5.21.20: Task Force Information and Feedback (Students and Families)

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

Dear Lehigh Students and Families,

First, congratulations again on the completion of the academic year, and for our incoming students and families, we are looking forward to you joining our community.

We are actively planning for the fall semester, and four Task Forces are engaged in 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. You can read a summary of the charge of these Task Forces below.

We welcome ideas and suggestions you might have to inform and guide the work of these Task Forces. To that end, we have established an email address, inopen@lehigh.edu, to gather your input. It will be shared with the relevant Task Force and with the university’s senior leadership.

Several weeks ago, we provided a survey asking students to share their experience and feedback on this past semester, and those responses have been invaluable in our planning.

Our decision-making will be guided by a set of core 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.

We are hopeful that we will be welcoming students on campus in some fashion and expect to gain greater clarity on what the fall semester might look like through the course of the summer.

I thank you for your continued patience and support as we navigate the layered considerations and work to determine what is in the best interest and safety of our entire community, and I wish you all the best for your health and well-being.


John D. Simon ’19P



Task Force Summaries

1. Task Force to Safely Open the Lehigh Campus

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 a 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.

2. Task Force for Academic Planning

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.

3. Task Force for Financial Planning

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.

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

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.