LHU moving to ‘mostly’ remote learning in fall

Hotline established at 570-484-3700

LOCK HAVEN – Lock Haven University has decided to move to “mostly” remote learning this fall because of the coronavirus.

LHU President Dr. Robert Pignatello announced the move Monday afternoon in a lengthy message to students, parents, staff and the entire campus community.

The message reads as follows:

Lock Haven University has decided to move to a mostly remote learning environment for the fall semester with limited exceptions and limited on-campus residency. This decision comes as the virus continues to surge through much of the country, including here in PA, and has been made to prevent and mitigate spread of the virus among all of us and our families. As a result of this decision, about 85% of this fall’s courses will be taught remotely. However, a selection of experiential, hands-on courses will still include face-to-face instruction. Examples of those courses include studio art, labs, clinical work, student teaching, and First Year Experience courses associated with experiential majors. On-campus residency will be dramatically reduced by about two-thirds of typical levels.

Students–detailed information regarding our instructional modalities and the impact on housing for the fall is forthcoming. Please watch your LHU email account for that important information. All face-to-face instruction and most campus activities will still end the Friday before Thanksgiving (November 20) as previously planned.

This, of course, is a significant revision to earlier announced plans, which relied more on face-to-face instruction and a semi-traditional on campus experience. We know this is a disappointment to many and we regret the disruption to plans you have made. For our students, we are committed to doing everything we can to help you adapt to this new plan and to be successful. This includes assistance with access to technology, assistance with other hardships you may face, increased mentorship, and adjustments to your total cost of attendance as you continue your studies with us. LHU students who will be transitioning to a fully on-line course delivery this fall will receive an approximate reduction in fees of $300 depending on course modality and campus location.

Students, please know that you will still receive the same high-quality education that The Haven is known for. We have learned a lot about providing a more robust experience through remote learning. Starting or continuing your studies is vital to your future. Your faculty are dedicated to you and your success. They will work alongside you as mentors and advisors as will our coaches and other staff. We all want to see you Soar Higher to a bright future. But until the virus is under better control and we can return to more normal and safer operations, it is up to us as a family to look out for one another, to care for one another, and to make the hard decisions that are in our collective best interest to protect one another.

As we look at the rapid rise in the rate of COVID-19 infections across the country (4 million cases nationwide, an increase of 1 million cases in the past two weeks alone) we must face the harsh reality that we are not yet winning the battle against this novel coronavirus. Our students come from all parts of Pennsylvania, many from areas where the virus is now surging; they also come from 11 states and 7 countries. This reality is of great concern and requires major changes to our operational plan. We can do a lot to mitigate the risk, and our original plan did so, but we have concluded that we cannot do enough to reduce the risk to our students, faculty, and staff. Six months into this global pandemic and COVID-19 has proven to be a most serious, highly contagious, and still poorly understood disease that suffers from not having a stronger and more mobilized national strategy necessary to defeat it.

Our executive team has been working through many difficult questions and scenarios with the health and well-being of our campus community as our highest priority and guidepost. We have reached the consensus that bringing our entire Haven Family–about 3,500 of us at one time or another–back to campus this fall feels too risky an experiment for which we have little evidence or data regarding its success. As developments continued to unfold, it became harder and harder to imagine this very abnormal environment we were planning to create, and even harder to imagine it working from the standpoint of safety while also effectively accomplishing learning objectives.

This concern has been heightened as we watch the virus surge across our nation and witness increasingly the rise in cases being led by younger populations who often unknowingly become asymptomatic carriers and spreaders. Our mission, our responsibility, is the transmission of knowledge, not the transmission of disease.

We have examined the many other challenges to holding our fall semester in person. The issues are complicated and present numerous obstacles to providing a safe teaching and learning environment and rewarding campus experience. The contributing factors informing this decision include: the risk of contributing to the spread of the disease among students, their families, our faculty and staff, and the greater community; inadequate testing and contact tracing, including unacceptable longer delays for results; the challenge of adequate spacing for face-to-face instruction given existing classroom configurations; the high risk of an in-term outbreak and greater related disruption; the risk of high levels of congregate housing, and the impact of unmonitored off campus activity and behavior.

Masks and social distancing notwithstanding, having large numbers of people in closed indoor spaces for long periods of time presents increased risk, according to experts. In addition, the need to operate in compliance mode at all times has the potential to create a psychologically unnatural learning environment devoid of the social interactions integral to a healthy exchange of thoughts and ideas.

Right now we feel that COVID-19 can spread far too easily in the everyday collegiate environment. Thus, having significantly fewer people on campus is an imperative to avoid this.

There is hope that an effective treatment and vaccine for COVID-19 will be available soon and that testing strategies will improve by end of year. But we are not there right now. This is a once in a century event in our history that requires short-term adjustments until we can return to normalcy. Meanwhile, we urge you to continue the practice of social distancing, wearing a facial covering, and washing hands frequently. This disease has serious consequences for all. What each of us does, all of our behavior, can affect the spread of COVID-19 and while you may be fortunate and have mild or no symptoms, if you contract it, you can spread it to someone else who can become seriously ill or worse. It is a disease that continues to confound the experts. For example, new studies are showing long term effects for those who had even mild cases. Right now, you and your personal behavior and responsible actions are the key to prevention.

Students, we understand this is not the fall semester you had hoped for and we share your disappointment. You will soon receive an email from Provost Ron Darbeau and Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Stephen Lee, which will outline our amended plan in more detail. I urge you to review it carefully. It contains information regarding instructional modalities, the academic calendar, campus housing, dining, and other services.

A hotline has been established for questions at 570-484-3700 and will be available from 8 am-6pm beginning July 28. The University’s COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) have been updated and can be viewed at www.lockhaven.edu/virusinfo/virusfaq.html. You may also send questions to: update@lockhaven.edu.

Faculty, staff, and coaches–we appreciate your continued flexibility and dedication as we work our way through the pandemic to carry out our mission in a safe manner. Staffing needs are being reviewed with each Vice President and department directors to determine on-campus work assignments, telework, and alternate work assignment opportunities for staff. You are all valued.

To all, know that we are making these decisions in the best interest of your health and the health of your families and our entire campus community. Be well and be safe.


Dr. Robert Pignatello


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