Lehigh community gathers in Maginnes for dialogue in response to vandalism of UMOJA House

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Frustrated and saddened by the graffiti and egging of UMOJA house, Lehigh students, faculty and staff met in the lobby of Maginnes Hall Wednesday morning to have a dialogue about the incident.

“Any university recreates itself, but we stay the same,” said Michael Raposa, a professor in the department of religion studies.

A discussion through email began early in the morning among faculty members from the faculty caucus and students from FBR as news of the incident spread through campus, according to Raposa.

The event began with roughly a dozen people at 10 a.m., but had reached nearly 100 people in attendance by 11 a.m. The event continued until noon, when the core members of FBR left for a meeting at the University Center.

The UC meeting was planned to take place in the Multicultural Center, but the group chose to move into the UC dining room to include as many people as possible.

Both meetings featured discussion of the incident at UMOJA, but also a call to action for change on campus.

“There was a powerful consensus among students, faculty and staff that we should come together in solidarity, and that we should do so as soon as possible,” Raposa said.

There was a strong faculty presence, and many wanted it to be known that students cannot be the only ones working for change.

“Who really owns this campus? It’s the faculty,” said John Smith, a professor in the History Department. “The faculty have been here the longest, and staff […] we need to take the lead on this.”

Vice Provost for Academic Diversity, Dr. Henri Odi, said he is not usually very vocal, but felt it was important for him to comment on the incident, indicating that change must be enacted on campus.

“Do we have work ahead of us? Yes. Is it going to be easy? No. It’s going to take all of us,” he said.

Scott Grant, ’16, a core member of FBR, expressed his frustration with the attitudes on the campus and the subsequent effect it has on his ability to recruit students to come to Lehigh.

“I don’t want to invite someone to come here and learn that you can get away with this, and then go out into the world and then do something on a larger scale,” said Grant.

Brenda Martinez, ’15, another core member of FBR, addressed the reason the event was held in Maginnes, due to her belief that students in the Arts and Sciences are continually learning the history and cultures behind incidents such as this.

“I’m not surprised that the Arts and Sciences called for this. But we also need to see that engineering and business departments talk about the same, and that’s where we need your help,” she said.

Other faculty members and students echoed this sentiment, encouraging action from each college and graduate students as well.

“Where do we go from there? We need to decide what it would take for real change to occur here,” said Raposa.

Martinez then announced that the next step for change would occur later at night.

“Tonight at 8 p.m. we’re going to do a rally […] we do not feel safe on campus.”

“When people find the urgency to do something about this, that’s when change is made. So please don’t be complacent,” said Grant.

“I suspect this gathering was a mere warm-up exercise for the rally scheduled at 8 p.m. this evening. And I hope both gatherings will be the immediate prelude to an ear of decisive, courageous and dramatic change at Lehigh,” said Raposa after the event.

Story by Brown and White news writer Kathryn Suma, ’14. 

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