South College banner arouses controversy

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Photo by Emma Sylvester for The Lafayette

The banner was promptly taken down after the Lafayette Activities Forum received complaints.

A cherished rivalry week tradition sparked controversy when a banner was hung on South College that read “Lehigh is like a penny: brown, 2 faced, worthless.”

Some students and faculty found the banner to be offensive, and it was accordingly removed by the college. Reactions to and interpretations of the banner, however, were mixed. 

Damoi Morgan ‘25, a South College resident advisor, felt that the usage of the word “brown” could be problematic.

“The first thing you see is brown and two derogatory terms,” Morgan said. “As a Black person, I can’t ignore it.”

Jefrey Alexander ‘23 said that, as a student of color, he feels that the hurt he felt mattered more than the supposedly innocent intentions of the banner maker.

“While we minority groups can understand your intent, it’s kind of funny how you can’t understand how we perceive the message,” Alexander said. “You are telling us that our feelings are invalid simply because you meant it in a different way and it’s like, that’s not how that works.”

Psychology professor Angela Bell filed a bias report about the banner through One Pard and used it as an example in her senior capstone about prejudice. As someone who studies prejudice and bias, Bell emphasized that the banner employs stereotypes, even if the creator did not intend for it to.

“This is an example of a microaggression or a form of a blind spot that, even if you did not see it, I am telling you now, this is how it works … This is what the literature says is a stereotype … We are linking brown people or the color brown to something that is worthless,” Bell said.

Some students, however, felt that the banner’s content did not warrant such a strong reaction.

“I really feel like if the flyer was offensive, I promise you, me and the many multicultural organizations on campus would have addressed it,” Jada Peters ‘24, a NIA co-president, said. “And if it is a problem, how do they address it? Like who are you talking to? Like, did you reach out to any of the multicultural organizations to see how they feel about the issue? No, they never asked.”

One student of color who wished to remain anonymous due to possible backlash said that “you really have to be looking at things a certain way” to take a racist message away from the banner. She added that more tangible issues, such as the purportedly prohibitive cost of the Lafayette-Lehigh game, should have a larger spotlight on them than the banner.

“The issue I have is that there are actually Black and brown students being displaced in Easton due to gentrification, but that is not conversations that we are having on campus,” Peters said.

Shreya Raizada ‘25, a resident advisor at South College, wrote in an email that “the RA South staff did not have a hand in making the banner.” 

“[We] also wanted the banner to go down to avoid misinterpretation,” Raizada added. 

According to Melissa Dalrymple, the associate director of Student Involvement, the banner was taken down after it was reported to the Lafayette Activities Forum (LAF), the organization in charge of the banner-painting event. 

Dalrymple declined to comment on the content of the banner and declined to provide the list of students that made banners.

“Student Life will discuss ways to continue the banner-making tradition in the future while developing guardrails for the traditional process by which banners are developed and displayed on campus buildings,” Dean of Students Brian Samble wrote in an email.

Nathan Kornfeind ’23 contributed reporting.