A Message from President Simon:
Dear Members of the Campus Community and Lehigh Families,
Yesterday I informed you of our decision to move to remote instruction for a two-week period beginning March 16. Several new developments have led us to conclude that conducting classes remotely for the remainder of the semester (through the end of final exams on Wednesday, May 13) is necessary and in the best interest of the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff, and of the greater Bethlehem community.
I recognize this is an unprecedented decision. Our residential experience—the close contact with faculty, and the learning that takes place in and out of the classroom and labs—is a valuable element of a Lehigh education. Yet, these extraordinary times require extraordinary measures, and I have great confidence that our community will work and learn together, and deliver on the quality education Lehigh is rightly known for. I know the character of Lehigh, and I know Lehigh will step up to this challenge. The university will remain open, and we continue to bolster and adjust operations central to executing our educational and research mission.
Making a rapid transition to remote teaching and learning is, without question, a challenge. But Lehigh gets things done. And what we do, we do well. Many of our faculty already have experience using remote teaching approaches. Those who did not have been actively partnering with our Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning and other Library and Technology Services staff to quickly learn and apply the fundamentals of remote teaching and learning.
One of our faculty members said today, “From talking to colleagues around the country (and the globe) who are heading online shortly, it is clear that Lehigh is ahead of the game in terms of resources made available to faculty for this transition.”
Since my communication yesterday, the first confirmed case of COVID-19 has been reported in the Lehigh Valley. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified a significantly larger number of countries classified as Warning Level 3 and at this time, there is now a Global Alert Level 2, indicating the rapid progression of COVID-19 worldwide. The World Health Organization has designated COVID-19 a pandemic.
This confirms the advice we are receiving from health professionals that the virus will continue to spread in the Lehigh Valley beyond two weeks. While we have no positive cases on the Lehigh campus, health professionals continue to advise that social distancing helps reduce the rate of the spread of the virus. We have an obligation to prevent large groups from coming together in classroom settings and in close living quarters.
Yesterday, we communicated the process by which students can pick up vital items they need to continue their academic studies. We recognize that given the extended length of time, additional students may choose to pick up these items. Our Housing Services team will be sending separate instructions later today regarding this process and information for those experiencing financial hardship as a result of this exceptional scenario. Our campus staff are taking extra measures to clean facilities that will be accessed during this time. Those returning to campus should limit the number of people who accompany them and make sure they are not experiencing symptoms of illness, including fever, cough, or difficulty breathing.
In addition, to mitigate the risk of bringing the virus to campus, all faculty, staff, students, and visitors who traveled to countries designated by the CDC as a “Warning Level 3” country should self-monitor for 14 days and be symptom-free before coming to campus:
- Warning Level 3 countries as of today now include: China, South Korea, Iran, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City
- Please remember this list is changing frequently: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices
- At this time the CDC has designated the Alert Level 2 globally.
Please note the following updates since our last message:
- As stated above, we are extending remote coursework through the end of the academic semester, including the exam period, through Wednesday, May 13. Students should continue communicating directly with their instructors for pertinent information
- Resources for students will be accessible remotely.
- Completion of coursework will require considerable steady work by students and teaching faculty to get the most out of the learning experience. Students should be ready to apply themselves with as much interest and energy (if not more) than they might have applied on campus.
- The Patriot League Council of Presidents has canceled all spring athletics practices and competitions through the remainder of the academic year.
- We have not made a determination regarding Commencement, and expect to share updates in the next few weeks.
- In addition to implementing remote coursework, all non-essential gatherings of 25 or more people are strongly discouraged, and events for 100 or more individuals are prohibited through at least the end of the academic year on Wednesday, May 13. Organizers should postpone meetings and events, or consider remote technology. This period of time may be extended as needed.
- All other operations on campus will continue, and we will communicate any potential changes to our procedures as they progress.
Thank you to our students, faculty, and staff for coming together as a community during this time.
Detailed information will continue to be updated on our website: https://www2.lehigh.edu/news/updates-on-novel-coronavirus
John D. Simon ’19P