The DEI office and the center for gender equity hosted a town hall on April 1. The event focused on Lehigh’s Strategic Plan and Progress Measures for diversity, equity and inclusion on campus. (Xinyi Ren/BW Staff)

Town hall addresses Diversity, Inclusion, Equity strategic efforts


Lehigh hosted a town hall on April 1 regarding the university’s Diversity, Inclusion and Equity strategic efforts and progress hosted by vice president for equity and community Donald Outing along with moderator and director of the Center for Gender Equity Rita Jones. The discussion focused on the lack of diversity among staff and faculty.

The town hall started with Outing explaining the progress the university has made and the work that needs to be done in the future. It then shifted to a Q&A.

Outing said the goal of the town hall was to communicate to the campus community the progress measures they have been working on for the last several months to support the strategic plan that they released last fall and to get tangible outcomes.

Outing recognized the work that Lehigh has done to make the school a better environment for all students such as amplifying the Center for Student Access & Success, which has provided students with the opportunity to study abroad, get a living wage during the summer while they did research or took on internships, and created an emergency fund for students.

He also spoke about the work Lehigh does to diversify the student body and how they are striving to improve diversification of faculty and staff.

That’s why you will see our initial set of progress measures explicitly focuses on progress around faculty and staff,” Outing said. “Not just bringing our faculty in, because we have had successes in bringing faculty in the past, but we haven’t had as much success in retaining those same underrepresented faculty, whether that is women in STEM or African Americans throughout the institution.”

Holona Ochs, associate professor in the political science department, said she was disappointed with the unevenness of the commitment to Diversity, Inclusion and Equity across the university, which was expressed in some of the questions asked during the town hall. 

She said there was some hesitation to commit to Diversity, Inclusion and Equity and thinks more conversations like those at the town hall are needed if Lehigh wants people to feel comfortable.

“They can do a lot more to affirm their commitment to DI&E (Diversity, Inclusion and Equity) at this institution,” Ochs said. “Their hesitance to fully engage with anti-racist objectives and DI&E will make the progress much slower than it needs to be.”

Ochs said she hopes to see increasing diversity at the institution because she thinks more diverse perspectives enhance our ability to innovate, amplify understanding of one another and improve our quality of life.

Jones said some of the progress is not necessarily visible since it is happening in many places and not everybody knows about it; so being able to consolidate the progress on the dashboard available to Lehigh community members is important. She said Lehigh will be building a dashboard to provide updates on those measures. 

Conversations are ongoing and Outing is open to meeting with students and answering questions they may have. If individuals are experiencing or seeing inequities, they should reach out, Jones said. 

“There is certainly room for growth. If there wasn’t room for growth, we wouldn’t have a plan,” Jones said. “I think positive strides have happened and positive change is happening, and there is more to grow and Lehigh is committed to going there.”

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1 Comment

  1. It’s always amazing to me, this wide-eyed wondering around at the mysterious phenomenon of women and minorities just not sticking around a university payroll.

    The root cause, Outing, is cowardice. Paycheck-driven administrative cowardice. You have a BoT full of expensive suits who don’t want to be bothered with equity, especially if it costs money. You have an alumni core of aged frat brats who’re making an entire retirement of growling at the woke, and you want their money. You have senior faculty who’re mostly men; men are the majority votes in tenure and promotion cases, and they’ve done a fantastic job of making sure that after 50 years of talking about how eventually women will be equally represented at the top of the professoriate, it’s still overwhelmingly male. YOU’VE JUST HIRED A PRESIDENT WHO SPENT AGES BLIND AND/OR LOOKING THE OTHER WAY AT DARTMOUTH AS A FLORID, BUBBLING HOT-TUB OF A SEXUAL HARASSMENT DEPARTMENT kept on doing its thing until the whole thing made lurid headlines in a giant class-action suit and a few profs were forced to resign, and I bet anything, Outing, that you clapped and cheered at his installation and shook his hand and said how glad you were to meet him and what a wonderful thing it is he’s come to Lehigh and how you looked forward to working with him.

    He wasn’t by chance in the room during your DEI shindig, was he? Backing you up throughout? Strong voice at the town hall for DEI?

    What exactly do you expect? If you’re serious about your job, and who knows, maybe you are, I would take your trustees down to one of the less preposessing parking lots that used to be Bethlehem Steel, and wave your arm there, and say, “This is you. This parking lot is you. This area is as history, as dead, as barren as your attitude toward equity, and it’s what Lehigh will become if you can’t effing quit riding my brakes. You’re old and you’re rich but you’re done and what matters is what those kids and the young professors and staff think about equity, not what you think, and they outnumber you harder every day. If you want Lehigh dead like this parking lot, keep going. Keep shifting around irritably when you hear about equity like you’re still the king. Keep getting in my way.”

    But you won’t do that, because you weren’t hired to do that. You were hired to give an appearance of DEI — in a hell of an insulting way, too — and make noises about trying and working towards without actually doing anything that’ll piss off the president and the trustees and the frat gnomes and the frat moms who’re all in on making sure that their darling boys get to party like it’s 1989, because what, I ask you, could be more important.

    Oh. And this Holona Ochs quoted above? I see she’s been marooned as an associate prof since 2015. WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO MOVE HER ALONG TO FULL, FIFE? WHERE’S YOUR MENTORSHIP? HEY? Let’s see who else is in here…Vera Fennell, joined the dept in *2003* and still not full? Why not? And yet Anthony DiMaggio’s moving right along, bip bop boop, assistant to associate after three years. What about Janet? She’s been there for a hell of a long time, working with Barkey, looks eminently well-credentialed and like a busy scholar.

    Here we go, good place to start for your faculty-focused DEI, let’s have some understanding of why Poli Sci is full of women stranded at associate and VAP level. We can go department by department, right out in public. Let’s hear all about that mentorship, and let’s also hear about the demographic mix of VAPs and assistants who didn’t get tenure over the last 20 years. Don’t run away, Full Prof Rick Matthews, I know Poli Sci’s just a secondary appointment for you, but I remember you when you were trying to get free copyediting out of your women students (as I recall I responded by giving you my rate sheet and then you left it alone), so you can stay for this.

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