Despite a shortened semester on campus this fall — in-person activities will end at Thanksgiving — housing and dining costs will not be changed from the original 2020-21 figures.
Housing and dining costs are staying the same despite on-campus students spending two to three less weeks in their residence halls than they would in a typical semester.
These costs were approved before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent closure of the university for the second half of the spring 2020 semester.
Ozzie Breiner, director of Housing Services, said in an email that housing costs will remain the same to cover the costs related to COVID-19 prevention.
“The university will be taking additional steps to ensure that residence halls are clean and safe for students,” Breiner said in his email.
Costs of meal plans will also remain the same, and meal plan offerings will remain largely unchanged from semesters past. The one exception is the conversion of the 19 meals per week option to a 250-block plan.
The university has not yet decided on the cost of tuition for this year, though a 4 percent increase was announced in February.
While all on-campus dining locations will be open to students, Bruce Christine, general manager of Dining Services, and David Joseph, executive director of Student Auxiliary Services, have planned large scale changes to the way dining will work this fall.
Changes will be evident even before students enter a dining hall. Joseph said rather than handing their student ID to an employee to be swiped, students will swipe themselves into the dining hall to avoid unnecessary contact.
Self-service in the dining halls will be completely eliminated, meaning there will be no buffet style dining. Instead, Sodexo staff will hand students plates and utensils, and students can then walk over to a station of their choice, where the food will be plated by another staff member, Joseph said.
Christine and Joseph are looking to run all campus dining spaces at 50 percent capacity, and there will be new seating arrangements to promote social distancing.
The Asa Packer room on the third floor of the University Center will be used as additional student dining for lunch only, in order to spread students out.
“Once we hit 50 percent occupancy, the student is either going to have to go to another point of sale or use the eco-containers,” Christine said. “We’re going to make sure we have plenty of those.”
Eco-containers are reusable containers offered at dining halls for students who would like to carry out their food.
Despite procedural changes, all of the same stations in dining halls will be available, although some menu changes may take place.
Grab-and-go options will be expanded, giving students the ability to carry out their food and eat it in their residence halls or elsewhere on campus. Dining Services is also working with Parking Services to try out curbside pickup at locations like Pandini’s. Students will be encouraged to use Grubhub to place orders in advance, Joseph said.
Christine said while Northampton County is allowing self-serve dining, Dining Services is choosing to avoid it in the event the virus makes a resurgence in the fall.
“We’re not going self-serve because, if the county went back to ‘yellow,’ we wouldn’t be able to feed anybody,” Christine said, referencing Gov. Tom Wolf’s red-yellow-green phased reopening plan.
Hours at the university’s dining locations will remain largely the same, however, Christine and Joseph are evaluating whether Hawk’s Nest, the university’s primary late-night dining option, will still be able to stay open until 2 a.m.
Despite everything going on, Christine said Lehigh dining is one of the few among their peers to be expanding dining services and options.
“We want to keep people safe, we want to keep them nourished (and) we want to keep you focused on what you’re here for,” Christine said. “You should not have to fear coming into our places to dine with us.”