As we begin an academic year unlike any other, I want to wish you my very best for a year of intellectual and personal growth and discovery. You may find yourselves tested in ways you could not have imagined, as many of you have already. Regardless of where we are located or how we begin this new semester, there are important shared experiences and values that tie us together as a University community.
For those of you who will be accessing campus this fall, employees across the University have worked hard to prepare to welcome you back. We are grateful for their efforts. Rethinking the physical spaces on our campus; implementing strategies to de-densify our classrooms, libraries, gyms, social spaces and residence halls; enhancing our instructional technology; establishing testing protocols and procedures to mitigate the spread of the virus; and responding to individual circumstances required us to think about life at Lehigh in entirely new ways.
Our faculty have spent countless hours to ensure the academic excellence that is a hallmark of the Lehigh experience. Many have developed new approaches to teaching and research that build upon the investments Lehigh has made in technology. The results are a testament to their commitment to you.
The significant investments and improvements we have made to our remote technology and instruction will ensure that our academic rigor and excellence are maintained. We will, of course, all miss the in-person social and interactive components on which so many of us thrive.
We are at the beginning of our journey for this academic year. To make it a success, our entire community, on and off campus, must follow the health and safety procedures we have instituted. Our procedures may evolve as we learn more about the virus and how it spreads. At a minimum, wearing masks, practicing social distancing and frequent hand-washing are essential.
The stakes are high, and your decisions will play a critical role in protecting the health and safety of your friends and other members of the Lehigh community. Those decisions will also largely determine whether our campus can remain open.
Perhaps most important of all is limiting larger gatherings where the spread of the virus could lead to multiple infections. I know that limiting socializing with friends and abstaining from parties is disappointing and not always easy. Your willingness to comply with safety protocols and avoid large gatherings will make or break our efforts to keep our campus open in this limited way. Whether you live on campus or off campus, we expect you to limit any gathering to less than 10 people. As we have seen at other universities, large gatherings and parties can quickly lead to a reversal of all the planning and preparation that went into resuming limited on-campus learning.
I readily acknowledge that preparations for this academic year have at times been bumpy and frustrating for some of you. We have all appreciated your patience and understanding during this time. This new semester presents a tremendous opportunity for the Lehigh community. As we begin our first week of classes, I ask that all of you reflect on this opportunity and on your role in our success. Be flexible, kind and considerate of one another. Look out for the health and safety of the Lehigh and Bethlehem communities. Let’s take care of each other and see this through.
Welcome to the 2020-21 academic year, Mountain Hawks! I look forward to our shared collaboration in the year ahead.
John D. Simon ’19P