University administration has announced plans for a "phased reopening" of campus on Aug. 24, 2020. The decision came as a result of Northampton County's transition to the yellow phase of reopening under Gov. Tom Wolf. (Sara Boyd/B&W Staff)

BREAKING: Lehigh announces new plans for fall semester; limited on-campus housing, tuition decrease for some

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Lehigh announced in an email on July 31 that they will limit the number of undergraduate students living in on-campus housing in the fall due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The email, signed by President John Simon, Provost Nathan Urban and Pat Johnson, the vice president of Finance and Administration, said Lehigh will only invite first-year students and students with extenuating reasons of personal or academic hardship back on campus. 

The decision to mostly only welcome first-year students to campus — which the senior administrators called “deeply disappointing but absolutely necessary” — will decrease the number of students sharing a bathroom, and lessen the potential of transmission, the email said. 

Every student on campus will live in a single, with a Gryphon on each floor. 

“We want to be clear that first-year students who choose to reside on campus will have an experience unlike any in the past,” the email said. “Extracurricular and social opportunities will be extremely limited. Students whose living circumstances allow them to learn remotely should strongly consider doing so and wait until we can open campus more fully. Students living off campus will similarly find access to campus very limited.”

Access to academic buildings, libraries, the University Center and athletic facilities will have strict and limited access. 

Courses, however, will continue to be offered in a mixed format of entirely remote learning, some hybrid and “a relatively small number offered in person.” Classes with more than 50 students will be entirely online. Almost all courses be accessible by remote means.

Lehigh said it has invested in improving and expanding its approach to online learning. Students who choose to take classes fully remotely will receive a 10 percent reduction in undergraduate tuition this fall. These students, however, will not have access to campus facilities except for the Health Center. 

The administrators cited a growing number of states considered high-risk with large COVID-19 case numbers, impacting the university’s quarantining capacity and limiting the school’s access to testing as resources are diverted to hospitals, as reasons for their decision.  

Students arriving in Bethlehem from states designed as hotspots by the Pennsylvania Department of Health must quarantine for 14 days prior to arriving on campus. Adherence to face coverings and social distancing guidelines will be enforced, too.

The email said the future of in-person experiences at Lehigh remains unknown.

“While we hold out hope for the spring semester that conditions and trends will allow more members of our community to return to campus, we do not know what the future holds,” the email said. “We are also prepared to act if conditions deteriorate.”

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