents attention,” Shah said. “But when it actually comes down to it they’re not willing to provide this service.”

The “false promise” of the SafeRider service is what angers Shah the most.

“I think what makes me the most upset is the fact that Pitt advertises this service as something that’s out there to protect students and how they care about our safety. Each semester in my bill I see a transportation fee of I think $200 dollars, but then I’m seeing not only incredibly unreliable shuttle but I’m being denied the SafeRide service,” Shah said. “If you’re going to offer a service then either offer it well or don’t do it at all.”

“These drivers are working up to seven days a week until 4 or 5 a.m. These are adults with families of their own. And these drivers are not making enough money,” Fochek said. “We need to make sure we’re respecting them as people.”

Your Next Health Tracker at Your Local Pharmacy

People looking to track their health are using medical supplies now—at the expense of the communities that need them

Featured image via “Expanding Care Capacity through Remote Patient App” from APAC News Network

Alongside the rise of Fitbits in the 2010s, people have become more conscious of their vitals and everyday health status. With this attention on health comes things like heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, and the common goal of reaching 10,000 steps a day.

This widespread health tracking has even encouraged some to try out Continuous Glucose Monitors, or CGMs, at the expense of the population that CGMs were created for — people with diabetes. 

CGMs are small devices that sit mostly on top of the wearer’s skin with a small sensor that goes a few millimeters under their skin. They constantly monitor a person’s blood glucose levels, which fluctuate throughout the day and especially as people eat and exercise. They were created for people with diabetes who have to constantly monitor their blood sugar in order to best manage their disease. 

In people with diabetes, their bodies lack the ability to regulate their own blood glucose levels, so diabetics need to continuously monitor and correct their levels manually. In people without diabetes, conversely, their blood sugars are corrected automatically as their bodies perform their natural processes. 

One Twitter user, @allfaxo, commented on the use of CGMs in people without diabetes, stating: “[I]f you’re a non-diabetic and have a cgm I’m more worried about your mental health than your physical health tbh.”

And as a person with Type 1 diabetes who has used more than one type of CGM in the past, I’m inclined to agree. I’m unsure of why a person would want to take on this burden. More importantly, I consider it wrong for people without diabetes to use CGMs given the different aspects of life as a diabetic in America.

Jokes about sugar intake and Halloween candy causing diabetes are incessant and based on the misconception that people with diabetes brought their disease on themselves through bad lifestyle habits. In reality, the causes of diabetes are varied and uncertain, with both genetic and environmental factors believed to have an impact. So these “jokes” about diabetics causing their own illness are not only incorrect, they also downplay the disease as not that much of a problem and place the blame of the disease on the diabetic.

If people caused their own diabetes, the reasoning goes, they deserve everything that comes with having diabetes — even things out of their control. In America, where our healthcare system is all but characterized by inaccessibility, this includes diabetics deserving to struggle and die because of lack of access to their medication. 

The U.S.’s healthcare system is nowhere near the best and Americans suffer every day because of it — especially people with diabetes, who are often reliant on several prescribed medications and supplies needed to manage their disease and survive. The continuing problem of insulin inaccessibility in America is bad enough, but the problems don’t stop there. CGMs often run for several hundred dollars a month, meaning the devices are simply out of reach for many Americans, insured or not. 

As Dr. Robert Gabbay, chief science and medical officer of the American Diabetes Association, says regarding access barriers to CGMs: “Lowering payment and other systemic barriers to these devices is urgently needed to allow patients across all income levels, ages and races to manage their diabetes effectively and reduce their risk of preventable complications and even mortality.” 

While diabetics are facing these barriers, companies like NutriSense and Veri are selling CGMs, bringing customers in with taglines like “Optimize your daily health performance” and “Get your health back on track.”

By still selling CGMs — for several hundred dollars — these companies misrepresent the financial burden of the device. With the privileged few being able to afford the devices out of pocket, it becomes easy to once again blame diabetics for the lack of access they face and represent CGMs as novelties rather than the important medical devices they are.

