FaceBook  Twitter

Students dressed in black and white formal attire with duct-taped mouths walked through campus on Friday, October 4 to protest their unheard voices as members of the Lehigh community. Their quiet protest left many scratching their heads and searching for solutions to a murky problem: social divisions on campus.

The protest—organized by a group of students that refers to itself as "FBR," for "From Beneath the Rug"—began around 11:45 a.m. when a group of students met in the Multicultural Center in the University Center with the intent of holding a sit-in on Lehigh President Alice Gast's front steps.
Several members spoke to the students, instructing the group not to speak to reporters from Lehigh University's newspaper The Brown and White; the group's members then placed duct tape on their mouths and wrote racially and politically derogatory words on the duct tape.

After the group began to disperse and it appeared the protest had ended, members of the group were made aware that Gast and Provost Pat Farrell wanted to speak with the protesters. They immediately re-duct-taped their mouths and reconvened in the Multicultural Center.

Following the closed meeting, during which Gast was observed taking notes and then speaking to the group, Farrell spoke with reporters.

"I met with a group of students who feel that, at least within the Lehigh campus community, they're relatively invisible, their voices are not heard, and in many cases their concerns aren't being recognized. So we had a good meeting to at least begin to understand what might those be, and more importantly, how can we, going forward, begin to think about those things," Farrell said.

After that initial, unnerving confrontation it appears more information has come to light and campus is abuzz with discussion of exclusion and communication, leaving administrators scambling for viable solutions. The FBR complains that their voices are not heard and that they are being disenfranchised.

The FBR movement hopes to "break down these social barriers students have erected and create an atmosphere of greater campus-wide unity. They want to deconstruct a social structure that prioritzes some and excludes others."

In an open letter to the newspaper, administrators urge students to be friendlier with each other - to say hello to someone different. To students supporting the FBR this was a slap in the face, a shifting of blame to the students and a minimization of the issue. Being friendlier, they claim, will not break down the social divides between students.

The latest developments include the appointment of a new Rainbow Room Director and continuous stream of editorials in the paper. But while there is much discussion, there is little movement as many are unsure how to proceed.

We will be posting updates as this story commences, but we want to hear from you - did you feel like campus was full of cliques? Was the environment divisive? Or did you not notice any social issues while you were in school?

Email content@affinityconnection.com or leave your comments below.