To the Lafayette Community:

We have had to pivot and adapt many times over the last several months, and I know that it has not been easy. We now need to do so again. I am sorry to say that we will not be reconvening as a community on Aug. 17. Instead, all fall semester courses at Lafayette will be offered online, and the majority of students will study from home.

Throughout this crisis, we have said that Lafayette’s highest priorities would be the health and safety of our community, and the quality of the academic experience. Given the dramatic changes that have taken place in the national landscape since we formulated our plan in early June, we now believe that these goals are best met by a curriculum of engaging and rigorous online courses, and a minimal student population on campus.

This is an enormously painful decision, as I know that students are eager to return to campus, and our faculty and staff have worked incredibly hard to prepare for a fall semester together. But the increased spread of the virus nationwide, the impact that this resurgence has had on the availability of testing supplies needed to satisfy our testing protocols, and the strong national trend of rising rates of infection in younger populations lead us to conclude that our community is best served by maintaining social distancing in miles rather than feet.

While we would all prefer for courses to take place in classrooms and in person, we are committed to offering a robust academic experience to our students. Faculty have been engaged in course planning and workshops throughout the summer in preparation for a fall that we expected would include a proportion of remote learning as an aspect of every class. The faculty’s Teaching and Learning Committee developed specific guidelines for effective remote instruction that will help the faculty to deliver engaging and intellectually challenging courses that are tailored to the students enrolled in each course. We have also invested nearly $1 million in new technology over the last two months to ensure that we are fully equipped for effective online instruction. In addition, our Campus Life staff remain focused on building community and social connections by working with student organizations to support a wide range of virtual activities, programs, and opportunities.

Under this new plan, a limited number of students may receive permission to live on campus. These include returning international students, students engaged in independent academic research or creative work requiring campus facilities, and students who need access to campus resources in order to succeed academically.

Students who believe they meet the criteria outlined above and wish to apply for permission to return to campus should fill out this form. We recognize that students who have already committed to leases with private landlords may also choose to live on College Hill. Students living on or near campus will still take all of their courses online.

It is important to recognize that even those who do return to campus will experience a fall semester unlike any other as we work to keep the community safe. A COVID-related addendum to the student handbook outlines campus guidelines and restrictions that will apply to students residing on campus or on College Hill.

In light of these unprecedented circumstances, we are announcing two changes to our tuition rates for the coming academic year that we hope will be helpful to students and families.

We are reversing the previously announced 3.75 percent increase in tuition, fees, and room and board. This year’s rates will remain the same as last year’s.

In addition, while our online courses will be of the highest quality, we recognize that students studying from home will not have access to campus facilities, or opportunities for the in-person interaction with fellow students that adds so much to a Lafayette education. We are therefore instituting a 10 percent reduction in the tuition rate for those who study from home. Additional information on the rate chart and the billing timeline can be found here.

I know that this is immensely disappointing to our students, especially first-year students just beginning their Lafayette careers, and seniors looking forward to many special senior activities. First-year students will be receiving an email today from Provost John Meier and VP for Campus Life Annette Diorio providing additional information about plans for virtual activities, including orientation.

We know that you will have many questions. We hope that many will be answered by a still-growing list of FAQs. You also may join one of two upcoming Zoom meetings about the fall term:

My thanks to the entire Lafayette community – students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and friends of the College – for your support and patience during this difficult time. Best wishes for a pleasant and healthy remainder of the summer.

Alison R. Byerly, President