As President Simon, Pat Johnson and I shared with the Lehigh community in an email earlier today, current COVID-19 conditions have prompted our decision to limit the number of undergraduate students living on campus this Fall to first-year students and those with exceptional learning or personal situations. The combination of increases in case counts regionally and nationally, travel restrictions requiring quarantine and limits on testing capacity led us to conclude that we should house all students in single sleeping rooms and significantly limit the sharing of bathroom spaces. These constraints mean that we will not be able to house as many students as originally planned. Therefore, we have identified first-year students as the highest priority group for on-campus housing because we want to be able to introduce these students to the Lehigh community through an in-person experience.
This decision changes our plan for the Fall primarily with respect to who will be living on campus, but it also will likely affect the number of students attending in-person classes. Students’ plans to come to Bethlehem may change given the restriction of access to on-campus housing. Sophomores, juniors and seniors living off campus may still attend in-person classes and are expected to follow the same health and self-screening protocols as those living on campus before returning. However, students will not be permitted to live in Greek houses, which will impact sophomores in particular. As a result, students may be making some changes in their schedules and instructors may need to adjust some aspects of their courses. We will share more details after we learn more about students’ decisions.
I understand the disappointment that accompanies this news and all the changes that have preceded it—not just for students, but for faculty and staff as well. We would all prefer to be on campus, enjoying the scheduled and spontaneous face-to-face interactions so central to life at Lehigh. Although this was a difficult decision to make, I’m certain it’s the correct one, as it prioritizes the health and safety of all our students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the Bethlehem community. That has always been our focus, and will remain as such in the months ahead.
The changes across the country and in the region that prompted this decision also will affect other aspects of life at Lehigh. We must remain diligent in protecting the health and safety of people on campus. As the Fall approaches we all must be sure to do the things that we know afford protection against the coronavirus. Wear a mask, maintain six feet of distance, and if you feel sick, don’t come to campus. Everyone should be filling out their daily symptom checker via the HawkWatch App or web link. We are prepared, through our Student Code of Conduct process, to suspend students if they do not abide by the rules that they've agreed to.
As we shared this morning, occupational health services will be provided to faculty and staff by Lehigh Valley Health Network. You will be receiving additional detailed information about how they will assist in testing, contact tracing, training and other services.
This semester will be a very different one for all of us, whether we are working on campus or remotely. In my short time at Lehigh, I already have witnessed the deep and sincere dedication of our faculty and staff to our students. I am confident in our collective ability to deliver a Lehigh-caliber educational experience, and in the individual commitment each of you has made to providing the same level of rigor you would in any other semester. Our students are counting on us to maintain—and perhaps even elevate—the inspiring academic community to which we all belong. Thank you for all you do.
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Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs