Editorial: We have much work to do

7

Ninety-three words. 

President Simon, encapsulated the events at the US Capitol on  Jan. 6 into 93 words. Ninety-three words that he chose to share, not in an email to the Lehigh community, but on social media. 

In two short paragraphs, he wrote about the “sadness and anger” following the “lawlessness in our nation’s capitol” and that he trusts this event will “inspire us to redouble our efforts to unite our country and encourage the peaceful pursuit of governance.” 

Writing 93 words seemed to him to be enough of an effort. He even noted that “we have much work to do.” 

His message, however, was most notable for what it did not say.

He did not mention how the events of Jan. 6 were acts of domestic terrorism that have shaken our democracy, a principle in which our country is founded upon, to its core. He did not mention how men and women – wearing Nazi paraphanelia, waving confederate flags, some armed – were able to invade our nation’s capitol, vandalize priceless historical artifacts and threaten the lives of working legislators. He did not mention how these violent rioters were met with dramatically less police force than the people who peacefully protested in recent Black Lives Matter protests this past June. 

Not once did he mention that President Trump, who at that point, held an honorary degree from Lehigh, was a central proponent of this violent and shameful riot. 

However, it comes as no surprise that the response from our university administration be empty and begrudgingly obligatory. They have shown they’d prefer to straddle the fence than take a stance on critical events out of fear of ruffling the feathers of those with the deepest pockets. 

On many occasions over the past four years we have seen this idle bystander approach. We saw this when students and faculty petitioned to have Trump’s honorary degree rescinded, but were denied by Lehigh’s Board of Trustees more than once. 

We saw this when President Simon issued a statement about George Floyd’s death in which he condemned racism at our institution but couldn’t bring himself to say the words “Black Lives Matter.” 

And we saw this last Thursday, when all we got from President Simon was 93 words in an Instagram post about the Capitol riot. 

So President Simon, you say “we have much work to do.” But our question to you is, what work are you going to do?  

Perhaps a good place to start is to acknowledge the fundamental fallacy that caused the events of Jan. 6 – that it is Trump’s calling the 2020 presidential election fraudulent, and the refusal of others to disavow this lie, that poses a grave threat to our democracy.

And you say “we must continue to affirm our shared responsibility to fight ignorance, model inclusive excellence and embrace the power of diversity.” So why don’t you acknowledge how the riots were a blatant display of the white privilege in our country?

You also say that, “we must play an active role in understanding, candidly engaging in dialogue, and solving the problems of racial inequity and injustice.” So why have your attempts to communicate with the Lehigh community about these issues been vague and lack transparency?

Five people died, and many others were injured in the riot, yet rioters were met by minimal police force and only 82 people were arrested. In contrast, peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors were treated brutally by the police countless times over the past year., and on June 1, a crowd was tear-gassed and 326 were arrested.

Trump told the rioters he loved them and that they are very special, but called Black Lives Matter protesters “thugs,” “looters” and “terrorists.” The difference, however, is the rioters violently attacked the Capitol to stop a legislative procedure integral to our democracy because they didn’t get what they wanted, whereas BLM protestors peacefully acted on their first amendment rights to show resistance to a system that disproportionately targets people of color.   

Five Trump officials have resigned since last Wednesday. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and many prominent Republicans, have called on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office immediately, and if he declines, says they are prepared to impeach him for a second time, according to The New York Times

These people planned this attack on behalf of Trump because they were so brainwashed by the lies he has told and continues to tell.

You and the Board of Trustees claim that you are striving for Lehigh to be an anti-racist institution, but the requests of students and faculty who have on countless occasions voiced their concerns about racial inequity within our community weren’t enough to rescind Trump’s degree. It took him inciting an act of sedition–– and then refusing to condemn the Capitol rioters on live television––for Lehigh to finally take action. 

On Jan. 8 at 10:16 a.m.,The Board of Trustees announced that Trump’s honorary degree had been rescinded. This time only in a 58 word message. 

If this is the “work” that you, President Simon, said has to be done, then that is just scratching the surface—there is a vast difference between just rescinding a degree and actually implementing practices that will make Lehigh a more tolerant and accepting community. 