Additionally, the argument that having more people getting CGMs, regardless of health status, will saturate the market and bring down costs for diabetics i.e. relating it to “basic supply and demand,” just doesn’t hold weight. People with diabetes are incredibly susceptible to the whims of those in power. This is best exemplified by the cost of insulin, which pharmaceuticals can continually raise, forcing diabetics to pay or die. So that basic principle of supply and demand doesn’t hold as much sway. 

New technology should, for the most part, be available to people who want it, and if people want to constantly monitor their blood sugar without the medical need for it, then to each their own. But until people with diabetes, the population that CGMs were developed for, have adequate access to the devices, those without the medical need should avoid using them; whether it’s intentional or not, using CGMs without a medical need ignores the stigma people with diabetes face, perpetuates the inaccessibility of this life-saving device, and misrepresents the financial burden of the device.

The use of CGMs in people without diabetes isn’t terribly widespread just yet. But with the rise of Fitbits, we have seen how people take to products that give them more information about their health.

If the use of CGMs in people without diabetes becomes much more common, it will continue to cause problems for more and more diabetics and what then — what other medical devices can health-conscious people co-opt? What impact will it have on those communities? 

Burnout or Something More? A Study of Burnout in Pitt Students and How Pitt Treats Mental Health

Finals season is upon us. Students can be seen bustling from building to building through the blustery April weather, going from class to class. One individual steps out of their 4 p.m. physics class, their eyelids drooping over their bloodshot eyes. They shuffle through their bag for their notebook as they head toward the library to study for their upcoming final. This is their second day straight without sleep, and they have forgotten dinner again. 

As we head into the most stressful point of the semester, so many things can be overlooked, especially mental health. Hobbies, physical activity, and other aspects that contribute to mental wellness are pushed to the side as students focus intensely on academics.

As a result of this ongoing, ever-increasing amount of work that is put on students, it’s almost inevitable that stress evolves into burnout. However, since everyone experiences life differently, how can we pinpoint what burnout truly is?

To try and answer this question, several University of Pittsburgh students shared what their experience with burnout was like. Not surprisingly, their experiences were further supported by outside research and surveys.

When asked to rank their level of burnout on a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being the most burnt out, several students smiled and laughed nervously. Most students ranked their level over 5 with some students even going to 10. Their symptoms varied widely, but all the students I spoke with reported some form of harm or deterioration to their wellbeing.

Second-year psychology student Naomi said she can tell she is burnt out because of her motivation to do work. She completes it to “get it over with,” rather than because she actually wants to. She “doesn’t want to have to deal with it.”

First-year political science student Kelsey reported similar symptoms, with low motivation and high procrastination levels as the semester reaches its climax. Many students also reported that they do not have time to take care of themselves or their wellbeing, such as second-year Emergency Medicine student Adam claiming that his “sleep schedule is out of sync.” (To respect their privacy, all student names were kept anonymous.)

Psychology Today defines “burnout” as “a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress.” However, burnout is not the same as being overworked; symptoms characteristic of burnout include “physical and mental exhaustion, a sense of dread about work, and frequent feelings of cynicism, depression, anger, or irritability.”

Burnout is something that affects a variety of individuals, regardless of their situation. Parents and couples are not left out of the fray, but statistically, students are those who are most affected.

In fact, a 2021 survey conducted by Ohio State University stated that the amount of college students who have experienced burnout rose from 40% in August 2020 to a concerning 71% in April 2021. Psychology Today also found that, if ignored for long enough, burnout can lead to a “mountain of mental and physical health problems…including headaches, fatigue, heartburn, and other gastrointestinal symptoms, as well as increased potential for alcohol, drug, or food misuse.”

The potential for more serious problems rears its ugly head with prolonged bouts of burnout. According to the same 2021 survey, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse levels have also increased from 2020 to 2021, albeit in smaller intervals: 

Students who screened positive for anxiety rose from 39% to around 43%

Students who screened positive for depression rose from 24% to 28%

Eating unhealthily as a coping mechanism rose from 25% to 29%

Use of alcohol rose from 15.5% to 18%

Use of tobacco/vaping rose from 6% to 8%

Physical activity dropped from 35% to 28%

Another question still stands: how do we deal with burnout and prevent bigger issues from occurring? From interviews with students, it seems that self-care is essential.

