Lehigh announced a hiring freeze, a suspension of position re-evaluations and a suspension of scheduled merit salary increases due to take effect July 1 in an email.
The April 15 email made note of the impacts the coronavirus has had on not only remote learning and teaching, but on the university’s financial and budgetary planning.
“Taken together, along with the operational changes necessitated by our COVID-19 response, we must consider the impact on Lehigh’s finances as we plan for the fall and beyond,” the email said. “We undertake this planning at a time of great uncertainty. We are hopeful but have no way of knowing when we will resume more normal operations on campus.”
Signed by Provost Pat Farrell and Pat Johnson, the vice president for Finance and Administration, the email was shared with The Brown and White by a faculty member, since students did not receive the communication.
The email also said the university would continue to restrict non-essential travel and that the Budget Office “will be reviewing all budgets to uncover opportunities for expense reduction.”
The university acknowledged the difficult economic situations many are enduring due to the pandemic. More than 20 million jobless claims have been filed nationwide in the past month, students have had to change their summer plans and local businesses have suffered.
“We anticipate that the financial situation of some of our students will have changed, and ensuring access to a Lehigh education remains a priority,” the email said.
Meanwhile, as all non-essential construction ceased across Pennsylvania, ongoing projects — like the Singleton, Hitch and Maida Residences and Health Science and Technology building — have been suspended.
The email said the university is evaluating how to proceed with construction when the order is lifted, while accounting for the “substantial investment made in these projects to date.”
As of April 18, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has tallied 31,069 confirmed cases of the virus.
According to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center, Northampton County has 1,396 confirmed cases of COVID-19, while Lehigh County has 2,141 confirmed cases. Both counties have 29 deaths.
Nationwide, there are 726,625 confirmed cases — and 2,310,572 globally.