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The Plus Of Us: Understanding The Benefits Of Inclusion

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As you drive to work each morning, you’re probably thinking about the day ahead. Your to-do list might have meetings, paperwork, lectures, writing – in short, the things you do to help Lehigh remain a nationally-ranked institution of higher education.

There is another piece of the puzzle, however, that may not always be at the top of your mind - fostering and supporting an inclusive and positive environment.

Lehigh’s Principles of Our Equitable Community is a living document, intended to serve as the foundation of citizenship in the university community. As employees who spend most of our waking hours within Lehigh’s buildings, it’s vitally important that we create an inclusive and respectful atmosphere.


The Human Resources office shares in the work of making Lehigh a welcoming and comfortable place to work. This includes eliminating harassment and discrimination through staff education. The HR workplace learning team of Linda Lefever and Judy Zavalydriga take on the bulk of responsibility in this area.

Spotlight sat down with Linda recently to discuss how HR programs can have a positive impact on the university’s efforts to build and sustain a culture of diversity, inclusion, and respect.

Linda says it’s crucial to reach employees with training at the beginning of their time at Lehigh. “New employees are automatically enrolled in a harassment and discrimination education program so they can get off on the right foot,” she said. “But we also welcome long-time employees looking for a refresher.”

In fact, for employees who have been at Lehigh longer than a couple of years, the program would be a completely new experience.

“For many years, we used a program called It’s Not Just About Sex Anymore to train employees in understanding what is and isn’t considered harassment,” Linda said. “But we heard back from staff that they felt the program sent the message that any form of interaction among employees was risky. They’d say ‘I guess I just need to keep quiet and not say anything to anyone.’”

“That wasn’t the message we wanted to send,” Linda explained. “We wanted to
show employees that diversity is a positive in the workplace, and that it makes us stronger and better.”

Linda investigated alternative educational programs available for purchase. She was looking for one that could provoke productive conversation and offer solutions to real-world situations. “We chose The Plus of Us because its video vignettes really touch on a lot of the kinds of things we should all be aware of that have the potential to create an exclusionary atmosphere in the workplace, from age to disability to religion to race, sexuality, and gender,” she noted. “And then it offers what I like to call the 7 ‘golden nuggets,’ the ways employees of all backgrounds can approach one another with respect and without defensiveness.”

Linda’s role in the training is that of facilitator. “I ask for reaction from participants after each video clip, and I never know exactly what I’m going to get,” she said. “But in general, the vignettes spark excellent dialogue.”

“What we’re after is raising awareness about the big and small ways we can either invite people or exclude people,” Linda said. “I think The Plus of Us shows that we can acknowledge and even celebrate our differences in a way that is inclusive and leads to stronger teams and a more productive workplace.”

“By the close of the program, I hope that the staff in the room have a good sense of how to take part in creating and sustaining that welcoming and comfortable work environment,” Linda says. “I also want people to realize that part of that is telling someone if they experience or witness something that makes them go ‘hmm’ or makes them feel uncomfortable.”

The next session of The Plus Of Us will take place on March 12, from 9:00  to 10:30 a.m. To register, send an email to inhro@lehigh.edu and include the following information:

  • Your name
  • Your Lehigh email address
  • The name of the course for which you are registering
  • The date and time of the course


Additional Resources

As Linda noted, one of the ways we can resolve conflict and work towards a stronger and more inclusive Lehigh is to speak up if we experience or witness behavior that seems discriminatory or harassing.  Below is a list of some of the resources available to everyone on campus. For more information, visit the Employee Relations Resources page of the HR website.

The Informal Complaint Resolution Network is a group of individuals across campus who can offer confidential guidance to any campus community member regarding a concern or complaint. A list of network members organized by college, stem and department is available via this link.

Key Contact People for Formal Complaints

Contacts for staff or faculty members:
Lee Kern, Harassment Policy Officer (lek6@lehigh.edu or 610 758-3267)
Linda Lefever, Human Resources (lip3@lehigh.edu or 610 758-5195)
Vincent Munley, Deputy Provost for Faculty Affairs (vgm0@lehigh.edu or 610 758-5923)
Judith Zavalydriga, Human Resources (jaz308@lehigh.edu or 610 758-3897)

Contacts for students:
Sharon Basso, Dean of Students Office (sbr2@lehigh.edu or 610 758-4156)
Rita Jones, Women’s Center (rmj207@lehigh.edu or 610 758-6484); or
Chris Mulvihill, Dean of Students Office (cjm9@lehigh.edu or 610 758-6598)

Anonymous reports of bias, discrimination or harassment can be filed using the Bias Incident Reporting Form on our website. More information on the University’s Bias Response Policy is available here.

The University Ombuds Office serves as a neutral, independent and informal conflict resolution resource and can help resolve problems or complaints. More information on this resource is available here.

The Ethics  and Compliance Hotline is an anonymous reporting resource to confidentially report activities that may involve alleged misconduct or alleged violation of Lehigh University's or governmental policies and regulations. Reports can be made by phone at 888-924-4450 or online at this secure site.

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Spotlight is published monthly by Human Resources. Please address any comments to Hillary Kwiatek, Spotlight Editor, Human Resources, 428 Brodhead Avenue, send email to hik210@lehigh.edu, or call extension 85165.

Current and past issues of Spotlight can be viewed and searched at: Past Issues.