All the students I spoke with reported physical activity and exercise as a favorite method of self-care. With the days getting warmer, spending time outside is a de-stressor that is becoming more available; one can see hundreds of students relaxing on the lawns and in the parks, as well as studying and working in the Schenley Quad and other public spaces.

Other students reported organization as an important tool to lower stress. Things such as making a schedule, making a to-do list, and working in small segments help students to manage their time and make time for taking care of themselves. Along with self-care, experts state that strengthened coping skills can help students fight against severe burnout and mental illness.

For Bernadette Melnyk, chief wellness officer and dean of the College of Nursing at Ohio State, she says that “it is crucial that we arm students with the resilience, cognitive-behavioral skills and coping skills that we know are protective against mental health disorders.”

In response to this survey, Ohio State University and the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are using the data from the survey to create and integrate programs and resources into the curriculum to help students prioritize their mental health.

“Students are often overloaded with their regular coursework,” Melnyk said. “So when they’re offered these wonderful programs they sometimes just see them as one more thing to do…by making them part of their classes and campus life and ensuring students know exactly where to go for help as they need it, we can really impact a lot more lives and give these students skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives.”

How does the University of Pittsburgh shape up when it comes to advanced mental health resources? As a student who has been through the University Counseling Center on multiple occasions, my experiences with the Center have admittedly been mediocre.

The experiences with counselors are very hit-or-miss; for example, one counselor I had seen was very open-minded and available whenever necessary, but another counselor eventually ended sessions with me and told me to seek other resources.

The counseling experience also takes a lot of time, with little reward.

The most one can get is a single session either weekly or biweekly. There seems to be little variety when it comes to availability, especially for students who may be struggling with more serious issues. Even if one is referred to off campus resources, the resources are often overbooked or not flexible with students’ schedules. Overall, the UCC seems resourceful on the surface, but in reality is seemingly ill-prepared for students who may be suffering from more serious issues.

While I would like to recommend the UCC as a resource, I believe it shouldn’t be one’s primary resource. There are a plethora of mental health-based organizations on campus that are run by faculty and students alike, such as Active Minds and the National Alliance on Mental Illness at Pitt (NAMI).

Additionally, there exists plenty of off-campus resources in Oakland and in Pittsburgh, as well as tele-therapy services. The more resources at your disposal, the better. You can also find counseling resources online based on location, specific issues, and healthcare provider. 

Burnout seems to be a universal experience among college students — something which is both comforting and somewhat concerning. However, it is important to remember to prioritize health and wellness, and that you’re not alone. There are local and virtual resources that can help. With the right amount of self-care and resources at our fingertips, burnout and other bigger issues can be dealt with and, in some cases, even prevented. 

Featured photo by Tara Winstead on

The Peterson Events Center or "The Pete," home to the Baierl Recreation Center

The Infamous “Pete Surge” and How the University Is Responding

It was an unbearably cold winter morning in Oakland, made worse by the unrelenting breeze winding down Fifth. I strapped on my boots to avoid the charcoal slush that lined the pavement, and reluctantly grabbed my coat hanging next to the door. The mere thought of the wind and ice made me want to crawl back into bed, but I knew I had to beat the notorious “Pete Surge.”

You are probably confused, so let me provide some context. When the COVID-19 pandemic began in the spring of 2020, students all over found their schedules inundated with free time. It may come as no surprise that after the pandemic, one specific hobby began taking the world and every social media platform by storm: fitness.

Tiktok accounts promoting fitness, and fitness-related advice began appearing by the thousands, and the fitness community itself gained a cult-like following of vehement “gym rats” to support its cause. 

Fast forward to 2022, and while the pandemic is starting to come to an end, we have run into a new problem that has been terrorizing the Pitt campus, “The Pete Surge.”

The Pete Surge could be best described as the overcrowding that takes place between classes that lasts from roughly noon to when the gym closes at 11p.m. At these times, students find themselves in-between classes, or done with them altogether, and will come to the Baierl Recreation Center, reffered to as “The Pete,” in giant cohorts that leave the gym packed and overcrowded. It’s the reason why some students like myself are willing to wake up so early, and why others will just skip days altogether. To add insult to injury, Pitt’s plans for a future gym suggest that a new facility will be complete in 2024 after most of us graduate.

