University expansion becomes possible trend across Patriot League schools


As outlined in President John Simon’s Path to Prominence initiative, Lehigh is aiming to increase the undergraduate population by 1,000 students and the graduate population by 500 students, recruit 100 new faculty members and add a College of Health, all in the next 10 years.

The changes in the Lehigh and the Bethlehem communities mirror those of other schools in the Patriot League. Across the 10 schools in the Patriot League, several universities are undergoing varying degrees of expansion. 

This September, Lafayette College made a request to the city of Easton to construct new dormitories. The city ultimately rejected the school’s proposal, but the planning commission solicitor allowed the school to appeal the decision to the city council, according to Lehigh Valley Live

Boston University also plans to expand. The school is looking to complete a new undergraduate residential dorm, alumni center and theater and production center in the next few years, according to Boston University Facilities and Management.

Colgate University, located in rural New York, has already acted on its expansion plan.

“We have expanded by adding to campus, opened up a new ice rink (and are) currently constructing three major buildings: a career services (building) and two new residence halls,” said Dan DeVries, the director of media relations at Colgate. “We don’t see any need to expand further in other areas because we’re already situated on 575 acres.”

Unlike Lehigh, however, Colgate has no immediate desire to increase its undergraduate population.

DeVries said the undergraduate population remains the same at 2,900 students and he does not see that number changing in the near future. 

Some Patriot League schools,  like American University, have no future plans for expansion.

“We have no plans present, but like any other university, we always have a wish list in terms of things we would like to get done,” said Doug Dull, an associate athletic director for communications at American. “Part of the problem at American is the campus, because it’s pretty locked in in terms of the campus footprint being a part of the metro D.C. area.”

Loyola University Maryland, Bucknell University, Holy Cross and Lafayette College did not respond to requests to comment.

Lori Friedman, the director of media relations at Lehigh, said in an email that the university expansions include a new 427-bed dormitory called the SouthSide Commons on Broadhead Avenue, which will be completed by 2019.

Friedman said 175 Lehigh employees from various administrative officers will be relocated to the Gateway at Greenway Park, currently under construction at the intersection of New Street and East Third Street.

Transportation Services will add a Lehigh bus stop on Mechanic Street, opposite the new building.

Another project, scheduled to begin Nov. 13, is the construction of Brinker Lofts, formerly known as the Lehigh Service Building. This new 30-unit apartment building will have first-floor retail space and is open to anyone who wants to live in the Lehigh Valley, not just Lehigh students.

In recent years, South Bethlehem has undergone a series of urban development projects, including updates to the Fahy Bridge, construction of a new parking garage and construction of the Greenway Commons, which is nearing completion.

The Greenway Commons apartment complex will offer 95 luxury apartments above a first-floor retail space across from Northampton Community College and is estimated to be completed in spring 2018.

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  1. Lehigh’s proposed expansion could be a moot point if Lehigh doesn’t relax its current social policies, and quickly, or there will be NO students left at Lehigh in 10 years. Word is beginning to spread about abusive and harassing treatment of students by Lehigh and Bethlehem Police, unjust administration of the Student Code of Conduct, and excessive crackdowns on anything even resembling a party both on and off campus, including citations issued for utterly ridiculous reasons, disproportionate to other Lehigh Valley colleges and the rest of the greater Bethlehem community.

    Essentially, what we are witnessing is an outrageous overreach of authority in an attempt to control every aspect of students’ lives OUTSIDE of the classroom. Lehigh has used the unfortunate recent tragedies at other universities as an excuse, not merely to cut down on risky behavior, but to eliminate it completely and remake the entire social fabric at Lehigh, and it is not for the better! Current Lehigh students describe the oppressive environment as “unfair,” “no fun anymore,” “Le high-school,” “prison,” “tired of jumping through hoops.” In all my 30+ years as an alum and Lehigh parent, I have never once heard Lehigh students utter the words “no fun” and Lehigh in the same sentence! Never has the morale of Lehigh students been so low. Instead of being treated like the incredibly bright, curious, creative, fun-loving, independent young ADULTS that they are, they are being treated like unruly schoolchildren. Is this the Lehigh President Simon envisions for his Path to Prominence? Is Vice-Provost for Student Affairs Hall feeling that the first few months of his tenure have been a stunning success? Does Chief Shupp have some built-up frustration he feels the need to take out on students as he cites them relentlessly like never before in his tenure before he rides off into the sunset in a couple of months? Pathetic and disgusting. This is truly unfair to all those students (and their parents who foot the bills) who applied and matriculated to a completely different Lehigh than exists today, and now are questioning the choice they made. Parents – have you also been hearing complaints from your kids? Previously, we worried about our kids having so much fun it might interfere with their studies. Now they claim they’re not having any fun at all. Where’s the balance? These should be the best years of their lives!

    Believe it or not, Lehigh, most college students DO like to party occasionally, and they DO like to have fun! And even if much of this fun includes alcohol, there are other ways to approach the issue of abusive consumption. Lehigh has been careful not to over-publicize these crackdowns to alumni, parents and potential students, but once word spreads – and it inevitably will – that Lehigh not only is not a top party school anymore, but that the administration has an adversarial relationship with its own students that includes encouraging ARREST if caught drinking underage, applications by the type of students that have made Lehigh extremely successful for 150 years (well-rounded, work hard/play hard) will plummet. I predict Lehigh will eventually need to lower their academic standards to fill the additional openings Simon’s “Path to Prominence” promises, and as Lehigh’s rankings go down and the social environment becomes more restrictive, alumni will stop coming back and the donations will stop as well. A death spiral brought on by the current Lehigh administration itself!

    Perhaps I’m wrong, and I hope I am for the sake of our once-great alma mater. But for me, many alumni, parents and students, I can honestly say with regard to what is going on now –


  2. The comments on American University are not the whole picture. New construction will be hard for a AU due to lack of available land. However, in the last 5 years, American has added a number of new student residential buildings including a whole new East Campus which includes residential, academic and additional food options. The law school was also moved to AU owned land and completely renovated to meet demand.

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