Mountaintop Campus has undergone renovations that began in Sept. 2016. The renovations project on Building C is a part of Lehigh’s ‘Path to Prominence’ initiative. (Courtesy of Brent Stringfellow)

Students express concerns regarding Path to Prominence

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Following the announcement of the Path to Prominence in October 2016, members of the Lehigh community have voiced concerns about potential downsides to the plan.  

As part of the expansion plan, several academic departments — including the art, architecture and design and computer science and engineering departments — will, or have already started to, move to Mountaintop campus.

Peik Shelton, ’18, an architecture major and teaching assistant for the art, architecture and design department, said he worries about the logistical changes as well as the change in working environment.

“As of now, it appears that only large open warehouse spaces are going to be available for students in the following semester,” he said. “Since the entire department will be using the same space, it seems nearly impossible to keep the environment quiet, compartmentalized and productive.”

As a student nearing graduation, Shelton said younger and incoming members of the department will miss out on a crucial part of the experience that made his classes so rewarding — interactions in the studio. 

Shelton said the department’s current home, Chandler-Ullmann, is in need of renovations. However, he does not want the logistics of the move to dictate design students’ learning experiences.

“Having gone through the architecture major, I’ve come to realize that the most crucial element in this line of study is the studio environment,” Shelton said. “Often times, I learned more from my peers’ criticism of my work.”

Victoria Kwiatkowski, ’21, said Path to Prominence can bring positive changes to campus as long as students’ voices are taken into consideration. 

“We are at the cusp of change at Lehigh and I believe this move can be successful and better for everyone if it is executed well and the department listens to the students and their concerns,” she said.

The Path to Prominence will also add a new college of health.

Rebecca Luttinen, ’20, said a health college is being added for the wrong reasons.

“I was reading an article in which President (John) Simon was quoted saying, ‘If you’re not in the health game, you’re not a player,’” Luttinen said. “That quote stuck with me because I felt like he meant that the reason we’re creating a health college is that we want to be a competitive university, not for the sake of the study of health.”

Luttinen said she is also worried about the continued encroachment into the Bethlehem community facilitated by the Path to Prominence.

“Campus is nice because you can get across it walking in 10-15 minutes,” Luttinen said. “If campus gets even bigger, I feel like we will impede even more on Bethlehem neighborhoods, and we already do not have that great of a relationship with the town, so if we continue to expand we are just going to be a leech in their community.”

The Path to Prominence aims to increase the student body by 1,000 students.  

Patrick Farrell, the provost and vice president for academic affairs, said alumni and students have shared their concerns about increasing the student body. He said some alumni in particular worry that this increase will change the Lehigh experience they had, though he explained there are measures in place to combat this change.

“I usually point out that we intend to increase faculty to keep the student to faculty ratio about constant, so access to faculty shouldn’t change,” Farrell said. “We are building new facilities, so quality of new housing, for example, will be better, in addition to having more of it.”

Farrell said he has spoken about the Path to Prominence with a number of alumni and parents groups and received an overall positive reception.

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