Umoja House at Lehigh University Vandalized With Racial Slurs

Lehigh_UniversityThe Umoja House residence hall on the campus of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is the home to 28 multicultural students. The word umoja is Swahili and means unity. Recently the house was targeted by eggs and spray-painted with graffiti. The graffiti, which was found on the house and nearby sidewalks, contained racial slurs including the word “nigger.” The night after the incident, 1,600 attended a rally in support of the residents of Umoja House.

In an email to the campus community, Lehigh University president Alice Gast stated, “This is a cowardly and hateful act. We all need to stand together as a community against all acts that are motivated by intolerance and aggression.”

Seven years ago, a skinned deer head was left at the front door of Umoja House.

According to the latest Department of Education data, Blacks make up 4 percent of the 4,900-member undergraduate student body at Lehigh University.

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  1. Susan Cozzie Magaziner says:

    Dear Members of the Lehigh University Bias Response Team,

    I am a Lehigh University Alumni, Class of 1977 [smagaziner@alum.lehigh.edu]. Kindly find attached below in this email correspondence my response to President Gast’s letter to the Lehigh community regarding recent indicident at UMOJA House. I provide for your review certain options in pro-active response to the matters at issue that focus on service to resolve, defuse and prevent the diversity bias and associated hate crimes. These include the Community Relations Service of the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights. Contact information for that department is provided and technical assistance is available through the Philadelphia OCR office.

    Lehigh University has a documented history of bias motivated incidents of diverse populations, inclusive of women who were targeted and victimized in the 1970’s. Through failure of the University to properly investigate, downplay and tolerate these crimes we continue to have a pervasive undercurrent of acceptance of bias motivated actions. For your review a Statement of Concern documenting student opinion is provided.

    The United States Department of Education reports a 4% black student enrollment figure for the University, which therefore places Lehigh in a category of disproportion and disparate enrollment. As you are aware the UMOJA House came under attack of bias motivated hate crime when a sheared head of a lamb was left on the steps of the residence hall after a Lehigh v. Fordham University football game in November, 2006. Campus police were notified, but according to reports and student testimony the incident was not taken seriously or reported to local and/or state law enforcement. As this is the second incident of heinous action I would suggest and hope that Lehigh University will respond accordingly. Actions that create a threat to the learning environment or endanger the community at large must be reported to local, state and federal authorities. I trust that as a community we all share in the belief that this is the only recourse to ensure the safety and well-being of all Lehigh University students and community. As we are all too well aware, the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program(28 USC §534), Campus Security Act(20 USC §1092) legislation was enacted due to the unfortunate rape and death of Jeanne Cleary, a Lehigh student of the 1980’s. This and other incidents of bias motivated and hate crimes were not properly reported or investigated, and it seems through the negligent response of present we continue in this historical pattern.

    Of Civil Rights. Bias motivated and hate crime intervention is mandatory when institutions receiving federal funding allegedly violate federal anti-discrimination laws. As you are aware this student group of protected population has recourse with the Office for Civil Rights and may, as individuals or as members of a group, report this incident and file for a Request for Investigation. The information to procede in this manner can be found on the OCR website and technical assistance is available. Should the students of diversity on campus, or those victimized by these events not find satisfactory or appropriate response by University officials, technical support staff is available through OCR. The link for the Process of Complaint Investigation and Resolution is: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/complaintprocess.html

    The UMOJA House has experienced bias motivated and hate crime incident twice and Lehigh University has failed to report these incidents or request investigations from law enforcement entities other than campus police. The bias response policy of the University fails to provide grievance and reporting procedures outside of the realm of recourse of internal investigation. Most other university protocol and policy provides and clearly explains the involvment of police authorities if and when the community at large and/or specific populations remain at potentiating risk.

    Through email submission of this document to the Office for Civil Rights I request that this serve as submission to evidence file of that regulatory body on behalf of the students of UMOJA House. I am prepared to file a third party complaint on behalf of these and all students of Lehigh University should a comprehensive investigation inclusive of all law enforcement entities not immediately ensue.

    I allege that Lehigh University is in violation of federal anti-discrimination laws by treating the students of UMOJA House differently that other students of non-protected populations. In failure to provide law enforcement investigations by local, state and federal authorities Lehigh is failing to protect our students of diversity and these victims remain in potentiating risk of further endangerment.

    For review I include below the links to documentation of aforementioned incidents and include a Statement of Concern document submitted by members of the Lehigh community.

    I urge the University to respond accordingly to any and all law enforcement and regulatory agencies at this time so as to provide investigation, response and intervention. Lehigh University must not tolerate discrimination and associated acts of bias motivated or hate crimes.

    Sincerely,

    Mrs. Susan Magaziner, ’77

    Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, West Virginia
    Office for Civil Rights,
    Philadelphia Office
    U.S. Department of Education
    The Wanamaker Building
    100 Penn Square East, Suite 515
    Philadelphia, PA 19107-3323
    Telephone: (215) 656-8541
    Facsimile: (215) 656-8605
    Email: OCR.Philadelphia@ed.gov

    Lehigh Bias Response Policy

    http://www.lehigh.edu/~inprv/initiatives/BiasResponsePolicy020912.pdf

    Lehigh Univesity Statement of Concern by “The Movement” Bias Concerns

    http://www.lehigh.edu/cec/pdf/TheMovement/StatementOfConcern-030106.pdf

    UMOJA Bias Crime: November, 2006

    http://digital.lib.lehigh.edu/cgi-bin/showfile.exe?CISOROOT=/bw2&CISOMODE=print&CISOPTR=64346

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