Addressing Safety Issues Within Our Lehigh Community

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Dear Students,
In light of recent incidents involving Lehigh students suffering serious injuries and hospitalization due to alcohol abuse, we're writing, with a sense of urgency, to express our concern for your safety and well-being.
For years now, we’re sure you’ve been warned about the dangers of drinking from parents, teachers, administrators and others. Many students – and to be perfectly candid, some parents and alumni – consider drinking in college to be a rite of passage, a common and generally harmless part of the college experience.
“Let kids be kids,” is a refrain we hear frequently when we announce measures to curb high-risk drinking, or when we impose more significant consequences to try to deter dangerous alcohol abuse. But excessive drinking can leave you more vulnerable to injury, sexual assault, extremely reckless behavior and even death. In the first few months of 2017 alone, students from Miami University of Ohio, University of Illinois, Binghamton University and Penn State were lost in alcohol-related deaths.
We don’t have to look any further than our own campus for cautionary tales. In the last few weeks, we’ve had an unusually high number of students transported to local hospitals for emergency treatment for alcohol poisoning and serious injuries. In some cases, the blood alcohol levels were so high that attending medical professionals were concerned that the students would not survive.
Specifically, we’ve had four close calls in the last two months. Without the intervention of LUPD and others, some or all of these students would have died. It is particularly distressing that while these students bear primary responsibility for their own actions, they were surrounded by others who did not intervene. You, and your promising futures, mean too much to us to tolerate this level of disregard for your own and your fellow students’ well-being.

Earlier this semester, we wrote to remind you about bystander intervention programs and our medical amnesty policy, which is designed to get students the medical attention they need without those calling needing to be concerned about their own disciplinary consequences. We asked you to report hazing violations so that we could address issues that might stem from various social group recruitment and social activities.
Clearly, a more direct approach is necessary. 
For the next several weekends, we will be employing additional police officers to be a presence on our campus and in our neighborhoods around campus. We will apply our university policies to enforce the law and stem excessive alcohol consumption. Violators will face arrest and disciplinary action. 
We know that this news may not be received warmly by some students. However, it is imperative that we act to prevent a senseless death of one of our own. 

You are here at Lehigh because you have demonstrated enormous potential. You are intelligent, engaged, ambitious, and accomplished in many ways. You have a right to be able to build a bright future and to lead long and fulfilling lives. You are loved by your parents, families, friends and fellow students here at Lehigh.

We, too, care deeply about you. It is unacceptable to us that this promise would be extinguished at such a young age, in what is a completely avoidable tragedy. We urge you to be responsible for yourself and others.
Maintaining a safe and healthy campus is a shared responsibility. We ask for your help in addressing what is clearly a problem on this campus, and on campuses across the country. Exercise common sense. Look out for one another. Take care of yourselves and be more conscious of the unnecessary risks you take as part of your social activities.
We all want the same thing: We want you to have an extraordinary, memorable Lehigh experience that culminates in your graduation, and not in the intensive care unit of a local hospital.
John Simon

Pat Farrell
Provost and Vice President, Academic Affairs

Ian Birky
Interim Vice Provost, Student Affairs

Kristin Agatone
Chief Investment Officer
Joseph Buck
Vice President, Development and Alumni Relations
Patricia Johnson
Vice President for Finance and Administration
Cheryl Matherly
Vice President and Vice Provost, International Affairs

Frederick J. McGrail
Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs
Donald A. Outing
Vice President for Equity and Community
Frank Roth
General Counsel
Ed Shupp
Chief, Lehigh University Police Department

Alan Snyder
Vice President and Associate Provost, Research and Graduate Studies 

Joe Sterrett
Murray H. Goodman Dean of Athletics