Dear Members of the Campus Community,
I often speak of our aspiration to be a community where every individual is welcomed and supported, where every individual is able to bring their full selves to every conversation and everything they do. Where every individual truly belongs. A Lehigh for everyone, a community for everyone, a society for everyone. For. Every. One.
The hate crime directed at a Lehigh student by individuals from outside the Bethlehem area reminds us of the long road we need to travel to reach these fundamental goals.
A student—a Black student—doing nothing more than walking down the street with friends. A car pulls up, a window opens, an occupant directs racist language at our student, language that by its very nature is designed to provoke, to abuse, to dehumanize. Language that has its intended effect and leads to physical violence.
For many members of our community, especially our Black students, faculty, and staff, this is a wearily familiar scenario, occurring against the backdrop of recent events like the one in Kansas City, where on April 13 a white man shot a Black teen, Ralph Yarl, for mistakenly going to the wrong house.
I understand the anger and the fear that our Black students, faculty and staff experience, especially following reports of events such as these. I, too, am angry. I am committed to our campus being that place where every member of the Lehigh community studies, engages and lives in an environment free from violence and free from hate.
I have spoken with our student directly, and while I am deeply relieved that he was not physically harmed as a result of the assault, that does not mean that this was somehow insignificant. We must all work together to do the hard work to eradicate hate and violence. Calling this out when it happens is a first and necessary step, and I am committed to our doing so. This must stop.
Joseph J. Helble ’82