A message from College of Business Dean Georgette Phillips

Below is an open letter the dean sent to friends, colleagues and students.

June 8, 2020

An open letter to my friends, colleagues and students at Lehigh Business,

As our in-boxes fill with message after message from organizations all addressing the tragedy of the killing of George Floyd and the aftermath of protests, some people have asked me whether I will send a similar communication on the part of Lehigh Business. My answer is no. Such communications are hollow words if not immediately followed by action of structural change. This transformation goes beyond lists of classes ironically segregated off as a “diversity requirement” and one day seminars of inclusive teaching techniques. Mind you, both mechanisms are supremely important, and I do not mention them in criticism. Rather, I see this type of effort as an easy pass on the part of the University. To change minds we must change hearts. This cannot be done by the University. Change of heart requires change of and by self.

Georgette Chapman Phillips

Dean Georgette Chapman Phillips

My writing this letter is a substantial deviation from how I normally comport myself in a professional environment. I have lived life in the intersection of race and gender. I attended a high school with a “KKK club” (yes, really, not making that up and no, I didn’t grow up in the south; I grew up in western Pennsylvania). People asserted that someone “like me” got into Harvard only because of affirmative action. People have challenged my leadership because they chafed under the notion of taking orders from an African American woman. But I assiduously avoided conversations of race in my work place choosing rather to lead by excellence and to marginalize the haters. But now is the time I must step up. My position as the highest ranked African American in the academic stem of our University compels my participation in charting a way forward.

So, with the goal of changing hearts, I challenge every one of us to consider whether there is racism at Lehigh.

  • If your answer is no, ask yourself how would your life change if you walked in black or brown skin. Are you comfortable with that change? If you can’t see a difference then see the next bullet.
  • ·If your answer is I don’t know then make it your responsibility to find out. Don’t rely on others to provide you with the information (here is a good article of why that fails the mission). Do your own homework.

·If your answer is yes there is racism at Lehigh then challenge yourself to walk the walk. When you see racism call it out. When you hear racist remarks speak up (by the way, when the response is “it was just a joke”, no it’s not—it’s racism). When you long for the days of “old Lehigh” remember that not everyone has a common history and for some those days were not pleasant.

Our University does not exist in a bubble. The threads of systemic racism are woven into the fabric of our lives. To change Lehigh we must change ourselves.

Sincerely,

Georgette