8.6.20: Fall 2020 Return to Campus Protocols for First-Year and Transfer Students

A message sent from Student Affairs. 

Story by

Carina Sitkus

Dear Students,

As you are aware, Lehigh announced on Friday, July 31, that, due to concerns about the continued spread of COVID-19 around the country and the world, the university would be limiting the on-campus experience this fall to first-year students, along with those who have been granted an exception for campus access due to their unique academic or personal circumstances.

We have missed our interactions with our students and are pleased that some of you will have the opportunity to engage with your fellow first-year students on an in-person basis. At the same time, it is essential that we move forward with a collective understanding that the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 will require at least a temporary reimagining of a traditional residential college experience. This new reality will pose challenges for us all.

For those who choose the fully remote option, Lehigh has invested much time and effort into expanding and improving our ability to deliver a high-quality educational experience online, and we are confident that our remote offerings this fall will be both dynamic and engaging. Those living on campus should understand that campus life will be visibly and noticeably different than it would be under normal circumstances, as we will all be asked to take steps to promote a safe and healthy Lehigh community.

As part of our health and safety plan, those coming to campus will be required to undergo COVID-19 testing prior to arriving on campus. Lehigh has contracted with a company called Vault Health to handle our testing program, and you will be receiving information from the Health and Wellness Center about the testing process shortly. You must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test before accessing campus. Please be on the lookout for these communications and respond as quickly as possible. As part of this process, you will be asked to provide an address where your test will be delivered the next day. Please be sure to list the address where you are currently located so that you will receive the test at that address. You will be asked to schedule an online virtual appointment with a Vault Health representative to conduct an observed saliva sample collection, and you will be provided with instructions about how to send your test back for processing. It is important that you complete this test as soon as possible so that we can receive your documentation before you come to campus.  

Additionally, please be reminded that students traveling to campus from states now classified as “hot spots” by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania must also self-quarantine outside of a “hot spot” area for 14 days before their arrival on campus. Housing Services will also be reaching out to students for whom this requirement applies after housing assignments are made to gather additional information on individual quarantine plans. As noted previously, late arrival may be possible for these individuals, and families should wait for guidance from the university before making travel arrangements to campus.

Until further notice, everyone on campus will be wearing face coverings, practicing physical distancing, and meeting and learning in significantly modified physical or virtual environments. Even if you are on campus this fall, it is possible that many of your courses may be delivered remotely. Social gatherings and traditional campus life offerings will be limited, and if the situation with the virus worsens, we may be forced to change course once more.

All of us who will be studying, working and living on and around campus this fall—students, faculty, and staff—have a shared responsibility to make decisions that are in the best interest of our Lehigh community. Lehigh maintains expectations of all members of the campus community. The coming semester, in particular, will have expectations related to the health and safety of community members around COVID-19, which are outlined in the Social Contract that all students must agree to before arriving on campus or beginning coursework. You will be asked to sign this contract as part of the return-to-campus training course we will be sharing with you shortly.

We expect that you will follow the guidelines we will set forth to the best of your ability. As always, in cases where students put others at risk by failing to meet these expectations, the Lehigh University Code of Conduct will be enforced. Specifically, we call your attention to: Article III, Section 2: Respect for Others, which states, “Lehigh University expects that all students will act in a civil manner that reflects maturity, social responsibility, and respect towards others and the Lehigh Community;” and Article III, Section 4: Respect for Community, which states, “As members of the Lehigh University Community, students are expected to serve as ethical representatives. They are expected to know and follow the Code of Conduct, and show respect for the faculty, staff, community members and administrative processes that are in place to maintain and support our community standards. Students are expected to hold themselves and others accountable and report violations of the Code of Conduct or other violations to the University.”

Some of you may be drawn to informal social gatherings off campus. These events are a particular area of concern, not only related to the spread of COVID-19 among our students, but also among our South Bethlehem neighbors as well. Students are expected to limit attendance to any events held off campus to 10 or fewer participants (including residents of the house) in an effort to maintain appropriate physical distancing. Students and student organizations who host or attend events that violate attendance expectations will be held accountable by the Code of Conduct. Outcomes for violating these expectations could include removal from housing, removal from in-person classes, suspension, or expulsion for individuals and dissolution or termination for organizations.

We know gathering in person is an important part of a campus experience to many, and we are making arrangements to create outdoor spaces on campus that can be used for events. Tents will be available for reservation and use by students, and we will be creative with offering programs and events for smaller groups.  Campus programs will continue to be offered, with smaller in-person, appropriately distanced groups. Virtual participation options will be available for those who are taking classes fully remotely or who are not near campus. While this year will look different and we may not all be physically together as a community, we are committed to supporting these vital experiences and opportunities to stay connected with one another.

We understand that a vibrant social environment is important to our students, but the reality is that our ability to remain on campus—and, eventually, return to a more normal campus experience—relies on every member of the campus community to do their part to mitigate risk. Working together, we are confident that we can be successful in this effort, and know that you understand that we all have the responsibility to protect one another and our South Bethlehem neighbors during this challenging time. We are proud to welcome you to Lehigh and look forward to greeting you, whether in person or remotely, in just a few short weeks.

Sincerely,

Ricardo Hall, Ph.D.
Vice President for Student Affairs

Katherine Lavinder
Dean of Students

Holly Taylor
Assistant Dean of Students/Director
Office of Student Conduct & Community Expectations

Story by

Carina Sitkus