Editorial: How we manage tradition and change

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Football is about as American as it gets.

And with the long-standing Lehigh-Lafayette Rivalry game on Saturday, this week has been shrouded in school spirit and tradition that dates back over 150 years.

At the same time, the university is holding International Week during Rivalry Week for the second year in a row. In past years, International Week was held before Rivalry Week.

This scheduling makes for poor timing — the overlap of these two weeks demonstrates the dichotomy of balancing old and new traditions.  

Rivalry Week traditions include Bed Races on the Memorial Walkway, a bonfire near Goodman Stadium, t-shirt giveaways and dozens of bedsheets hung across campus, proudly displaying anti-Lafayette banter.

Lehigh boasts tradition, and in principle, Rivalry Week should seize students’ full attention to highlight our school’s rich history. At the same time, International Week deserves the same awareness.

Furthermore, as Le-Laf traditions are not given full attention, what’s worse is the events of International Week could get overshadowed. For example, the international film series in Neville Hall coincides with Bed Races.

This was either a startling oversight or a clear lack of priority for international celebration at Lehigh. It is obvious that a collision with Rivalry Week will lead to significantly less participation and awareness of other events. 

Lehigh has a reputation to protect as a globally conscious university. We have a strong partnership with the United Nations, we’re an accredited nongovernmental organization and we partner with dozens of study abroad programs and offer immersive Iacocca international internships.

We were even selected as the sole U.S. location for the International Labor Organization’s centenary conference in April. Would an ILO-distinguished institution be expected to schedule its International Week during the same time as its most hectic week of the entire academic year?

With the goals of accepting more international students and increasing its global brand, the university needs to make a greater effort to celebrate international values in addition to flying around the world to promote the Campaign for Lehigh.

It’s entirely possible to be a university that holds true to its traditional Rivalry Week, while raising awareness of the efforts to increase its international involvement and recognition. But by trying to mix in both at the same time, Lehigh is making a grave mistake.

It’s clear it would be beneficial if International Week and Rivalry Week were held during separate weeks to give both the attention they deserve. Holding them together, however, provides students of all backgrounds the opportunity to defy the school’s scheduling error and enjoy many experiences all in one week — new cultures, old traditions and good ol’ American football.

All in all, it’s important to find time to appreciate International Week and what it has to offer. 

International Week provides an opportunity to experience a small slice of other cultures from the convenience of our own campus.

There are opportunities to try foods, play games, watch movies and other ways to experience a small amount of cultural immersion. There are more professional aspects of International Week, like information sessions for Iacocca internships and study abroad programs. The Global Union also hosts a Friendsgiving to support this idea of cross-cultural engagement.

The best thing to do during the week is to find the right balance of both participating in a classic and traditional Rivalry Week and to get involved with Lehigh’s growing international community so you don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience something new.

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10 Comments

  1. The event starts with a good team, Lehigh doesn’t have one this year. The back bone used to be a strong fraternity system, again Lehigh has succeeded in killing that also. The freshman used to come to all football games, they don’t do that either. There were fun things to do on the weekend, political correctness and “safety” have eliminated that also. So why come to the game? No longer compatible with being a Snowflake.

    • Amy Charles '89 on

      Although the writer above sounds 83 years old, complete with aluminum folding chair and “get off my lawn” fist-shake, he’s actually 46 and is super-sour that he’s not getting as many extra points for being a white college-educated man as he was promised. What’s the point of keeping all that high school ephemera now? Who will line up to write his memoir?

      They lied to you, Faxman. They lied to you. And here’s the kicker: they don’t care.

  2. Engineers and Mountain Hawks Alike on

    I appreciate Lehigh’s diversity but, I’m sorry, the Rivalry is 154 years old. It remains the longest continuously played rivalry in college sports. I regularly hear and read lamentations over the lack of school spirit, though Lehigh-Lafayette week appeals to a wide audience—athletes, sports fans, and none of the above, Greeks and unaffiliated, partiers and people who are just there to have a good time. So for one week out of Lehigh’s 28-week academic year, everything else can take a backseat.

    • Amy Charles '89 on

      I just adore how the very same people who’ll shout and rail about Personal Liberties and Freedom Ringing get seriously bent out of shape when others don’t do what these people want them to do. Whole world’s going to hell if other people want to do something else.

      Some people just don’t dig football and think school rivalries are kinda dumb, hon. You go enjoy it if you’re into that kind of thing.

  3. Amy Charles '89 on

    Oh, baloney, learn to pay attention to more than one thing at once. Half of you are going to schlep off to New York after you’re done at Lehigh: are you going to complain that NYC’s got too much going on at once?

    As for tradition — hey, look at me, I’m ancient and part of Lehigh tradition, and I never went to a Lehigh-Lafayette game (we had time to say the whole name back then) or to sunrise cocktails (it sounds romantic till 6 am, when a reasonably healthy non-alcoholic bod says “that’s a stupid idea, go back to sleep”). But for years I did help organize and run International Weeks, and they were well-attended whenever they were held, partly because the food was delicious and cheap, thanks to the efforts of the international students and their families.

    Apart from which, people aren’t so interested in football anymore; that’s the subject of a parallel story…and now we see what the editorial’s really about. You’re afraid International Week, of all things, is pulling attendance from your cherished football, when in fact it’s just that well-educated people aren’t so into it anymore. Causes brain damage, NFL’s rife with misogyny and racism. And Lehigh’s not so male and butch anymore, meaning a lot of women stop pretending to be interested in football and in getting plastered early in the morning amidst drunken alumni.

