Dear Members of the Lehigh Community,
We are only three weeks into the new semester, yet one thing is abundantly clear: The Lehigh community is together again. As I have walked the campus, sat in on classes, and spoken with students, faculty, and staff, I have heard from everyone how much they value the return to a residential campus experience with in-person learning.
When we were planning for the return of residential education, the scale of the challenge the delta variant would pose was unknown. One of the hard lessons we have all learned from this pandemic is that there is no road map. I understand and share the frustration of having begun the semester with high hopes of a return to normalcy, only to be faced with new restrictions these past ten days.
It is encouraging that campus case counts are beginning to decline, as last week’s message from the COVID-19 Response Team (CRT) indicated. Yet these temporary restrictions remain necessary if we are to keep our community safe while continuing to fulfill our educational mission.
I want to commend the CRT for their tireless efforts to guide Lehigh through this pandemic. They have met regularly since the first days of the pandemic; their actions are informed by science and are made in accordance with state and federal guidelines. University-wide, the number-one priority is the health and safety of our community. We are intent on providing the most complete residential living and learning experience possible under these conditions, and on doing all that we can to preserve residential in-person learning for the full academic year.
Amidst this latest challenge, there are many reasons for optimism. Our campus vaccination rate is high. Our health and safety protocols are robust. Our community members recognize the importance of masking and social distancing. Many of our staff and faculty are dedicating and volunteering their time, assisting with everything from staffing phone hotlines to moving students into isolation housing and delivering meals to them.
My thanks to you all for your patience as we work through this challenge, and for coming together as a community to take care of each other.
Joseph J. Helble ’82