The Diversity Peer Educators program was launched on Monday, Dec. 3, 2018 in the Global Commons in Williams Hall. Students on campus created this program to confront the racial climate on Lehigh’s campus. (Courtesy of Jamal Connelly)

Diversity Peer Educators program strives for campus impact

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POLS 295, Revolution on Campus, instructed by Nandini Deo, introduced its Diversity Peer Educators program through a launch party held Dec. 3 in the Global Commons in Williams Hall.

The class focuses on student activism and as a culmination of their studies, the students constructed a project that tackles an issue they see as a problem at Lehigh. 

Through initial readings, students were exposed to different forms of student activism. After learning about the positive impacts of student activism, the students proposed projects of their own.

This semester, the students in the class chose to confront the racial climate on campus. Thus, the Diversity Peer Educators program was created.

“Race and identity affect every person’s life,” said Malini Ray, ’20, a student in the class.

Upon its initiation, the Diversity Peer Educators program will be a club on campus that will aim to improve the racial climate on campus through educational means.

“The best way to tackle the issue is to confront the lack of exposure and information,” Deo said.

She explained the need for resources on campus for students to better understand what it means to be a part of a diverse community, since the backgrounds of Lehigh students lead some to have greater exposure to different cultures than others.

Learning from Lehigh’s Break the Silence program, which aims to prevent gender violence through sexuality education, the DPE hopes to implement similar programs to provide Lehigh students with diversity training.

The DPE hopes to host a diversity training at first-year orientation next year to provide students with the necessary tools to become a welcoming member of the Lehigh community. To extend its reach, the DPE also hopes to get involved with Greek organizations and athletic teams by providing diversity training which will promote inclusivity and begin a dialogue about race.

Heather Arias, ’22, attended the launch party and said she appreciated the DPE’s focus on not only diversity, but also inclusivity.

Arias said diversity is important, but in order to supplement diversity, there must be an equal emphasis on inclusivity.  She believes the DPE will be a valuable resource to promote inclusivity on campus in the future.

The DPE launch party detailed several of the issues it wishes to confront on campus.

To better understand the racial attitudes that still plague society, a series of comments regarding race was read at the event, and participants were asked to decide whether the comment was made in the 1960s or 2018.

To the surprise of many participants, although phrasing varied, the racial bias remained present in both the comments made in the 1960s and those made in 2018, despite half a century of progress.

With other activities displaying statistics and facts about race both at Lehigh and on a national scale, participants confronted implicit bias while gaining exposure to a broad view of many influential racial issues. Each activity was followed by a discussion so participants were allowed the time to reflect on the content and understand how it relates to their own lives.

The DPE hopes to be added as a two-credit course in future semesters.

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