Lehigh’s five year Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Plan was shared with the campus community on Sept. 8.
The plan has been a work in progress since 2018 under the leadership of President John Simon, said Donald Outing, vice president for Equity and Community.
The priorities of the plan are “to enhance our culture, improve institutional infrastructure, diversify faculty and staff and expand student access and support.”
The plan was originally going to be released in March of 2020, but was pushed back due to the pandemic, as well as the focused attention on social justice across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.
Outing said Simon established the anti racism task force in the aftermath consisting of Outing, Provost Nathan Urban and Pat Johnson, vice president for finance and administration.
“We felt that releasing a plan that did not specifically address what we were experiencing, what many members of our community were experiencing, would be perceived as tone deaf,” Outing said. “So, in some respects, (we) went back to the drawing board to integrate more of our systemic approaches to DEI. Many of the stakeholders were calling that they wanted to see organizations, specifically higher education, take a more active role in working to disrupt, dismantle systemic racism and injustice.”
In 2020 an anti racist commitment was added to the plan to focus on practices, policies and procedures that produce inequitable outcomes concerning race, ethnicity, age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, economic status and other diverse identities, he said.
Outing said part of the plan includes a review of the Lehigh University Police Department from a committee of faculty, staff and students.
“They’ve been looking at diversifying their law enforcement officers as well as (taking) an intentional effort to bring in more women and underrepresented ethnic minorities that are part of our community policing team,” Outing said.
Another part of the plan aims to increase admissions of underrepresented groups.
Outing said the class of 2025 is one of the most diverse classes that has come into Lehigh.
“This has been a result of the commitment that we made to increasing the enrollment of underrepresented groups, like people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds,” Outing said. “People have been historically underrepresented here, based on their racial identities and ethnic identities.”