I, like many others, rely on fitness as a tool for maintaining mental and physical health, and so I am willing to forfeit a few hours of sleep if it means I can get a workout in.

Still, I wanted to ask other long-time gym-goers like myself to gain more perspectives into how this problem is affecting, not just myself, but students as a whole. 

Nick Mollicki, a first-year majoring in accounting and finance, and self-proclaimed gym rat, says he believes it’s time for change. He, like many others including myself, has opted to hustle in the morning to beat the crowd, a choice he says comes at the expense of his sleep.

“I definitely feel like the Pete can get overcrowded at times, especially between the hours of 1 and 7, which just so happens to be the only time that many of us can go at all,” he said.

But what about the higher crowds?

“I often am scouring the gym for various exercises due to all the areas being full,” he said. “Because the racks and benches are often full for much longer, I usually will have to wait 5-10 minutes for machines to be freed up.”

Situations like the one Mollicki describes is unfortunately a situation all too familiar to gym-goers like myself. When you can only squeeze your training session between your 1p.m. and 3:30p.m. class, 5-10 minutes can be a big deal and keep you from doing exercises that you like or an entire movement altogether. 

Other gym rats like Joseph (Joe) Allen, a first-year studying biology on the pre-med track, take a different stance.

Allen says that while he would prefer the gyms to have more free space, he is willing to put up with extra people “as long as [they] respect personal space and do not forget to wear deodorant.”

What he does say, however, is that a new facility, while not 100% necessary, would be a great addition to campus as a lot of the equipment in the Pete is “not of great quality” and “outdated.”

Simply put, Joe is right.

Many times old equipment tends to break. At the time this article is being written, the assisted pull-up machine and the abductor machine are broken. As one might expect, this makes an already packed atmosphere that much more chaotic.

Other on-campus gyms, like Bellefield and Trees, tend to be much smaller and even older than The Pete. A new facility would not only help spread out students but provide students with new equipment that matches the typical brands of most modern commercial gyms. 

Pitt’s new Campus Recreation and Wellness Center

As it turns out, Pitt is in fact constructing a whole new recreation center called the “Campus Recreation and Wellness Center ” where the O’Hara Garage and LRDC Building are located. The anticipated opening is set for 2024.

The building will house a recreation pool, a jogging track, weightlifting equipment, multi-activity courts for basketball, volleyball courts, and more. The project was developed through student input and lobbying from different student bodies and organizations.

“This project began with listening to students, and their voices were loud and clear,” Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said.

While students like myself are a little disheartened knowing that we will graduate before the opening of this holy site, one thing is for certain: future gym rats will have an easier time making gains, and those of us graduating will sleep a little easier knowing that.

How to Be a Responsible Spin Scooter User

A little less than a year ago, Spin Scooters were unveiled as a new mode of transportation in the city of Pittsburgh. Electric scooters aren’t an entirely new concept. In fact, there are lots of major cities on the West Coast that have already implemented programs similar to Spin for pedestrian transportation. At face value, Spin Scooters are highly versatile modes of transportation — they can take you down small roads and niche neighborhoods that most Port Authority buses just can’t — and they’re on demand too! (That is, if you can find one that’s fully charged.)

However, Spin has introduced a whole new breed of problems to the city. Thankfully, there’s still an ounce of hope left for these monstrosities.

After talking to a few key figures around campus, the general perception of the Spin Scooters still remains positive, even if people don’t always treat them the best. For example, Dan Phillips, a 21-year-old Biochemical Engineering major who is a Spin Scooter user, thinks that “…the Scooters are a good way to get around in a pinch and that most people respect them.” It is important for such a program to thrive in the city of Pittsburgh, being there is no denying that it is a helpful form of transportation for most customers. Even if the Scooters have lost their initial sparkle that they had at their introduction, it is best to improve what we already have than to write off the program entirely. 

So, how do we make it better?