Moving forward, Lehigh’s plan of action to address racism within our institution must go far beyond the vague messages we’ve received thus far, and the diversity trainings and workshops you’ve set in place. It requires transparency and commitment to investigating and fixing the systemically racist practices that contribute to an inequitable community. 

Donald Trump is racist, sexist, anti-semetic, xenophobic and a pathological liar. By honoring him for so long, that made Lehigh complicit in his prejudice and lies. 

Damage has been done, and there is much work ahead to clean up the debris. 

It’s now time that Lehigh’s administration finally listens to those they represent. And uses action instead of words to show their opposition to discrimination in our institution and in our nation. 

Take a stand against racism. Take a stand to honor the truth. Take a stand to respect your students and faculty. Help be a part of the change.

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7 Comments

  1. And what did you say about the AA’s burning down Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis and on and on. one sided hypocrisy. Not My B&W and Not My Lehigh!

    • Amy Charles '89 on

      I think moderating for racism would be an unobjectionable thing, especially when particular posters have already aired their racism fully, and the “we should at least be able to see where it is” idea’s taken care of.

  2. Bruce Haines ‘67 on

    Editorial Board fails to acknowledge that the members of the protest at the Capital included Black,Hispanic & Asians.

    Editorial Board fails to acknowledge the violence, deaths & destruction of property both private & federal in various cities throughout the summer calling them peaceful protests while fires roared at virtually every protest in major cities.

    Editorial Board Demonstrated that college students are still citizens in training as you have not experienced the real world yet to make sound judgements but rather spew the brainwashing coming from your left wing Marxist professors at Lehigh.

    Perhaps the Editorial Board needs to do more homework to find out that Trump told the protesters to March to the Capital peacefully. Perhaps the Editorial Board needs to do more investigative reporting about who else might have orchestrated the riots since they started before Trump’s rally speech ended. Perhaps the Editorial Board might want to look at the serious vote counting process in the swing states including Pa.

    • Amy Charles '89 on

      Go home, Bruce. Your dreamed-of race-war moment’s passing you by, and your time, thank God, is over.

      In the meantime, folks, if you hold an event at Hotel B, this is what you’re supporting. If it were me, I’d spend the dollars elsewhere.

  3. Robert F. Davenport Jr on

    “Donald Trump is racist, sexist, anti-semetic, xenophobic and a pathological liar.” I disagree with all of these characterizations as well as several others for different people, organizations and actions as written in your editorial. This is not to say that there is no evidence for such characterizations. The man was a politician, even before he ran for office and his actions seem to be mostly politically motivated. You might have been better served had you described what he is not and let the burden of proof be on others; it is easy to deny attacks. He is not many things chief among them he is not a person who enjoys doing good for others, a characteristic that should be a part of a public servant. I believe he wanted to do what was best for the country, the problem being his ideas of what was good for the country were the only ideas that counted. The President of our country owes it the its citizens to care about the concerns of all and address problems.

    Lehigh’s President Simon responsibilities are different. I think his statements are measured, which although the editorial writer thinks are inadequate, and possibly more in keeping with Lehigh’s position as a university attempting to adapt in a changing society and also remain relevant as a private university. Not all agree with the societal changes being made nor the methods used. Lehigh is an educational institution not an activist organization. The administration’s task is to prepare it’s graduates to help construct a strong and just society. At Lehigh the mandate does not exist for the administration to lead the change as activists, this seems to be the job of the faculty and The Brown and White.

    This is a great editorial in that it is thought provoking, and all of the people, organizations and actions mentioned deserve much study and discussion. I do not agree with it’s conclusions , a statement that other readers can use to describe what I have written.

