Following reports of excessive drinking, drugs and hazing, Greek life at Lehigh University has been put on “pause.” Students allegedly ignored warnings from school administration over partying and hazing over the past couple years and continued their behavior.
On Tuesday, Jan. 28, Lehigh University President John Simons sent an email to all current and aspiring fraternity and sorority members detailing what this “pause” entails, why he and the administration at the University see it as necessary, and the solutions for the students going forward. “We have received reports from parents, new members and anonymous sources centered around excessive alcohol consumption, drug use, and hazing,” Simon wrote. “All [chapters] have been told in unequivocal terms that this behavior is unacceptable and antithetical to all that we aspire to be as a university.”
This email comes a year after the implementation of a “10-point plan for Greek excellence” which was aimed at addressing the unacceptable behavior Simon details in his notice. According to The Morning Call, the Allentown local paper, the plan included banning hard liquor campus wide, requiring specially trained upperclassmen to live in the Greek houses and came months after 12 sororities and fraternities were cited with hazing allegations involving alcohol abuse and recruitment events.
“It is clear that our fraternities and sororities need to take a leading role in changing the culture of Greek organizations at Lehigh” Simon wrote. He went on to detail the “pause”: “The suspension of all new member activities, no contact between organizational members and new members; no chapter events unrelated to chapter business; and dry houses (including individual rooms).”
Greek life is a central part of the social atmosphere at Lehigh as 1,118 students are involved and the total undergraduate enrollment is 5,178 according to Lori Friedman, the spokeswoman for the University. Lehigh’s website says that there are 25 fraternities and sororities on campus. In comparison, Villanova has 26 chapters on campus and Fraternity and Sorority Life community makes up approximately 32% of the student body.
“The temporary cessation would last until the IFC, Panhellenic and Cultural Greek Council (CGC) communities create a detailed and realistic plan for making significant changes that will positively impact the Greek community at Lehigh, with regard to alcohol, hazing, and recruitment/new member education practices that decrease risks to the health and safety of students,” Simon outlined.
This has students concerned for several reasons. Reilly Burns-Cohen, a junior involved in Greek life at Lehigh says that the meeting for these councils to come together and present their plan to improve Greek life is not until Spring Break, presumably meaning that this “pause” will endure until mid-March at the earliest. In addition, the email from Simon came hours before bids were to be sent out to aspiring fraternity members. Students involved in sororities returned to campus before classes began in January to facilitate recruitment, but the women offered bids to chapters have not been formally initiated yet due to the “pause.”
IFC President Vincent Albanese issued the following statement in response to Simon’s email: “The Interfraternity Council agrees that the health and safety of students must be a top priority. We are committed to working with the university and all parties to create a plan to improve our community. Wrongdoers should be held accountable, but we must respect the rights of those who are living up to the standards of fraternal excellence.”
Burns-Cohen echoes the feelings of Albanese. “I understand the University’s concerns about improving safety by decreasing alcohol and drug usage on campus, however, ‘pausing’ all of Greek life is not the best way to go about it,” she said. “They have stopped parties, but they have also stopped things that are extremely beneficial to the school and our community like philanthropy events, community service, and peer mentorships organized by chapters.”
Simon closed his email by telling students the administration is looking forward to working together. “Our progress is reliant upon your commitment to this shared goal,” he wrote. “The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs will be in touch regarding next steps.”