For the class of 2020, Lehigh’s campus and culture look fairly different than the way the seniors inherited the school just four years ago.
Lehigh has made some major decisions about construction and renovations, added new facilities and enacted changes in transportation that have affected student life, both on and off campus.
One of the most noticeable changes to Lehigh’s campus is the construction itself. Lehigh is in the middle of building a new College of Health and the Singleton, Hitch and Maida residence halls. This past year saw the completion of the renovations to Chandler-Ullmann Hall and the SouthSide Commons affiliated housing. Construction was also present on the Mountaintop Campus during the seniors’ stay on South Mountain.
“It took away a little bit from the beauty of Lehigh’s campus,” said Matthew Hamati, ‘20. “The campus itself was so put together, but now you see construction everywhere you go.”
Although the construction isn’t very welcoming, Hamati said he’s happy to see Lehigh improving their facilities and providing more resources for future students.
Rachel Buonasora, ’20, said she believes Lehigh is taking a step in the right direction by making these physical changes to the campus.
“With all the construction, our school was static, in a sense, but after each project or building has been completed, Lehigh has become more and more dynamic,” Buonasora said. “It’s been interesting to see that grow, and Lehigh is still at the core of it all, which I hope they’ll maintain.”
The buildings and resources, such as new dorms and the College of Health, will also attract a larger and more diverse student population, said Sibel Can, ‘20.
Hamati said he hopes Lehigh will continue to maintain competitiveness against other colleges, and he believes the College of Health will allow Lehigh to expand its horizons, academically.
The College of Health building, set to be completed in 2021, will be beneficial for students, whether they are on the pre-med track or not, Hamati said. It is not immediately clear how the coronavirus-related construction pause will impact the timing of the building’s opening.
Shannon Murphy, ‘20, is a behavioral neuroscience major, and she believes she could have benefited from the College of Health if it were available during her time at Lehigh.
“It’s unfortunate that the College of Health is opening after I graduate because it’s a resource that I definitely could’ve used,” Murphy said. “There would have been more professors that could’ve helped, courses that were offered and an extra study space.”
However, Murphy said she had a positive experience with the resources that were available to her, and she is excited to see Lehigh making new changes.
Can also said she is concerned about how Lehigh plans to maintain student life if all the focus is centered on increasing the student body, which she is worried will occur too soon and drastically.
Another concern about the increase in enrollment is maintaining Lehigh’s brand, Buonasora said.
“I trust that Lehigh Admissions will maintain high standards for letting students in,” Buonasora said. “Because it would be a shame to see them sacrifice the quality of students to increase enrollment.”
Nicholas Fox, ’20, said he is also concerned about the expected influx of students that will occur once the new facilities are completed.
“Not only will Lehigh need to find more space because of the increase in enrollment and decrease in parking spots, but the bus system will have to expand, especially because these new classroom spaces will most likely be on Mountaintop,” Fox said
For students who don’t have cars on campus, the changes in Lehigh’s bus system had a major impact on their daily lives. Murphy said the change in the bus schedule was the “biggest” she’s seen while at Lehigh, since she would take the bus every day her sophomore and junior years up to her Alpha Phi house.
The bus system changed to include different routes, additional stops and a new schedule. These changes could complicate transportation for student athletes, who often practice at Goodman Stadium.
“It was really frustrating because it would take us at least 45 minutes to get to practice by bus,” Can said. “So, for those of us who didn’t have cars on campus, we’d usually be late to practice.”
Hamati said, for better or worse, Lehigh’s campus is going to change — and it’s just something that will happen no matter what.
“Lehigh always has a bigger picture than what we as students can see, and just because it’s not what students are used to doesn’t mean that it’s not right for the future of Lehigh,” Fox said.