Updated Efforts on Diversity

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Dear Members of the Campus Community,

As our work in improving our campus climate continues, we wanted to provide an overview of developments that have taken place in the last few months. We also wanted to update you on ongoing projects, such as the continuing review of The Lehigh Survey and the findings from our campus conversations regarding the Commission on the Residential Environment (CORE) Report.

As we noted in early February, Lehigh's Council for Equity and Community (CEC) developed a series of recommendations based on the results of the climate survey that was administered during the fall semester. These recommendations were shared with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights as part of our Voluntary Resolution Agreement. Members of the CEC also reviewed preliminary data from the survey and with the Faculty Steering Committee and the faculty-at-large. Our Office of Institutional Research and the faculty research team who created this survey instrument are collaborating on further analysis that will assist in the refinement of the current or additional recommendations.

The data collected through the survey will be further analyzed during the summer, and the CEC anticipates that more information can be shared with the campus community at the start of the fall semester.

Further discussion and examination of The Lehigh Survey's initial findings took place at a recent meeting of the university trustees. CEC members facilitated small group discussions, and asked the trustees to consider ways in which their expertise in their own professional fields could benefit Lehigh in the ongoing efforts to improve the campus climate. It was clear that the trustees recognized the complexity and commitment involved in building inclusivity and they underscored a renewed sense of commitment for their significant role in leading the university in this arena.

Over the course of the last few months, we've met with various groups across the university to discuss the CORE Report. These meetings included representatives from many student organizations, advocacy offices, Greek life, and residence options. We really appreciate the candid and sincere engagement of these conversations, which were illuminating. As a result of these discussions, we are reviewing the feasibility of a number of residential recommendations, including the expansion of our themed housing options. We expect that some of these changes can take place fairly soon, while others involve deeper exploration and more significant investment. We expect to have more specific information on how we plan to proceed shortly.

Below are some additional updates regarding work on the administrative level and on the part of many across campus.

Vice President for Equity and Community: After benchmarking similar roles at other institutions across the country, an advisory committee is developing this position further. An outside search firm has been engaged to assist with recruitment, and a university search committee has been created. We hope to have this position filled by the start of the 2016-17 academic year.

Online Harassment and Discrimination Program: You may recall that this program was offered earlier this academic year, and we're pleased to report that a total of 4,573 students, staff and faculty completed the training. In addition, 1,327 members of the Greek system and 138 graduate students who serve as teaching, graduate and research assistants completed an additional in-person training which included information on harassment, discrimination, and gender violence. The campus community will be asked to complete another round of this online training in the upcoming fall semester, and we will provide more information in the coming months.

Restorative Practices: In our last update, we noted that the Student Affairs division is piloting this model that emphasizes repairing harm and building community over punishment. To date, 26 members of the staff have been trained in this model and 13 have become licensed trainers. Efforts at Lehigh have thus far focused on students in our residence halls and conduct systems, but we expect to expand the program to include students in Greek life and select clubs and organizations.

Cornell Interactive Theatre Ensemble (CITE): A video and theatrical presentation that was attended by more than 250 brought awareness to the issue of stereotypic biases in the hiring process. The interactive experience included a question and answer session in addition to an overview of research in this field.

Diversity in Hiring Practices: The role of diversity in hiring staff and faculty will be discussed at an upcoming meeting organized by the Vice Provost for Academic Diversity and the ADVANCE office, which focuses on the recruitment, retention and advancement of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Further sessions will be held for individuals who serve on search committees, as well as for those coordinators who support these searches.

A Campus-Wide Audit: Our Equal Opportunity Compliance Coordinator is working with the CEC to conduct an audit of all activities related to diversity and inclusion programming, training and other educational efforts. We're hopeful that this information will strengthen our existing programs and allow for broader support and collaboration on current and future projects. Everyone has received a link to a survey that should be completed by early May, and we ask for your support of this important undertaking.

Lastly, we are encouraged by the tremendous work that is being done across the university - in  classrooms and residence halls, in student-generated projects and programming, in trustee meetings, in formal and informal gatherings, and in our lecture halls, where provocative speakers continue to challenge us to broaden our understanding of and commitment to these important issues.

We are making progress, and building a better Lehigh. A great deal of this progress is due to the efforts of so many across campus, who are finding creative and inventive ways for celebrating our unique talents through programs like the perennially popular Dancefest, or joining us together in a critical examination of our culture through the recent Without Walls Global Citizenship "Wall of Hate/Wall of Healing" capstone project.  Our progress can be found in the highly successful Summer Scholars program to support incoming students, and in Lehigh's LeaderShape program, a nationally recognized six-day experience that challenges participants to explore identity development and inclusive leadership.

It is also found in creation of an endowment to expand Africana Studies at Lehigh, supported by a $500,000 challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the work being done in classrooms across the campus to engage students and faculty in expansive discussions around these critical issues.

You can learn more about these and other developments at www.lehigh.edu/diversity.

We pledge our commitment to supporting and celebrating these efforts and sustaining this momentum as, together, we continue to move forward.


John D. Simon

Patrick V. Farrell
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs