Lehigh has announced it will open for the fall 2020 semester. However, a new email sent to faculty on June 11, 2020, shows most courses will still have some kind of remote class meetings. (Alexis McGowan/B&W Staff)

How open will campus be this fall? Much will depend on individual professors and scheduling concerns

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A new email sent to faculty from the Provost’s Office and obtained by The Brown and White paints a different picture of how the fall semester will look.

The email, sent to faculty on June 11, stands in contrast to an email the entire campus received just a day earlier, which announced campus would open for the fall semester and classes would start on time on Aug. 24.

The email, signed by Provost Pat Farrell and Incoming Provost Nathan Urban, said faculty will need to take a different approach than last semester. The administration is recommending professors and instructional staff develop a blended approach between potential in-person and online coursework, with the online coursework serving as the “backbone” of their course.

The June 10 email to the campus as a whole spoke more generally of the need for a hybrid between remote and in-person class meetings.

“For these reasons, the majority of our fall curriculum will be offered in a way that works both for those who are on campus and also for those who are unable to be present in our classrooms,” according to the original June 10 email.

That June 10 email prefaced flexibility between online and in-person learning for faculty and students who may not be able to travel to campus, but still emphasized a plan that includes in-person classes.

“We plan to begin the academic semester on August 24, as scheduled, and to complete in-person instruction by Thanksgiving,” the June 10 email said. “Remote instruction after Thanksgiving will likely be needed to complete fall courses.”

Farrell and Urban noted in the June 11 faculty-only email that coursework may take place via Zoom, in a classroom, or a blend of both.

However, the June 11 email also states that there will be a reliance on online learning regardless of the class.

“With all this in mind, faculty should plan to have their fall courses accessible to remote students throughout the semester,” the email said. “This will accommodate students who cannot attend class in a live setting, as well as faculty who may also not be able to teach in-person for health or personal reasons.”

The email also expressed concerns over classroom space and availability in order to abide by social distancing requirements. The administration is looking at expanding “the times and days that we use our classroom facilities by looking at our scheduling a bit differently.”

“The result will be a significant amount of online learning in every course, and effective use of live education opportunities where that is possible,” the email said.

Ultimately, class meetings that do take place on campus will have less students. The administration said conducting an in-person class “may require a different approach from what worked a year ago.”

“We urge you to use in-classroom time for learning experiences that most benefit from people being physically together,” the email said. “These changes are made to support your health and safety, and that of the Lehigh and Bethlehem communities.” 

The email also urges faculty to begin preparations for the fall semester now and recommends professors spend time learning from and collaborating with others on their remote experiences in spring 2020. While there was no specific plan included for how faculty might prepare in these next eight weeks, the email noted faculty will be receiving several communications in the weeks ahead from the Faculty Senate, Library and Technology Services and individual deans or chairs.

“We understand all of this preparation will require deliberate planning, learning and collaborating, as well as considerable changes to your normal course-preparation activities,” the email said. “We also understand that for some, time spent in preparation for fall courses is time not spent on scholarship or other faculty responsibilities.”

The June 11 email only addressed academics, while the June 10 email also spoke on housing, dining, health and safety and behavioral shifts members of the campus community will need to agree to. Though the original email provided a basic framework for moving forward with on-campus living, the university admitted not everything is in place at this time — and much will depend on the results of a Housing Services survey to determine how many students will be living on campus come August.

“We recognize that students and parents are seeking more detailed information about the on-campus residential experience they can expect for fall, and we are working to provide those answers,” the June 10 email said.

Neither the original June 10 email nor the June 11 email directly addressed Division I athletics.

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