To the Lafayette Community:

What will the fall look like? Never before has that question even needed to be asked. Now it is the main question on the minds of students, faculty, staff, parents, trustees, alumni, and friends of the College. I am pleased to report that the plan I will outline below lays out a path for welcoming students back and resuming the on-campus experience that is so central to a Lafayette education.

To be sure, Fall 2020 will not look like Fall 2019, or any other year in the College’s history. But it will offer a robust educational experience, a variety of co-curricular opportunities, and a chance for us to reconvene as a community after an absence that has been difficult for all of us.

It is important to begin by acknowledging that with so many variables at play, this picture of where we are headed is not a guarantee of where we will land. The plan is called Path to Fall 2020 because it is not an endpoint — it is a road map that describes a continuing journey. All of our decisions will continue to be guided by current and evolving public health guidance and information. Nothing is more important than the well being of our students, faculty, and staff, and that of our neighbors in Easton. 

The Path to Fall 2020 reflects the priorities we have identified: the health and safety of the community, the quality of the academic and residential experience, and an effective and sustainable alignment of College resources. 

  • The semester will begin two weeks early, on August 17, with classes ending on Friday, November 20. Students will leave campus for Thanksgiving break and return just prior to the start of the spring semester.
  • Testing, monitoring, contact tracing, physical distancing, and safety training will be employed to reduce the risk of the virus spreading on campus.
  • Courses will be offered in flexible, hybrid formats to ensure continuity of experience for all students throughout the semester. 
  • Additional investments in technology, training, and student services will support flexible course design and prioritize equity in access to resources and the learning experience. 

Enabling a healthy campus this fall will require everyone’s cooperation. Students will be screened for COVID-19 when they arrive and will participate in testing and monitoring throughout the semester. Faculty and staff will be expected to participate in testing and symptom monitoring. All members of the community will be required to wear masks in classrooms and other indoor public spaces. We will promote physical distancing and reduce contact through adjustments to classroom occupancy, modifications of dining services, and control of density in residential housing assignments. 

Even with these measures in place, the success of our plan will rest on the willingness of our community to share responsibility for each other’s health and safety. To that end, an active and ongoing campaign of public education, developed with student and campus community input, will make the expectations of that “social contract” clear. We will call upon the loyalty and commitment of the entire Lafayette community to support these critical goals.

Through an emphasis on adaptability of the academic program, faculty are working hard to ensure that the Lafayette curriculum will continue to provide engaging and challenging courses in a mixture of formats. Building on their experiences last spring, faculty are designing their courses to offer maximum opportunity for person-to-person interactions, whether on campus or off, and are incorporating creative approaches to delivering course material. While most students will attend classes on campus, we will offer remote learning modalities for those who cannot be on campus due to health or travel circumstances, or where accommodations are needed to reduce classroom exposure.   

To accomplish all this, we will align our resources with our goals and make the strategic investments needed to prepare our facilities and to support the flexibility that will enable faculty and staff to deliver the best academic and student experiences. There is no doubt that radically reconfiguring campus operations to accommodate these new circumstances is a strain on College resources. We believe, however, that the investments we are making in enhanced information technology, advanced cleaning capabilities, alternative use of space, and other areas are needed to ensure success. 

Just as some students will need to learn remotely, some faculty and staff may need to continue to teach or work remotely. We will ensure that the process for necessary accommodations is streamlined, equitable, and conducted with care. Our goal is to allow every member of the community to participate as fully and comfortably as possible.

There is still much to do and many decisions to make between now and August. Our planning process is ongoing and will continue to engage many campus stakeholders. We are continually refining our protocols and approaches to align with guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. We will remain in constant contact with local hospitals and health officials, and will continue to work collaboratively with the City of Easton.

I know that this crisis has already demanded a lot from everyone. What I have outlined in this memo involves a big ask as well. We will need every Pard to do your part. In these extraordinarily challenging circumstances, we will have to work together to create a safe, equitable, and inclusive environment in which every student, faculty member, and staff colleague is able to take part in the educational mission of the College. I know that Lafayette is up to this challenge.

You will find more detail on the Path to Fall 2020 website, including a set of FAQs which will be updated frequently in the coming weeks. Please feel free to contact us with questions or submit suggestions by using this web form. In addition to separate student and faculty/staff town halls over the next few weeks on dates to be announced in Lafayette Today, we will be holding an Easton Community Town Hall on July 7 to share information with local residents and hear any questions or concerns that they may have.

I thank you for your patience, understanding, and commitment to joining us in this critical effort to make the Fall 2020 semester safe and successful for everyone. 

Be well. I look forward to seeing many of you in August.

Alison R. Byerly