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A letter to the university community from President Alice P. Gast

To the University Community:

The cartoon captioned Map for a Successful St. Patrick’s Day that appeared in the March 18, 2008 Brown and White was offensive and disappointing to me. A cartoon is a form of expression intended for humor or commentary, but it also has the capacity, like other forms of expression, to be deeply offensive when it employs hurtful stereotypes. Stereotypes based on ethnicity, religion, race, gender, sexual preference, or any other personal characteristic are rooted in ignorance and prejudice.

I was encouraged to see that our campus quickly and strongly voiced its collective expectations about the kind of community we want at Lehigh. The Brown and White editorial board rightly responded promptly and apologized to the Lehigh community in its online edition. The student cartoonist has also personally apologized in an open letter in the Brown and White. I believe these apologies are sincere and, while they do not erase the cartoon or the hurt it caused, are steps in the right direction. I applaud the Brown and White for taking responsibility for its actions.

We have work to do at Lehigh to make ours a community where everyone feels respected and valued. I encourage all of you, as members of the university community, to speak out whenever you encounter prejudice, discrimination, intolerance, and stereotyping on our campus. We all share the responsibility to build a strong and inclusive community at Lehigh. Prejudice and stereotyping should not be tolerated here or anywhere.

Let’s use this as an opportunity to learn that freedom of expression comes with a responsibility to ensure that it is exercised wisely.

Alice Gast

Posted on Monday, March 31, 2008

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