4.23.20: Update for Students from Provost Farrell

A message from Provost Pat Farrell to undergraduate and graduate students. 

Dear Lehigh Students,

None of you asked for the Spring 2020 semester you got. None of us did, either. And yet here we are, a different-looking Lehigh, but Lehigh all the same. Over the past several weeks we’ve seen our community rise to the many challenges of this pandemic and the changes we’ve had to make because of it, and I commend you for your efforts to continue to work and learn under these new conditions.

As we see your many accomplishments, we also recognize your disappointment. We know this semester hasn’t been easy for any member of the Lehigh community. It’s been particularly difficult for seniors and for graduate students completing their degrees, as most are finishing their time at Lehigh while not actually at Lehigh. These students are feeling the absence of their classmates, faculty and staff, as well as the loss of highly anticipated springtime events and traditions. Goodbyes this year looked different than they would have a year ago, and the memories Spring 2020 has bestowed upon our world are quite different than those the Class of 2020 had imagined at the start of the academic year. On a personal note, I could not have imagined spending my last few months as Lehig h’s provost without setting foot on campus, applauding graduates in Goodman Stadium, or partaking in the many celebrations that accompany the end of an academic year. We continue to move forward as a community, but we see the loss you’re experiencing. We feel it, too.

We’re hearing that many of you have concerns about your class performance and grades, and we understand that our new remote learning environment, as well as a lack of in-person contact and regular, “normal” conversation with your instructors and classmates, can contribute to that worry. I’ve asked faculty and instructional staff to reach out to students if they haven’t done so already. We miss that in-person contact, too, and encourage you to reach out as well, as you need it. Know that the special grading scheme we have provided for undergraduates is intended to help ease the burden this very different semester may have placed on you. And we hope that graduate students will take advantage of the already flexible grading policies when necessary. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and share your concerns. Your faculty want to see you succeed and are here to offer guidance and support as the semester continues.

If you haven’t already done so, I encourage undergraduate students to respond to the survey shared by Student Affairs. Your feedback will help Lehigh administrators, faculty and staff better understand your experiences and concerns this semester. Graduate students, I encourage you to be candid with your faculty members about how the semester has gone for you as well.

You might be thinking ahead to what the coming months might hold for Lehigh. We do not take lightly any of the decisions this pandemic has forced us to make, and we recognize the impact each has on the many members of our Lehigh community. Every step forward requires careful consideration. In all cases we rely on the guidance of medical experts and government leaders, as well as the continued commitment and effort of all of you.

We’ve already determined that all summer classes will be online and on-campus programs are canceled through the end of July. I hope that at some point, preferably early in the summer, we will be able to slowly repopulate labs and some other on-campus facilities. I expect we will need to employ social distancing for some time to come, and, as state requirements are eased, develop sensible ways to “get back to work” while minimizing the possibility of resurgence of the pandemic.

We have formed a senior leadership team to work through a variety of possible scenarios for Fall 2020, recognizing some of the choices are ours to make and some very important ones may be constrained by state or federal regulations. We hope to come to a clearer conclusion in June on the approach we should take for fall, so that we, and you, will have time to prepare with that approach in mind.

We will keep you all informed as we see when and how we can begin to return to campus, but we should not expect that on a single day everything will return to the way it was. I’m afraid that may take quite some time.

As we move into the last part of this semester, keep up the exceptional work. We are all proud of how you have found ways to manage this challenging situation. Please continue to connect with and lean on the Lehigh community—your fellow students, faculty and staff—in the weeks ahead.

Be well.

Pat Farrell