(Sara Boyd/B&W Staff)

University launches crowdsourcing campaign to further anti-racist initiatives

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In efforts to make Lehigh an actively anti-racist institution, the university has launched several initiatives, incorporating a wide array of Lehigh organizations, offices and departments aimed at making the campus community more inclusive and equitable.

Through a crowdsourcing campaign for creative inquiries spearheaded by Henry Odi, deputy vice president for equity and community and associate provost for academic diversity, the university is accepting ideas from the Lehigh community for initiatives to help make Lehigh actively anti-racist. 

The submissions are divided into three categories. Category one is undergraduate and graduate students, category two is faculty and category three is exempt and non-exempt staff. 

Submitted ideas will be evaluated by assessment teams composed of undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty and staff. Some members of the assessment teams were invited while others were nominated, but all are volunteers. Within each category, a total of $5,000 will be awarded to the best ideas, which can be submitted by individuals or small groups of up to five.

While not all ideas will receive a cash prize, all ideas will be considered in efforts to improve the campus community in a meaningful way going forward. 

“To become an anti-racist institution, it’s not going to happen a year or two or three from now,” Odi said. “It’s a journey for the university as we embark on this to make all the necessary changes so ultimately that everyone, regardless of who you are or what you are or where you come from, you will feel that you belong at Lehigh.”

Along with the collected initiatives, Lehigh plans to conduct outreach and engagement with the community and to review university policies and procedures as well as procedures within the Lehigh University Police Department.

Clara Buie, associate director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and tri-chair for the Council for Equity and Community, reaffirmed the importance of reviewing policies and procedures to make the community more equitable. She also said it is important to recognize what is working well and allowing the university to progress so these ideas or policies can be emulated elsewhere.

The Student Senate has been conducting similar internal work as well. 

Student Senate President Eve Freed, ‘21, said the Student Senate has been providing the administration with student input and recommendations on their anti-racism initiatives, policies and procedures on an as-needed basis.

Freed said the Student Senate has been working to better represent the entire Lehigh community. 

“If Senate isn’t diverse and inclusive and working towards becoming an actively anti-racist organization, we can’t properly represent those minority voices in our community,” Freed said. .

All of the efforts put forth by the university are being overseen by Provost Nathan Urban, Vice President for Finance and Administration Patricia Johnson and Vice President for Equity and Community Donald Outing. 

Odi said the work to make Lehigh actively anti-racist will not be done by one office or a few people, but will rather broadly engage the community and be done by everyone.

Khanjan Mehta, vice provost of creative inquiry, director of the Mountaintop Initiative and a tri-chair for the Council for Equity and Community said change must be systemic. 

“If you want to move forward in a systematic manner, then we need to engage the entire system,” Mehta said.

The university continues in its efforts to become actively anti-racist, and submissions for creative inquiries will be accepted through Nov. 15.

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