  4. While I agree with many of the sentiments expressed, I think the Editorial Board’s main target is a miss. And there are multiple issues which are thrown together and need to be separated out.
    I’m not sure if the content and mode of communication were President Simon’s “choice.” I don’t pretend to know what goes on behind closed doors between Simon and his Executive Board members, but there must be a serious disconnect. There is a story there and one which might be worth exploring as Lehigh itself hopes for a positive transfer of leadership.
    On the one hand, you have Simon who, when working as Provost for UVA, stood up to the Board’s sudden ousting of its President in a bold and risky appearance and statement: http://www.readthehook.com/104263/sullivan-stripped-v-p-simon-hints-quit-if-bov-doesnt-change
    “I am now wondering whether my own beliefs about the values of higher education are consistent with our Board . . . The Board actions over the next few days will inform me as to whether the University of Virginia remains the type of institution I am willing to dedicate my efforts to lead.” He received a standing ovation and was lauded as a man of integrity and honor. He started a small movement that led to the continued tenure of the President. It is worth noting he also established the Global Studies major at UVA (as a scientist). I don’t know his politics but at least one of his sons attended a progressive Quaker school which espouses Quaker values.
    Now, on the other hand you have these guys:
    Kevin Clayton (“Nuff said”) of Bedminster who very likely knows Trump personally – an old B&W article from the ’80’s suggests that his father helped to get Cosby and Malcolm Forbes as Commencement speakers – and maybe Trump, too.??
    Maria L. Chrin, whose husband, John Chrin, ran for Congress in 2018 with the express endorsement of Trump, Pence, the NRA, and PA Pro-Life Federation. In his Tweet of October, 2018, he says, “Thank you, President @realDonaldTrump, for your strong endorsement of my campaign! Under your leadership and economic vision, hardworking Northeastern Pennsylvanians and all Americans are benefitting.”
    And a few others, including the school’s General Counsel, who has not put on a good show lately.
    So who is likely calling the shots during this last week?
    i’m not defending Simon, but I do think his true principles do not align with our Board’s, his hands have been tied all these years, to a great extent, by the Board (not the administration you refer to),; and he has been unable to exercise his own morals and judgment. Perhaps that is why he announced his resignation after his contract was extended for 5 years. At UVA, a public university, Simon had the support of the Governor! At Lehigh, his likely allies – faculty and administrators – have been silenced by the Fortune 500 Board. So he has decided to be the academic he is and to teach at Lehigh, where he likely feels more of a moral kinship with students and staff. (Again, don’t really know just speculating.)
    Simon’s post-insurrection statement is probably briefer than he would like. But he does acknowledge a “violent assault,” lawlessness, truth, reason, and the will of the people. And I’m sure he was told it could not go out as an email to students and alumns. He has towed the line too much and for too long – but he is not the really problematic guy here and Editorial Board needs to explore who those guys are and how much power they have. Bc if you look at the employment ad that just went out for a new LU President, it talks about real estate holdings, jobs, employment, growth, and monetary value. Where are references to diversity, inclusion, globalization, social equity, and the values of higher education?? Obviously, there won’t really be a transition of power/leadership because Clayton, Chrin and other business folks are looking for someone who values all of the things they deem important. Which brings me to the second set of issues your article addresses, including racism, white privilege, inequity, marginalized/vulnerable students/faculty, etc.. I’m not equipped to really understand how students of certain ethnic backgrounds, gender/sexual orientation, or socioeconomic levels feel on campus, but I do see positive measures being taken and did see a tweet by a student of color which stated that it’s a complicated issue bc many of these wealthy, very conservative donors do invest in programs which benefit marginalized students. I do know, however, that the tolerance and acceptance you ask Simon to implement can be achieved, to some extent, by the student body, which greatly outnumbers the administrators and the Board and sets the tone. “Take action,” Lehigh students, and sign up for the MLK Conversation on Monday, I’m sure many students of color would love to see your faces on zoom. And you would learn a lot. Lehigh students are bold, proactive and belong to a generation of very vocal gamechangers. Move beyond social media posts, messaging, and editorials- show up in meaningful ways – use your actions instead of words. And I don’t mean by marching in protest; I mean by “random acts” of support, inclusion, interest, and caring in your college community. Small gestures that accumulate to create significant change in campus dynamics and interactions. (I know many of you already do!)
    Finally, B&W is the main source of info for many of us due to a serious lack of transparency. Thanks for that! But Simon is leaving, so appeal to the Board, put the pressure on them, and get involved in the gritty details of the search process for the next President – because they have to find someone who believes in your ideals and who can stand up to the Board in the way that Simon did back in the day at UVA. Or who can change up the Board to reflect a better cross-section of the LU community. Not easy but it can be done over time. Look to Stacey Abrams and Georgia.

    • Amy Charles '89 on

      “his hands have been tied all these years, to a great extent, by the Board (not the administration you refer to),; and he has been unable to exercise his own morals and judgment”

      The man has been free each and every day of his life to exercise his own morals and judgment.

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