This past Friday, dozens of students held signs preaching these hashtags. Dressed in all black, the students gathered on the Alumni Memorial walkway to silently protest against Lehigh’s alleged injustices toward students, faculty and staff of color.
Held as a follow-up to the protest last month on Packer Avenue, this demonstration was a continuation of the student-led efforts against Lehigh and support for Monica Miller, a professor of religion and Africana studies who filed a lawsuit in federal court against Lehigh alleging the university ignored her harassment claims by former professor James Peterson.
Peterson resigned in January 2018 following an investigation into his sexual misconduct.
The protest, which was targeted toward prospective students and Lehigh’s administration, was structured around two time shifts for students to join the effort — one from 10:20-11:30 a.m. and another from 12:45-1:30 p.m.
Students who participated had duct tape against their mouths and held signs that urged for Lehigh’s administration to be held accountable for their actions, support for survivors of abuse and reminders that students of color admitted to the university are not “diversity tokens.”
“It’s ultimately about the structures that are not in place once students and faculty get here,” said Kevelis Matthews-Alvarado, ‘20. “It’s about retention and the success and growth of these marginalized students and the programs that affect them.”
Students sat at the benches along the memorial walkway, raising their signs and handing out flyers to passing tour groups.
The students crafted a list of demands surrounding institutional reform and support and an overall inclusive environment for marginalized staff, faculty and students of color.
The statement, which was nailed to the front of President John Simon’s door, is meant to be a starting place to push the administration to address the various issues and lawsuits surrounding the university.
“We want to draw attention to the administration about the demands that we have and how we’re not going to stay silent about this issue,” said Laura DeFelice, ‘19. “We want to show them that we will keep doing this as long as they continue to silence us.”
The protest was approved by the Dean of Students’ Office, the Chief of Police and the admissions office, Matthews-Alvarado said.
“We believe that students should have a voice and when they feel that there is an issue they want to bring to higher level awareness,” said Director of Admissions Bruce Bunnick. “To the entire community and anyone that steps foot on this campus, they (the students) are within their rights and obligations to voice those concerns.”
Bunnick said he believes it is important to bring attention to these issues so that the campus community can engage, understand and be aware of the impediments students, faculty and staff go through.
“Hopefully, the administration hears what we have to say, takes it into consideration and makes the necessary changes because the institution has so much potential to be a lot better,” said Savanna James, ‘21.
DeFelice said she hopes to see changes implemented soon. If not, she said they will continue the efforts until something happens.
“The mistreatment needs to stop. It is not an isolated incident, there have been many instances that we have been trying to bring to light,” Matthews-Alvarado said. “I hope that this was a small piece in addressing and showcasing some of the mistreatment and real experiences of those who are at the margins of this institution.”