Lehigh Board of Trustees Chair Kevin Clayton and President John Simon released a statement in an email addressed to the Lehigh community on June 3. The response comes just a day after an open letter, signed by members of the Lehigh community, called on the university to do more to oppose racism in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.
The letter, written by a group of faculty members, is no longer available for signing, but at last count had received roughly 1,600 signatures as of earlier this morning. The open letter was in response to Simon’s May 31 original email condemning bigotry and hatred, which the authors of the letter feel didn’t go far enough.
In the statement, Simon and Clayton pledged their support to members of the community who are outraged about the murder of Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
“We know the authors and signers of the letter delivered their message with the measurable purpose to make Lehigh better,” the email said, which was signed by Clayton and Simon. “We share that goal and thank them for the commitment to our university. We need to make Lehigh University an actively anti-racist institution. By this, we mean actively speaking out and addressing acts of racism, racist comments, racist practices, policies and procedures.”
As a first step, the university will begin an independent review of LUPD’s policies, procedures, and practices, the email said. They will assess how interactions with local law enforcement impacts students, faculty and staff.
“We fully recognize and accept our responsibility, as leaders and stewards of this institution, to create the change that is needed,” the email said. “We cannot do so alone. We will require the involvement of all members of our community, and engagement in the difficult conversations and challenging decisions that can lead to sustainable, lasting change.”
Members of Lehigh’s administration will initiate a comprehensive review to ensure that university policies are anti-racist. This includes tenure and promotion, hiring practices, student conduct and student recruitment, the email said.
Clayton and Simon said, in the days and weeks ahead, a series of forums, meetings and virtual town halls will be held to gather community input and take further actions “to ensure a stronger, actively anti-racist” Lehigh University.