5.20.20: Task Force Information and Feedback (Faculty and Staff)

A message from President Simon to faculty and staff about the Task Forces engaged in planning for the fall and the 2020-21 academic year, as well as information about how faculty and staff may provide input. 

Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues, 

I write to provide additional information regarding the Task Forces engaged in planning for the fall and the 2020-21 academic year, as well as information about how you can share your valuable input. 

As you are already aware, these Task Forces, outlined in more detail below, are in the process of planning and developing scenarios for a phased opening of campus in accordance with appropriate health, safety, and government guidelines, and also thinking ahead to our future beyond the pandemic. These scenarios will be recommended and reported to the senior leadership of the University, who will make recommendations to the Board of Trustees. 

Our planning will rest on the foundation of a series of core decision-making principles. 

They are

  • minimizing community health risk;
  • providing Lehigh-quality education and character;
  • enabling a Lehigh-quality student experience;
  • supporting current and future Lehigh research and scholarship;
  • maintaining financial stability;
  • supporting a fully engaged faculty and staff;
  • promoting equity across the Lehigh community;
  • embodying a responsible university and community member and instilling confidence by current and future constituents;
  • supporting an outlook of long-term sustainability;
  • complying with external requirements; and
  • maintaining flexibility and developing attitudes and processes that will enable optionality in the future.

Keeping these principles at the forefront, we welcome ideas and suggestions you might have to inform and guide the work of these Task Forces. To that end, we are gathering staff and faculty input at incovid@lehigh.edu. It will be shared with the relevant Task Force and with the university’s senior leadership. 

We encourage all to contribute, and updates will be provided to our community as we move forward. 

Thank you for your continued efforts in support of our mission and our students. 


John D. Simon ’19P


1. Task Force to Safely Open the Lehigh Campus

Brent Stringfellow (Associate VP and University Architect, Co-Chair), Chris Halladay (Associate VP, Human Resources, Co-Chair), Steve DeWeerth, Bob Flowers, Bill Gaudelli, Heather Hosfeld, Jackie Krasas, Katherine Lavinder, Kim Nimmo, Donald Outing, Georgette Phillips, Sarah Stevens, Nathan Urban, Whitney Witt 

Task Force Charge:  To establish the policies, procedures, and operational guidelines to enable the physical reopening of our campus to faculty, staff, students, and visitors, and do so in a deliberate and phased manner to promote the health and safety of the University community while supporting the mission and values of Lehigh. 

The Task Force will develop a clear, concise, and operationally sound plan that facilitates the start of activity as soon as it is permitted by government authorities and guidelines as well as the growth in campus activity until we are fully in residence. The group will create procedures that facilitate and support faculty, staff, and students in performing mission critical work on campus. The Task Force will strive to develop a plan that emphasizes flexibility for campus activities and operations to account for any external or internal events that would require additional response, such as a second wave outbreak. The plan will coordinate short-term steps with long-term strategy for Lehigh, mindful of how the steps we take now comport with the character of Lehigh as an institution. 

The plan will be developed considering the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Health Guidelines and recommendations of the CDC and other contributing health agencies (e.g. the American College Health Association). The recommended plan will be developed in coordination with the Task Forces listed below. The Task Force will also use data gathered via the faculty/staff survey and input from various subject matter experts. The plan is to be divided into two phases, Yellow and Green, reflecting the current phased approach being used by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.  The Task Force will focus initially on a plan for the Yellow Phase, describing a limited return of faculty, staff, and students to campus.

Task Force Community Engagement Approach: The Executive Group is responsible for recommending the reopening plan and protocols based on internal discussion, input from internal working groups, and review of external resources. The Task Force recommendations will be subject to the approval of senior leadership. This team coordinates (and in some cases overlaps) with other Lehigh Task Forces related to COVID-19. Working groups of faculty and staff, focused on specific aspects of the University, will inform the work of the executive group listed above.

2. Task Force for Academic Planning

Pat Farrell (Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Chair), Ric Hall, Jennifer Jensen, Pat Johnson, Doug Mahony, Greg Reihman, Nathan Urban

Task Force Charge:  To develop a plan to support academic coursework and educational continuity in the 2020-2021 academic year. The Task Force must prepare for situations of varying severity of COVID-19-related restrictions and will develop a structure for the academic curriculum for undergraduate and graduate courses. The priority for this Task Force is to promote a thriving academic environment for students, on campus if at all possible, and to maintain high-impact educational practices with creative responsiveness to changing scenarios. This group will develop criteria and procedures for changing the academic calendar, if needed, and drafting policies related to remote learning expectations for students and instructors.

Task Force Community Engagement Approach: Members will engage with respective University departments and faculty and staff. The Task Force will use information drawn from surveys of students (by Student Affairs and Library and Technology Services) and of faculty. Plans are in progress for discussions with representative groups of faculty, staff, parents, and students.

3. Task Force for Financial Planning

Pat Johnson (Vice President for Finance and Administration, Chair), Laura Chiles, Chris Halladay, Warren Loller, Doug Mahony, Jim Quinn

Task Force Charge:  To develop, assess, and plan for multiple financial scenarios for the University for the current Fiscal Year and Fiscal Year 2020-2021. The Task Force will utilize financial data, projections, and financial modeling tools to identify options and make recommendations to senior leadership for assessment of the various financial impacts of COVID-19 on the University, implications for the current and subsequent Fiscal Year, and options and plans to respond to the financial impact of COVID-19 and to promote the University’s financial resiliency for the next and future Fiscal Years. This group will assess the financial impact of recommendations made by the other Task Forces and external constraints.

Task Force Community Engagement Approach:  All the financial managers of each major business unit and each of the colleges will be contacted regularly for updates on spending, budget adjustments, reserves, and the potential impact of the pandemic on future activities.

4. Task Force for Forward-Thinking Planning Beyond the Crisis

Alan Snyder (Vice President and Associate Provost for Research and Graduate Studies, Chair), Sirry Alang, Leslie Chow, Jenna Lay, Rita Jones, Jeremy Littau, Lori McClaind, Corinne Post, Karen Rodriguez, Nathan Urban

Task Force Charge:  To consider what Lehigh should look like in a post–COVID-19 world, in a manner that informs how the University navigates through this period. The Task Force will focus on the shared sense of Lehigh’s mission and purpose that endures despite events, changing perspectives, and challenged assumptions. With intent that the Lehigh experience remains extraordinary in its transformative potential, the Task Force will work to discern ways in which the University community needs to grow, things we need to learn, and capacities we need to develop over the next two years. 

Task Force Community Engagement Approach:  The Task Force will proceed by engaging the community along various lines of inquiry: (1) Clarifying the University’s shared sense of enduring mission and purpose, independent of how universities’ worth and contributions have been measured in the recent past. What is true about Lehigh and the Lehigh community regardless of what happens, and how perspectives change, and what assumptions are challenged? (2) Discerning what the world of higher education and the external world might look like coming out of the current crisis. Regardless of how the COVID-19 pandemic progresses and concludes, what do we expect to remain true? (3) Determining where we at Lehigh want to be in two years. How can we be well-positioned to move ahead, amidst some knowns and a lot of unknowns? and (4) Identifying ways in which we need to develop, things we need to learn, and capacities we need to acquire over the next two years. The Task Force expects its inquiry to benefit from the perspectives of the diverse core group, literature and commentary on higher education and the evolving environment, and consultation with the wider Lehigh community.