Spin could make as many rules and regulations as they want, but humans are going to human. We make mistakes, whether it be on purpose or accidentally. The fact of the matter is the Spin program is never going to be perfect, but then again, nothing is. However, the betterment of the Spin program needs to come mostly from its customers, not from corporate. This might seem counterintuitive, but I would like to think customers want to receive communal products treated with respect—so they should also be the ones leaving the Scooters in a courteous manner. 

Photo by Brett Sayles on

To improve Spin we need to be mindful of how we park the Scooters after we are done with them, where we ride the Scooters so as not to disturb pedestrians and motorists, being respectful and not vandalizing the Scooters, being mindful of how much time you spend on a Scooter in one sitting, and returning the Scooter to a charging port if it is convenient to do so after you are finished with it. These things might be little and could seem to be not worth your time, but every little act of courtesy counts.

When you think about it, the Spin program creates a customer community and we each must do our due diligence to ensure we have the privilege of electric scooters in the city for years to come. You can look at these tasks as simple and unimportant. Or, more favorably, you can see these tasks as simple and fairly easy to do, taking only minutes out of your day to execute, and make the Spin experience better for all. 

  1. Scooter Parking

What does it mean to park a Scooter the right way, or even politely for that matter? For one, we have to know that Spin Scooters can’t be ridden on sidewalks or in the streets when it can be avoided — so they shouldn’t be parked and left in these places either. These Scooters aren’t very heavy, but it’s inconvenient for people to have to move them out of the way. So, park them perpendicular to the curb, or better yet, in a designated parking area to be courteous to your fellow Spin users. 

Photo by Magda Ehlers on
  1. Sidewalks 

Another fairly simple rule, but one that is important nonetheless: don’t ride the Spin Scooters on sidewalks if it can be avoided. I have noticed that people have gotten better about this since the Scooters’ initial release, but it’s still something that everyone should be familiar with. Pedestrians use the sidewalk to travel safely and shouldn’t have to worry about a fast, motorized scooter getting in their way. It’s just the right thing to do. 

  1. Vandalism

This should go without saying, but don’t try to vandalize or damage the Scooters in any way. They are public property and someone is going to have to use them after you — so be kind; don’t alter them or put them in places they aren’t supposed to be — like in trash cans or …rivers. No, seriously. Doing this could land you with criminal charges, so don’t be an idiot. 

  1. Time

In theory, you can rent a Spin Scooter for as long as you want until it runs out of power. But, should you be doing that? Not only is there a limited amount of Scooters in the city, but it’ll cost you a pretty penny if you’re hogging them. If you need a Spin Scooter for a long period of time, you could keep it rented out, but we all have to be mindful of where usable Scooters can be easily found throughout the city for others. With that being said, Rob, who chose not to give their last name, and is one of the security guards at Pitt, noted a distinct lack of Spin Scooters in the Black community, such as in Homewood or the Hill District.

It would be especially important to keep track of your time in these areas, especially if other users genuinely need to use the Spin Scooters to get to work or whatnot.

  1. Charging Stations

There are various charging stations throughout Pittsburgh for the Spin Scooters which also serve as a space to park them. Simply put, if you see a charging station near you when you’re done with your Scooter, it’s the right thing to do to return your Scooter back to that spot. That way, other users can locate usable Scooters easier. 

It’s as simple as that folks. There are lots of ways to be courteous about your Spin Scooter usage, even if they aren’t all possible at the same time. The bottom line is to treat these Scooters in the way you would like to see them returned if you were to be the next user.

Thankfully, Emily O’Neil, a 19-year-old Political Science and Public Service major, and most other students believe, just as I do, that the majority of Spin users, “use them in good ways to like get to classes and use them respectfully.”

Post-Pandemic Self-Care: Gone and Sadly Forgotten?

Hakuna Matata! We are mask-free and moving on; welcome to April 2022! Do we just want to look forward and forget about the pandemic of the past or should we reflect on the valuable lessons learned from this tragedy?

