Administrators investigate racially-charged incident at on-campus social event

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Update: This article was updated to include a statement emailed by the Interfraternity Council to the Lehigh community on Oct. 26.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article stated that Lehigh University Police Chief Edward Shupp alerted the community that a female student had reported she was “indecently assaulted” on Oct. 6 while attending an on-campus fraternity event. This was a separate incident from the one involving racially-charged language, which was reported to have taken place Sept. 29 at an on-campus social event.

A Lehigh student reported an incident involving racially-charged language used at an on-campus social event.

Lori Friedman, the director of media relations, confirmed that the incident was reported to have taken place Sept. 29. and involved campus visitors. She said the Lehigh student who reported the incident was not the target of the racially-charged comments. 

Friedman said the university takes such reports very seriously and the incident is under investigation by Karen Salvemini, Lehigh’s equal opportunity compliance coordinator.

Salvemini told The Brown and White she is unable to comment on the incident as it is part of an open and ongoing investigation.

Friedman was unable to confirm if the incident occurred at a fraternity event.

However, on Oct. 26 the Interfraternity Council sent an email to the university community denouncing the incident.

“While we respect the due process of an ongoing investigation,” the statement read, “Lehigh University’s Interfraternity Council wants to be clear in stating that the executive board and all of its participating organizations not only condemn racially motivated remarks, but condemn any action that discriminates against another person or group.”

The statement went on to affirm that pending the outcome of the investigation, IFC will follow its own procedure to “ensure that the responsible organization(s) and student(s) understand the consequences of their behaviors and the resulting negative impact on Lehigh’s community.”

Student Senate also condemned the incident in an email to the campus community Oct. 13.

“While the incident is still under investigation, let us be clear: we reject discrimination in all its forms,” read the email. “As members of the Lehigh community we do not tolerate any form of prejudice based on someone’s race, sex, religion, nationality, or any other protected characteristic or identity.”

Senate’s email acknowledged that racial intolerance has been an ongoing issue in the community as this was not the only such event in the university’s recent history. It also linked to resources and reporting options for students seeking support.

“In my eyes, doing nothing is unacceptable,” Senate president Matt Rothberg, ‘18, told The Brown and White. “You always want to try to be proactive, and I think that’s something everyone on campus need to do. But at the same time, incidents do happen and when they do occur, you want to be reactive, which is something Senate wants to do more of this year.”

Rothberg said students need to be cognizant of the culture that enables these sorts of incidents and be proactive in addressing them.

“Lehigh is committed to fostering an inclusive, supportive and welcoming environment for all, including students, faculty, staff and visitors,” Friedman wrote. “Such discriminatory behavior violates the core values of our community and will not be tolerated.”

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5 Comments

  1. I am an alum that attended in the 90’s. I thought this would get better with time, but it appears to be getting worse as society seems to be allowing this to happen with more frequency.

    At Lehigh, I was always the odd one at social on the Hill and even tailgates. I always felt like the one person that people would talk about as I walked by. I’m not even sure what they would say half the time, but the times I did hear it was something along the lines of “are you lost?” “downtown Bethlehem is down the hill” “townies are allowed at our parties?”. I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of Lehigh. I made my friends who all came from diverse parts of the country and accepted me for who I am. I’m still friends with all of them. So, I guess some good did come of my time there besides the academics.

  2. Greenwood Hall on

    What kind of a campus environment have the progressive authoritarians running Lehigh created? A “racially charged comment,” whatever that is, was overheard by someone at a party. That is the totality of the allegation. And such a vague and meaningless allegation is being investigated by an attorney in the Lehigh General Counsel’s office, is the subject of a Student Senate proclamation, and merits an article in the student newspaper. Does freedom of speech mean nothing at Lehigh? Are students no longer allowed be knuckleheads? It is very sad to see Lehigh being turned into a Soviet-style reeducation camp by the current administration.

    • A Black Alumni on

      Its a vague and meaningless accusation unless its you on the end of the racist comment. Racism is to be condemned by any decent human being and college administration. Why are you arguing for the right to dispense racial abuse on campus.

    • Amy Charles '89 on

      Yeah, I know, life’s gotten miserable. Listen, just send back your Social Security and tear up that Medicare card — *I* know you’re no commie — and all will be cool.

  3. Greenwood Hall on

    No no one is defending racial abuse, nor has there been an allegation of racial abuse. The sole allegation was that that someone OVERHEARD a “racially charged comment” at a party. That could mean anything. Nowhere in the world but at Lehigh University or in The People’s Republic of North Korea would there be an official investigation of a remark overheard at a party.

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