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Update December, 2023

Friends and Neighbors,

It’s been several months since our last update regarding developments at Lafayette College that have an impact on our community. Lafayette’s Chief of Staff, Dr. Nicole Eramo, has been very generous with her time, keeping me and others in the community informed about matters of neighborhood interest, but there are still many issues that are unresolved or remain items of concern.

Here’s the latest:

Lafayette College Master Plan.

There has been virtually no progress on the plan since a June community meeting, at which time few specifics were offered. The initial completion deadline of December 2023 was extended to June 2024, but that has seemingly been pushed back in order to coordinate the Master Plan with the new Strategic Plan. (See item below.) President Nicole Hurd has promised that Lafayette will not initiate any major development activities until the plan is finalized. Neighborhood input has been extensive, but we still have no idea if the College will incorporate any of that input into its plan, including such items as:

  • Define the ‘campus edge,’ the limit Lafayette intends to grow its campus within College Hill. (There was a defined campus edge in Lafayette’s 2009 Master Plan, and the College’s 2016 expansion proposal—which went beyond that edge—stressed the importance of establishing a new one, but that was never done.

  • Related to the campus edge, the College has been asked to define (and limit) the extent to which it will purchase College Hill properties, further raising prices on the Hill, reducing buying opportunities for young families or older residents wishing to downsize, and opening up greater opportunities for future demolition/expansion projects. After a hiatus of a few years, the College recently bought 605 McCartney and 620 Pierce. In the meantime, the College owns many properties that are in states of disrepair and/or vacant. Neighbors have requested that the Master Plan include a commitment to establish a maintenance plan for the more than 150 off-campus properties the College owns on College Hill. This should include a preservation plan for the many properties the College owns that are listed in the College Hill Residential Historic District. (Lafayette has demolished more than thirty such properties in the last five years.)

  • Propose an improvement plan for Lafayette properties on Bushkill Drive (the sustainable development of which is supported by most local residents).

  • Develop a plan for the College Hill area around the campus so that it doesn’t continue as a ‘dead zone’ during the summer when students are away. (President Nicole Hurd has said she supports this concept.)

  • Commit to incorporating the Comprehensive Plans of both Easton and the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission in future decisions.


Strategic Plan.

This document is also a work-in-progress. It is intended to establish the College’s Mission and Value Statements, and chart a course towards future academic programs and policies as well as other (primarily internal) goals and procedures within the College. More on the plan can be found at:   Normally, this type of plan would be completed before a master plan process would begin. The College is attempting to do both simultaneously.

College Avenue Hillside Deforestation. At a meeting with local residents in June, Dr. Hurd apologized for the College’s removal of dozens of mature trees on the slope above N. Third Street. The work was done without permits, beyond the limits of the walkway the College was constructing and without input from the public or the City Forester. An Oct. 29 article in The Express noted that the Easton Zoning Administrator said “plans for the walkway did not include removal of the trees.” The City Forester “wishes the college hadn’t cut down the trees that weren’t leaning over the path and weren’t sick. The more trees you remove, the harder it is for the remaining trees to survive.”) In public remarks since June, Dr. Hurd has only been quoted as justifying the tree removal. The College has agreed to plant more trees elsewhere on and off-campus. Planting of new trees on the barren hillside itself may not be feasible, but the embankment will be landscaped this spring. (Last June, Dr. Hurd talked about ‘branding’ the hillside with lighting that would identify Lafayette College. After a number of residents protested, she said the concept would be reconsidered and brought up again for public discussion before anything is implemented. As yet, I don’t know if this (very dubious) concept has been abandoned or not.  

College Avenue Hillside Ramp.

The deforestation debacle aside, in my view and that of many online commentators, the design of the concrete  ramp at the bottom of College Avenue is as awkward and unattractive as, say, the new Fourth Street Parking Garage or the monstrous Lafayette sign facing Route 22 on the side of Buck Hall. To add insult to injury, the ramp was largely paid for with public funds and is NOT handicapped accessible. In fairness (and in contrast to the deforestation work), the ramp is the brainchild of the previous Lafayette administration, not the current one.

Easton Partnership Committee. In 2018, four College Hill residents (including this writer) reached a legal settlement in the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas that allowed the College to proceed with the construction of the dormitories on McCartney Street. The terms of that settlement required the College to create an ongoing committee that would maintain a dialogue between neighbors and Lafayette officials to address issues of mutual concern (such as the topics covered in these notes). The idea was based on a similar committee that worked extremely well in the early 2000s, but was dismantled by the College’s previous administration. In the five years since that legal agreement was signed, the College has failed to form such a group. I’ve been advised that this spring it will announce a schedule for bringing this committee to life.

Salvaging historic items from demolished buildings.

Another aspect of the 2018 legal agreement stipulated that when the College demolished the existing historic buildings on McCartney St. (more than 20 of them) for the new dorms, it would survey the buildings for historic elements that could be salvaged and auction off these items with the proceeds going to the Easton Area Community Center. Lafayette did that for the first dormitory. I personally saw what I considered salvageable historic items being destroyed during demolition work on both Phase II and the Portlock Center projects, but in response to my enquiries, the College has reported that salvage work was done for both and $1300 donated to the Community Center.

Lafayette Scholarships to Easton High School graduates.

The 2018 agreement also mandated that the College would award one full four-scholarship per year (forever) to a qualified Easton graduate. That’s been done: five local students have thus far attended Lafayette under this program.

Property taxes on the McCartney dorms. A major outcome of the residents’ opposition to the dorm projects was that the College agreed to pay all Easton, County and School taxes on the new buildings. (Initially, the College proposed not to do this, and the City of Easton agreed that Lafayette wouldn’t have to.) After the first dorm was occupied, no property taxes were assessed or paid until local residents complained to both the College and the County. Full property taxes of over $200,000/year are now being paid. Residents will monitor the new dorm (scheduled for completion this September) to make sure it is assessed and taxed on a timely basis.

Liaison with the neighbors. Many neighbors have had issues with the College (involving maintenance of buildings, public safety, coordination of volunteer activities, off-campus parking, etc.) without having an assigned community liaison to contact. Some matters have gotten resolved, some haven’t. The College is aware of the problem: I hope I’ll have something positive to report on this within the next few months.

Title IX.

Title IX is a federal act passed in 1972 that is best known for requiring equity between men’s and women’s sports programs. But an important aspect of Title IX is that it is also the vehicle by which institutions monitor instances of discrimination, harassment, sexual assault, etc. Lafayette has a well-staffed Title IX office. However, some years ago Title IX was amended to require that institutions like Lafayette provide training to staff members (including faculty) who may be approached or become aware of possible Title IX violations. I learned this because a few weeks ago, as a Lafayette adjunct faculty member, I received an email informing me that I needed to take an on-line training course educating me about my Title IX responsibilities. I thought it strange that after teaching at the College for 27 years, I’d never been asked to do this, let alone advised that I had any Title IX responsibilities. I did the training, and learned a lot. I’m very glad that the College is now addressing this issue, but (assuming I understand the federal mandates correctly) I have serious concerns about all of Lafayette’s compliance mechanisms, from Title IX to the Easton zoning ordinance and building code, the 2018 legal agreement and perhaps other things.  

I give the current administration, which began at Lafayette in 2021, a lot of credit for trying to straighten out a great many institutional problems. As the Master Plan is developed and the other issues I’ve touched upon are addressed, in the coming months we should learn a lot more about how this administration is doing. Please stay tuned, or better yet, please get involved.

And please feel free to contact me with comments, questions or offers to help with our work at:



Paul Felder

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