Editorial: A tale of three emails

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Monday: “The impact of the Trembley Park demolition for you as a rising junior/senior means that there will not be any on-campus housing options available next year.”

Tuesday: “A message with more complete information on residential options will be sent by the end of this week.”

Wednesday: “This message should not have been sent and we apologize for the confusion it created within our student community.”

From issues in communication to questions of honesty, the tri-pronged email blast sent from different administrators, each one going out to different subsets of Lehigh students this week, has been nothing short of a fiasco.

While extravagant launches celebrated Lehigh’s expansion in New York and San Francisco, students strugged and stressed over where to live.

The timing of the original, sudden email eliminating on-campus housing for juniors and seniors during the 2019-2020 academic year could not have been worse.

Regardless of the administration’s intentions, it must realize how this dichotomy looked.

It made Lehigh look unprofessional and disorganized. Worst of all, it came across as if Lehigh had no concern for its students, the lifeblood of any university.

Everyone knows Lehigh is making big changes with the Path to Prominence, but those changes have been coming at the complete discretion of the university with little to no warning as to how the student body will be affected.

Current students are the ones who have to bear the burden of these changes, but they might not be the ones to fully reap the benefits or see the purpose in all the changes as a result of Path to Prominence initiatives.

It’s understandable that the university has to prepare for expansion, such as the addition of new residence halls, academic buildings and bus routes. However, the university shouldn’t have increased admissions until it could provide enough housing to accommodate all students.

It doesn’t appear as if Lehigh has faced any roadblocks in its Path to Prominence, so a potential shortage in housing should have been made explicit early on. Had the university released this information over the summer, students would have had adequate time to plan their futures.

Administrators appear to have an expectation that students are going to be flexible. However, as Student Senate proved when it mobilized and sent out a survey the same day as the initial email, students will not be pushed around.

After Senate received around 300 student responses and 80 parent responses in less than a day, the body drafted a resolution which provided clear and rational demands. No matter the stature of Lehigh’s administrators, it was the students who taught the lesson on professionalism.

Student Senate was not the only group who organized quickly. The Black Student Union, the Latino Student Alliance, the Student Political Action Committee and the Marching 97, among others, made sure to speak up.

Moving forward, there is still a lot to be done. Unprofessionalism and miscommunication are simply the surface level problems with this ordeal. Themes of accountability, inequity and gentrification are the biggest problems facing us in this housing crisis and they need to continue to continue to be talked about.

At the end of the day, all students know now is that Trembley will live to see another year.

But they do not know if their voices will continue to be heard.

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2 Comments

  1. John G. Lewis '90 on

    I have heard no reason why the administrators are not openly considering building dormitories on the site next to M&M. (This is the open area to the left of M&M as one is looking uphill.) Perfect for a dorm, while additionally being less controversial.

  2. Embarrassed to Be Associated on

    I’m sure the dissatisfaction that will inevitably result from this will ripple to Lehigh continuing to tumble down the US News charts. I never thought someone of my ilk or students of the caliber I remember from the school would end up being alums of an institution that could potentially be Tier 3 in no time at all.

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