Dear Undergraduate 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.
First, we want to say that we share in your disappointment that Lehigh will not be fully opening this fall. University leadership spent months working through a return-to-campus plan, and we had every hope of welcoming our entire campus community back. Unfortunately, over the past few weeks, the situation as related to COVID-19 has changed dramatically, and we came to the conclusion that we could not fully open campus while still protecting the health and well-being of those on our campus and our friends and neighbors in South Bethlehem.
Though the majority of you will not be on campus this fall, we understand that many students have chosen to secure housing for the upcoming academic year in the neighborhoods surrounding campus. A small number of you will also be granted the exemption that will allow you to secure on-campus housing as well. Given this, we wanted to take a moment to share with you some insights into how this semester is going to look in terms of academics, student life and health and safety.
We want to emphasize that all students have the option of studying remotely this fall. If your circumstances permit you to do so, we would encourage you to choose that option, which is associated with a 10 percent reduction in tuition. 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. Please refer to the communication that was sent Monday, Aug. 3, for more information, and please note that if you do choose to study fully remotely, you will not have access to any campus facilities except for the Health & Wellness Center, even if you are living in South Bethlehem. Additionally, those who choose to have on-campus access 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 for returning to campus, those who do not elect the “fully remote” option and may be accessing campus services, even if you do not live on 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. For those who have been granted a housing exception, Housing Services will also be reaching out to students to 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 attached 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, faculty and staff, 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 for those who choose to have campus access. 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. We look forward to greeting you, whether in person or remotely, in just a few short weeks.
Ricardo Hall, Ph.D.
Vice President for Student Affairs
Dean of Students
Assistant Dean of Students/Director
Office of Student Conduct & Community Expectations