Lehigh Valley

Racist vandalism sparks protest at Lehigh; university condemns incident

Racism sparks protest at Lehigh; university condemns act

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The NAACP is protesting Lehigh University's handling of a racist incident on campus and a lack of public information. 

The protest comes just days after a complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Education, alleging race discrimination on campus.

Since racial slurs were spray-painted on the Umoja house, the Bethlehem chapter of the NAACP said it has received numerous complaints from students about racism on campus, and one Lehigh student is making some startling allegations.

"I have noticed a lot of injustices here, not only at race, but gender and class and just homophobia," said Brenda Martinez, a junior.

Martinez said the racist vandalism at the Umoja house wasn't the first incident she has seen on campus. Martinez alleged there are racist, sexist and defamatory remarks written all across Lehigh's campus.

Martinez was among the group of people who gathered with the Bethlehem chapter to protest the university's handling of diversity issues.

Ester Lee, the chapter's president, said she's been contacted by more than five other Lehigh University students with complaints of racism following the Umoja house incident..

Lee said she tried to address the complaints with Alice P. Gast, Lehigh's president, but ended up talking with a university lawyer instead.

"The problem here is if the university is having, doing corrective action in anything they are doing, I think it is upon them to make that public so that we might know in the community what is going on.," said Lee.

The U.S. Department of Education confirmed it received a complaint concerning Lehigh University and race discrimination issues in November.

Lehigh released a statement about the allegations, saying, "Lehigh University has condemned the recent racist spray-painting at the Umoja house as a cowardly and hateful act that will not be tolerated.

"An active investigation continues on our campus and we urge anyone with information to contact Lehigh University police.   

"Diversity and inclusion are valued at Lehigh, as shown by the recent rally for unity."

Lehigh said it has a number of programs to address the issues, but Lee and Martinez said there need to be more.

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