2.17.21: A Message to Undergraduate Students

Dear students,

A Lehigh student recently said he “lives in fear” for regularly observing friends, roommates and acquaintances who ignore health and safety precautions such as wearing masks, especially off campus. Another student reported being “demoralized” after watching parties and large gatherings.

The purpose of this email is not to reprimand any individual or group of students. Rather, it is important to recognize, as the experiences of these students have shown, that the vast majority of Lehigh students are doing everything they can to protect themselves and everyone around them in the hope of eventually moving to a more “normal” life on campus to return . Equally important is recognizing the frustration of students feeling helpless, if at all, doing plenty in response to cases and persistent patterns of potentially dangerous behavior.

Both on-campus and off-campus parties or large gatherings were reported over the past weekend and those we were brought to attention were quickly closed. As a result, several students and student organizations have been temporarily suspended and are facing the very real possibility of eviction from the dormitory, suspension or even expulsion. The consequences are great because a lot is at stake.

There are many examples of college students being inadvertently at risk of harm or even death because of underlying health conditions often unknown to friends or even themselves. We know there are Lehigh students with similar health conditions. Our students have also seen and experienced the effects of COVID-19 on their own family members and are discouraged by what they call “selfish” behavior. While most students recognize the inconvenience resulting from the health and safety measures, they understand that their personal behavior helps protect themselves and the community – both Lehigh and South Bethlehem.

There are also examples of students taking leadership roles in transforming campus culture around COVID-19. Lehigh students have the potential to be the most prominent and effective voices at promoting positive behavior and holding the community accountable. The student senate is currently working on the organization of a COVID-19 community council, which will in part propose solutions to ongoing problems such as those mentioned above. In the meantime, it is important that we do our utmost to ensure that we care for one another and the community.

We know the majority of students are invested. They wear masks when visiting local facilities and don’t hold large gatherings. It is imperative that all students join these efforts equally and consistently.

These winter months are challenging. Safe indoor collection is only possible to a limited extent. With a view to spring – in anticipation of a reduced and sustained lower COVID-19 number as well as increased vaccination rates – scenario planning for increased personal indoor and outdoor activities is underway. We are all looking forward to it.

In the short term, the isolation, frustration, and general “COVID fatigue” we may experience from following these necessary health measures (e.g., delaying visiting family and friends until an outdoor meeting is possible) can put us off. to question whether our efforts are really worth it. They are – we’ve seen time and time again that adhering to the protocols results in lower infection rates. Beyond health and safety implications, when the going gets tough – the action we take today and tomorrow – ultimately defines our community as well. Thank you for your contribution and expecting the same from others.

With best regards,

Ricardo Hall

Vice President for Student Affairs

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