    So here you are, ready to throw international students under the bus in just the nicest way in order to drive more attendance to the thing you like, while dragging in all this rhetoric about tradition. Smooth. Are you going to go on playing it this way (while extolling unfettered competition, maybe) after you graduate?

    How about this: Having International Week and other events during the week of Lehigh-Lafayette will expose the measure of real interest in the rivalry. It could be its time is near an end, or that it’s going to have to learn to live with primus inter pares, or be a sideshow altogether. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go get ready for work and brush my hair, because I don’t wear a sheitel. Tradition!

  4. Amy Charles '89 on

    Finally: Lehigh is a research institution, and science and engineering are international. The school’s had a significant international population for at least 47 years, which is as far back as my acquaintance with it goes. Since I’m sure those people didn’t turn up overnight, I expect Lehigh’s international community has been around for considerably longer.

    I get that the essay-writers here were trying hard to cast the situation as new-v-old in order to have a rhetorical hook to hang their plea on. The problem is that for that to work, you actually have to get things right. What you’re saying has to be true. And here it isn’t true. Not only isn’t it true, it blanks out the reality of a long-lived international community.

    The question is why you didn’t know that. Maybe it’s not that difficult to figure out: for a very long time at Lehigh, and maybe still today, “international” meant “not really Lehigh”. “Real Lehigh” was burly, hairy guys from New Jersey who had engineering majors and bed races and were anxious to go make bank. International students and faculty were people who had, inexplicably, turned up, were nameless, maybe didn’t really know how to drive, were ignored, and would probably go away again, not be missed, and be replaced by interchangeable others. There certainly was no effort at outreach or inclusion; the International Club was born in the 1980s as a sort of refuge and vehicle for becoming visible. My guess is it was only one iteration of such efforts over the decades.

    “International” got a little more visibility at Lehigh as the business school and prospects for business-based study-abroad grew, but even there, the focus was on what the American kids could get out of it. Like all American universities, Lehigh discovered a gold mine international students abroad in the aughts, but again, recruiting is not the same thing as recognizing and welcoming.

    But there’s another thing that’s changed. A thing I don’t seem to hear at all, through B&W, is a recognition of the scale of US immigration in the last few decades and the likelihood that any Lehigh student is a new American or a first-generation American. That’s a thing you should be well aware of. If you didn’t notice it in high school…well, how do I put this. I live in Iowa. Half my kid’s friends are from immigrant families. In Iowa. The school district is hunting for volunteer French translators because they don’t have enough for all the Francophone African-immigrant families. Most of you came from much closer to New York, so if I’m noticing this here, and you couldn’t see it there, there’s a reason, and you should ask your parents about it.

    The thing is, if you are a new American now, it’s not 1920. You don’t have to run out and learn how to play baseball and be embarrassed because your grandma doesn’t speak English. You’re allowed to embody that internationalism. If that means that you’re more interested in an International Week event than you are in Lehigh-Lafayette — or if it means you’re not that interested in football period — that’s fine.

    Does any of that mean that people who do like football can’t play it, or can’t go to games? No, of course not. Go and enjoy. It just means that, like evangelicals who want the Ten Commandments in every courtroom, they can’t make everyone else want what they want. (Why they feel it’s necessary to do that, I doubt I’ll ever understand.) It also means that the time for pushing other people aside and saying “that’s not real Lehigh, this is the important real Lehigh!” Is over. Welcome to your plurality.

    The fact that you’ve just noticed something — like the presence of international students — doesn’t mean that it’s new. It just means that now you’ve noticed.

    • Amy, you truly are pathetic. You bash anyone that expresses an opinion that you don’t agree with but constantly complain that people are too closed minded. Your comment about not wearing a sheitel just shows that you are too set in your own ways to accept that some people enjoy following traditions, and was completely irrelevant to any point that you were attempting to make, but that is standard for your preachy ramblings.

      Lehigh-Lafayette is a tradition that many people enjoy. It is the longest running rivalry in college sports and just because you didn’t have friends to enjoy it with while you were here doesn’t mean you need to set out on a vendetta to ruin it for everyone else.
      What the author was saying was that holding International Week during LeLaf detracts from the ability of all students to enjoy both. As hard as this may be for you to believe, some students may want to participate in bed races and also learn about other cultures.

      According to the time stamps of your comments, you only work 5 hours a day. Instead of spending all of your free time spewing garbage in the comment section of a student newspaper, or promoting the intolerance that you claim to be so against, how about working just a little bit harder and maybe you can find some happiness in your work instead of only finding joy in s***posting.

  5. Amy,

    How is the NFL racist when 70% of the players are African American? Your extracurricular activities while at Lehigh are so surprising.

    • Amy Charles '89 on

      Fred, there’s a whole internet’s worth of answers on that already, and you can look them up and read them. Here, I’ll help you.

      http://bfy.tw/Kwbk

      Now, I could go out and find you a handful of wonderful links. But I am not your personal no-cost librarian. So I have given you a start here, and you can start reading and thinking and following your own chain of questioning, keeping, naturally, an open mind as you go.

      I look forward to hearing what you discover.

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