Lehigh police are investigating a bias incident that took place on campus on Oct. 25. A HawkWatch alert regarding the incident was sent to the campus community.

On-campus bias incident report proven to be false


A timely warning concerning an alleged bias incident reported by a student was sent in a campus-wide HawkWatch alert on Oct. 25 by Jason Schiffer, assistant vice president of campus safety and chief of the Lehigh police. Three days later, an updated alert reported the incident was investigated and did not occur. 

According to the first alert, the student self-identified as a “hijabi,” or someone who wears a hijab as part of the Muslim faith. She reported walking on Packer Avenue near Neville Hall around 1:30 p.m. when a crumpled piece of paper hit her. She claimed the paper contained a printed message describing Hamas as a terrorist organization. 

The alert said the student was unable to identify who targeted her, but she interpreted the act as harassment because she was wearing a hijab. 

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, harassment is defined as “unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity or pregnancy), national origin, older age (beginning at age 40), disability, or genetic information (including family medical history).”

The follow-up alert was sent on Oct. 28 by Ric Hall, vice president for student affairs; and Donald Outing, vice president for equity and community; and Schiffer to update the campus community on the investigation of the incident.

This alert wrote the student admitted the incident did not occur, but they alerted the community before investigations to communicate the potential danger.

Had the story been true, Schiffer, Hall and Outing wrote, it would run counter to Lehigh’s Principles of Equitable Community.

“Prioritizing the well-being of our community and processing our emotions and thoughts in a healthy manner allows us to foster unity, empathy and understanding, rather than resorting to divisive actions,” the follow-up alert reads.

Resources were provided for Lehigh community members who may seek support, including University Counseling and Psychological Services (610-758-3880), the Equal Opportunity Compliance Coordinator and the Employee Assistance Program for faculty and staff. 

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