During the fall semester, Lehigh issued a proposal for creative ideas and impact initiatives in order to transform the university into an anti-racist institution.
In response senior, Mary Clougherty, junior Katie Rice of the women’s basketball team and Divine Buckrham, a senior on the football team, have come together to form a student-led freshman seminar.
Rice said that they got the idea from the work she and Clougherty had done over the summer to educate their own team about racism and different social injustices.
Buckrham is an active member of Student-Athletes of Color. He said Cloughtery and Rice reached out to him with the intention of organizing a proposal in response to the university’s invitation on anti-racism.
“We were thinking of ways to institute anti-racism at an action-based level at Lehigh,” Buckrham said. “We knew that education and discussion was the best way to do it.”
Clougherty said that involving freshmen in conversations about topics that may be uncomfortable for some is crucial for developing growth and an open mindset about racial and social injustices.
“Having open conversations with different viewpoints and ideas that you might not agree with or perspectives you might not have considered before is a skill that would be very beneficial for Lehigh freshmen,” Clougherty said.
She said the seminar is primarily going to be about having direct conversations about racial injustices and how you can be a better, more active community member and stronger ally.
“You can’t just walk into allyship in a community that you don’t identify with because you won’t be able to fully understand them,” Clougherty said. “The best possible way is to learn and listen to those communities.”
She said the objective of the seminar is to try to get freshmen thinking about their role in society and their role on campus. She wants Lehigh freshmen to be able to have difficult and uncomfortable conversations with a critical and open mind.
Buckrham said he believes that students will encounter diversity throughout their lives and learning these skills as freshmen will only benefit them when they are faced with challenging topics and difficult discussions.
Rice said they designed the seminar to be student-led because they believe that students gain social knowledge best through their peers.
She added that she thinks that Lehigh is very business and engineering-oriented, so the social sciences are not seen as important by many students. Rice believes that a seminar like this could help students to think beyond their busy work and expand their views on difficult topics.
Rice said there are some big changes that need to be made on campus in order to make Lehigh an anti-racist institution.
“The recruitment and retention of Black athletes Black students and black professors is a change I want to see at Lehigh,” Rice said. “I think representation is a huge deal and it is something that Lehigh needs to do better with.”
Buckrham said the long-term goal of the seminar is to start a dialogue about race and racial injustices in order to enact a permanent impact at Lehigh. Buckrham says he currently feels many students do not want to talk about these issues.
“We are looking for change on a student-level where students can have their eyes opened more to the topics of race and racism,” Buckrham said. “We want to make everyone more educated and aware which would lead to more long-lasting effects.”