Isabelle Medie, '23, and Ally Gonzalez, '23, sit outside in Farrington Square wearing masks. (Sharon Jo/B&W Staff)

BREAKING: Lehigh announces plans for spring semester

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With about three months until the spring semester starts Feb. 1, President John Simon and Provost Nathan Urban outlined the plan as it stands now in an email to the campus community. 

The plan includes efforts toward increased in-person classes and additional students living on campus as a result of the anticipated completion of three new dorms.

“Our plan aligns with our focus on delivering an exceptional Lehigh experience and supporting the health and safety of the Lehigh and Bethlehem communities,” the email said. “Its execution assumes the spread of the virus in the spring will be similar to the levels seen throughout the early part of this fall and that the current surge we are seeing locally and across the country will subside before mid-January.”

The university plans to expand COVID-19 testing protocols for the spring semester, including increased surveillance testing. Lehigh said any student living in Bethlehem — including those who choose to be “fully remote” — will be required to partake in mandatory surveillance testing. That’s because Lehigh said fully remote students are still “likely to interact with students attending classes and accessing campus.”

Earlier this semester, Lehigh mandated only non-remote students partake in surveillance testing. The university later mandated the participation of fully remote students in surveillance testing on Oct. 2 after the first on campus cases of COVID-19 were reported and athletics were shut down. 

We currently plan to start with weekly random surveillance testing of approximately 50 percent of all students living in Bethlehem and adjust this fraction as conditions warrant,” the email said. 

There will also be a “return to campus” testing and quarantine protocol announced in conjunction with a student’s move-in date.

While currently most courses are offered remotely and only first-years and those with extenuating circumstances can live on campus, Lehigh said it will be able to offer up to 200 additional living units in the spring. 

The plan also allows for students who are currently living on campus to remain there next semester. The university said about 1,250 undergraduate students are currently living on-campus.

The university will prioritize newly matriculating students and transfer students to fill the additional 200 residential spots. Greek housing will continue to not be used in the spring.

The option to remain “fully remote” that existed this fall will remain in place in the spring. Those students will take courses entirely online and forego access to campus facilities but receive a 10 percent reduction in tuition. Students receiving financial aid, however, will likely not see a reduction in the price they actually pay. 

All remote and non-remote students will have access to the Health Center.

Lehigh is looking to expand the number of courses offered in-person. The mode of teaching for a given course will be made clear to students upon registration for spring classes.

Regarding athletics, logistics for holding spring sports will be re-evaluated pending a decision from the Patriot League. A decision on commencement is also pending.

The plan alludes to extracurricular activities, specifically Greek-life, noting potential opportunities for increased in-person participation.

Lehigh is discouraging travel during the spring semester and has canceled spring break.

“We wish, just as all of you do, that we were looking ahead to a typical spring semester,” the email said. “Unfortunately, COVID-19 hasn’t left us, and we must continue to protect ourselves and each other.”

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