At approximately 2 a.m. this morning, the UMOJA house—Lehigh University’s most well-known multicultural dwelling on campus—was egged and graffitied.
There is no known motivation behind the actions at this time.
Though fraternities and sororities on “the hill” at Lehigh have been known to throw eggs at the homes of one another as pranks, the graffiti that was left behind appears to indicate that this was a deliberate targeting of the UMOJA house.
The graffiti—racial slurs and abbreviations of slurs—was spray painted in red at multiple locations proximate to and on the building.
UMOJA, the Swahili word for “unity,” represents a building on campus where underrepresented students have traditionally chosen to live during their time at Lehigh.
According to Lehigh’s website, “[UMOJA] was originally established to enhance the campus atmosphere for underrepresented students of color at Lehigh University. The house offers a safe, comfortable and pleasurable residential environment for ANY student who values multiculturalism.”
Sunny Huang, a Lehigh student, stated in an email circulating campus faculty’s inboxes that a report of the incident has been filed with Lehigh’s police department.
FBR, a group of students who feel marginalized on Lehigh’s campus, has been working with students and administrators recently to encourage that every student’s voice can be heard on Lehigh’s campus.
“The pictures attached [to the email]of the graffiti and eggs send a pretty clear message about how people on this campus feel about us,” Huang said in her email.
Huang referenced an incident involving a skinned deer head being thrown at the house—in 2006—and mentioned the parallel with the incident of this morning.
“These same incidents repeat themselves again and again and are consistently perpetuated on a campus—in a residence hall—that is supposed to be our second home,” she said in her email.
In closing, Huang said, “All we ask now is for your support and to spread the word—that in a supposedly ‘world-class institution,’ not all of us are safe.”
Students, faculty and staff were gathering in the lobby ofMaginnes Hall to discuss the incident as of 10:20 a.m. Wednesday morning.
At approximately 10:35 a.m., Lehigh’s President Alice Gast sent out an email addressing the community about the incident. It reads as follows:
“To All Faculty, Staff and Students,
“Early this morning eggs were thrown at the UMOJA House and parts of the house and surrounding area were spray painted with graffiti. This is a cowardly and hateful act. It is an affront to the residents of UMOJA, M&M and to everyone in the Lehigh community.
“This type of behavior will not be tolerated. The Lehigh Police Department has collected evidence and is investigating the incident. I urge anyone with information on who was involved in this despicable act to contact the campus police. An anonymous hotline, run by an outside agency, has been activated for this purpose. You can file a report online through http://bit.ly/1bbjnIU or by calling 888-924-4450. We will do everything possible to find out who did this, and will take prompt disciplinary or legal action.
“I will be visiting the residents at the UMOJA House this evening to offer my support. The provost and I are strongly supportive of, and will continue to be involved with the student groups that have come together to make Lehigh a welcoming place of mutual respect. We all need to stand together as a community against all acts that are motivated by intolerance
A rally took place in Maginnes Hall this morning was followed by another open dialogue in the University Center at approximately 12:30 p.m. Both meetings featured members of the community who spoke up, calling for both students and faculty to participate in a change on campus.
It was announced at the Maginnes meeting that a rally would be held at the flagpole on the University Center’s from lawn at 8 p.m. this evening.
Rawle Sterling, ’14, spoke during the University Center meeting, saying, “If we are really adults, we shouldn’t be divided by such petty groups or lines.”
At approximately 1:10 p.m., the university community received another email from Gast and Provost Pat Farrell, which read as follows:
“Dear Lehigh Community,
“Following the incident which took place on our campus earlier this morning, we urge you to come to a rally at 8:00 p.m. tonight at the flagpole, in unity against all acts that are motivated by intolerance and aggression. We encourage you to join us in your Lehigh gear.”
Updates regarding this incident will be posted as they become available. Please check back for more information.
Story by Brown and White news reporter Christina Cavanaugh,’14. Additional reporting by Kerry Mallett, ’15.