COVID-19 has negatively impacted society in countless ways. People were robbed of their financial stability, isolated from social connection with friends and family, plagued by uncertainty and fear, and surrounded by loss and suffering. Individuals are rightfully hopeful for brighter days ahead, but it would be a mistake to leave behind our efforts toward personal improvement that taught us about ourselves and the ways to enhance our wellbeing.

Prior to 2020, society awarded little priority to mental health, work-life balance, and personal fulfillment and wellness. One of the best outcomes of the pandemic is the increased attention to personal well-being. In order to tune out the societal whirlwind induced by a worldwide crisis, people turned inwards to perform activities that brought them a sense of stability and restoration. Disguised as new hobbies and ways to pass the time, self-care practices became a new norm.

As a college student before this crisis, I was accustomed to constant movement, minimal sleep, and almost no time to myself. When life shut down, I was bombarded with free-time and a plethora of mixed emotions. To cope, I spoke with friends and read on social media about the different ways that people were taking care of themselves and passing time throughout the day. I decided to start a process of trial and error to find a practice that brought me peace and formed a habit to improve my day.

I stumbled upon ten minute yoga classes on the Peloton app, and I would like to argue that the way in which I begin each morning has changed forever.

Photo by Elina Fairytale on

Waking up and practicing mindfulness sets the tone for the rest of my day. Yoga provides an opportunity for reflection and gratitude and centers me before all of the noise of the outside world kicks in. Plus, it only requires as little as 10 minutes a day! I caught myself constantly thinking “Why did I never try this before?”

I found a passion for self-care and set out on a journey to advocate for these practices beyond the restraints of a pandemic era. This restoration is increasingly important during society’s return to normal as people need to continue to tend to their well-being.

On the University of Pittsburgh’s campus, I interviewed college students of all ages to learn about their individual experiences with self-care. To my surprise, every student I interviewed participated in some kind self-care activity during the pandemic. Students started to read, cook, bake, meditate, play music, and more.

First-year engineering student Alex Smith started to meditate and improve his sleep schedule. Danielle Calling, a senior business student, started to go on walks and allocate more time to spend with her family. Both students continue these practices in smaller ways today because they recognized that acts of self-care made a positive impact on their lives.

When asked why she took up baking during Covid, first-year Pitt Law student Lauren Bauer said, “[Before Covid] who had time to make macaroons?” Bauer claims she has always enjoyed baking but simply never had enough hours to experiment.

Time shortage appears to be a common barrier. First-year psychology student Maeve Sheehan started doing various forms of art that she had only performed for classes prior to the pandemic. She claims that this activity calmed her anxiety and took her mind somewhere peaceful because the pandemic brought a surplus of time to overthink. Even though she does art less while school is in session, she plans to return to it this summer when she has more time.

While college students and people of all ages alike may have less time to devote to personal activities, the importance of practicing self-care and seeking rejuvenation has not faded. There might not be enough time to make macaroons each day or read an entire book, but continuing these practices in small ways can still offer worthwhile benefits.

Sam Hovis, senior business student, allocates ten or fifteen minutes a day to sit down and read a book. Even though reading only assumes a fraction of her day, she attests that “it helps me stay relaxed and know that I am doing something for myself.”

According to a 2019 study published on the “Impact of a Yoga and Meditation Intervention on Students’ Stress and Anxiety Levels,” college students who took one hour over the course of six weeks to practice yoga or meditation reported a significant reduction in stress and anxiety. The findings of this research “suggest that adopting a mindfulness practice for as little as once per week may reduce stress and anxiety in college students.”

Student interviews and research support the idea that the most effective way to continue restoration practices is to devote a feasible amount of time to this practice either daily or weekly. A sustainable way to practice self-care is to make it a habit. Start small. Instead of hoping to have time to meditate for an hour each day, block out five minutes daily on your calendar for a week. If all goes well, increase it to eight minutes the following week, then ten minutes the next.

There is no perfect formula: no perfect activity, no perfect amount of time, and no perfect way to take care of yourself. Those decisions belong to you. The best act of self-care is the one that renews your individual energy, centers you, and is something that you enjoy.

I urge you to continue practicing what centered you during the pandemic. If you did not practice self-care, start now. The benefits may feel invisible at first, but over time they may just change your life for the better.