A Message From President Helble

A message sent to members of the Lehigh campus community.

Dear Members of the Lehigh Community,

Over the past month, we have witnessed the impact of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, and the strong reactions it elicits from many in our community.

Although Thursday’s student-organized demonstration supporting Palestinians and calling for a ceasefire was peaceful, some instances of conduct and signage displayed during the demonstration ran counter to our Principles of Our Equitable Community and contained antisemitic statements and language.

Let me be clear: there is no tolerance for this type of rhetoric at Lehigh. Discrimination, threatening conduct, and displays of hate of any kind, including antisemitism and Islamophobia, are unacceptable. As a member of the Hillel International Campus Climate Initiative, Lehigh is committed to combating antisemitism through allyship and action as part of broader efforts to address hate and bias on college campuses, and within our own community. Hate and bias are antithetical to our commitment to fostering a Lehigh for Everyone and an inclusive campus community for all who learn, live, and work at Lehigh.

Freedom and diversity of speech and expression are pillars of higher education communities, particularly during difficult times. At Lehigh, freedom of expression is vital. I believe that exposure to viewpoints that differ from our own challenges us to engage in critical thinking and examine our own beliefs and values. However, hate speech that discriminates based on religious identity will not be tolerated. We must intentionally build our understanding of the context embedded in certain phrases and language, recognizing that words have the power to shape perspectives and influence others both positively and negatively.

Several times in recent weeks I have emphasized that there are opportunities for productive dialogue and dissent as the repercussions of this conflict are felt globally. I encourage open conversations and listening to differing viewpoints, and believe that respectful discourse can be a healthy, effective way for us to learn from one another and further explore our own views. For these conversations to be effective, we must consider how words, slogans, chants and actions will be understood by others whose views or whose histories differ from ours.

This campus is a place where all should feel safe and valued. That means, explicitly, all—every member of our community. I encourage you once again to treat one another with compassion and kindness; to consider the viewpoints of others before acting; and when sharing your thoughts, feelings and opinions, to do so in a way that does not make others feel unsafe or unwelcome at Lehigh.

As this conflict continues to affect members of our community, the university’s commitment remains more steadfast than ever: to foster an inclusive campus environment where everyone can experience the same sense of belonging.

Joseph J. Helble ’82