The spring 2021 semester will begin Feb. 1, with no spring break to mitigate student travel during the pandemic, Provost Nathan Urban announced in a campus-wide email Oct. 9. (Adele Hancock/B&W Staff)

Non-first-year students describe living on-campus this semester


Lehigh’s COVID-19 guidelines for the fall 2020 semester have limited the availability of on-campus housing to only first-year students and some non first-years with extenuating circumstances.

Non-first-years had the opportunity to request on-campus housing by completing an exception application through the Housing and Dining Self Service system.  

Ashley Lemmons, associate dean of students, coordinated the reviews of on-campus exemption applications and said petitions were reviewed based on three categories: international status, academic requirements and personal hardship.

These applications were then reviewed by a committee of staff from International Student Services and the Dean of Students office, who worked together to create rubrics based on the above criteria, as well as financial aid need status, in order to determine housing need. 

Lemmons said in an email close to 200 non-first-year students petitioned to live on-campus. Of those 200 students, initially 92 non-first-years were offered on-campus housing. 

However, as first-year students changed their minds about returning to campus, Lemmons and the committee offered their spots through the first week of classes.

“We only had capacity to house about 1,252 people, with six people per residence hall floor and bathroom, not using Trembley and not using fraternity or sorority housing,” Lemmons said. “Therefore, the size of the first-year class plus the number of Gryphons who wanted to return — approximately 1,077 and 81, respectively — left us with 92 spaces.” 

Lemmons said she was not sure how many petitions the committee would receive, but they did know that it could equal the amount of people who were displaced: over 1,500 students.

Due to Joseph Medina’s, ‘23, status as a Gryphon in Upper Cents, he was one of the few upperclassmen allowed back on campus.

“When I was making my decision at home to come back to school, my classes were online, and I was debating whether or not going back was worth it,” Medina said. “But, since I’m a Gryphon, I get free room, and I also get paid, so it wasn’t going to be a big financial burden to my family.”

Medina oversees a floor with only five first-years in Thornburg at Upper Cents, which usually houses up to 44 students. 

Like Medina, Alexis Javier, ‘22, is living on-campus this semester — much farther down the hill, however, in Farrington Square.

Javier opted to live on-campus this semester as studying comes easier to him at school.

“I couldn’t focus myself academically from home,” Javier said. “Just being on-campus, I have the mentality that I’m here to work and go after a degree — I can focus way easier on just school.”

Other non-first-year students living on campus agree with Javier, like Jason Shao, ‘22, who also resides in Farrington Square. 

“Living on-campus has been pretty good,” Shao said. “I’m grateful that they gave me housing.”

Shao opted to live on-campus due to his active participation in a sustainable energy research project that he started with other students over the summer. 

Shao said he and his team are trying to build a vertical axis wind turbine that will be installed somewhere on campus, something he couldn’t do from home.

In addition, Shao has three in-person labs to attend. 

Regardless of the sudden decisions to move classes online and limit those allowed back on campus, non-first-year students living at school are optimistic about the change.

“Even if it’s just walking down the road for five minutes for my lab, it gives me a sense of purpose (and) it makes it a lot easier to stay motivated,” Javier said. “It’s been a really good experience so far, and I’m really glad to be back.”

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