Engineering Equality was born out of the dynamic funding for student-led projects that is Lehigh University’s Mountaintop Initiative. Prior to the summer of 2014, the Deputy Provost for Academic Affairs, Dr. Jennifer Jensen assessed the state of the previous Mountaintop projects and decided that though Mountaintop groups tended to accomplish remarkable feats, the social sciences needed greater representation. With this in mind, and given Lehigh’s current and active challenge to overcome its reputation for a lack of diversity and inclusion, Dr. Jensen dreamed up a project that dealt, in some fashion with the history of diversity at Lehigh. Once the project was approved, Dr. Jensen assembled a team of four undergraduate students and one graduate student, all from various backgrounds and fields of study. In the Mountaintop tradition, those students were then free to decide the scope and form of their project, with Dr. Jensen acting in an advisory role. The group quickly came to the consensus that the project should appeal to both the general public and scholarly audiences. To this end, the group decided a digital medium would maximize the project’s reach and impact. Though the group as a whole could boast very little in the way of experience with documentary filmmaking, the benefits of a film that could be easily transmitted in a digital age greatly outweighed the benefits of working in any other medium. Once committed to producing a film, the group narrowed down their project’s subject matter until they landed on “the Evolution of the Black Student Experience at Lehigh University.” In the early phases of research, the group committed itself to the construction of a website to both house the film and provide for a platform in which the public could access the overflow of material that did not make the final cut of the documentary.
Engineering Equality has collected over thirty hours of video interview footage, revealing the perspectives and recollections of several prominent members of Lehigh’s history including various alumni ranging from the class of 1969 to current students, various staff and faculty members both currently employed and retired whose experiences cover over fifty years of Lehigh’s history, and several members of Lehigh’s current and past administrations and board of trustees. The group has also spent countless hours in archival research, both in Lehigh’s Special Collections, as well as in various digital databases including the annals of Lehigh’s newspaper, the Brown and White. The goal of the project has always been to collect and present as variegated a perspective of Lehigh’s history of diversity as possible. Comments and recollections from interviews have been corroborated through research in as many instances as possible. The viewpoints presented were never meant to represent fact, but rather impressions from myriad perspectives in order to best illustrate the complex nature of the subject matter.
Throughout the entire life of this project, from phases of information gathering to the tracking down and connecting with the faces of Lehigh’s past, and into the extremely time-consuming process of post-production and film editing, the members of Engineering Equality feel they have not only done their best to present a project that sheds light on a subject crucial to Lehigh’s present and future success, but have also grown exponentially in the process both as scholars and as caring individuals dedicated to contributing to the moral betterment of society.