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Lehigh community reflects on alcohol citation policy


First-year students are faced with a certain level of expectations if they choose to consume alcohol and join Greek life. If cited during their first semester at Lehigh, they can be deferred from their plans to join Greek life, and if cited as new members of a chapter, they risk getting their organizations in trouble.

While the Lehigh University Code of Conduct applies equally to new and potential members of fraternities and sororities, sanctions depend on the varying degrees of offenses, according to the Greek Eligibility Policy. A serious offense with alcohol is characterized by egregious behavior, such as hospitalization, violence or property destruction, automatically disqualifying a student from participating in Greek recruitment until the next calendar year. These same guidelines apply to one hard alcohol violation, or multiple alcohol or drug violations.

According to Tim Wilkinson, the senior assistant dean and director of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, Lehigh takes a harms reduction approach when it comes to drinking.

“You don’t ever hear us going around talking about a zero tolerance policy with alcohol, so when it comes to new members we expect the chapter to look out for them,” Wilkinson said.

The pressure to conform, paired with fraternities and sororities having prevalent access to alcohol, are the main sources of concern when it comes to new members drinking.

Despite whatever reflections citations may have on the Greek community, Wilkinson is more concerned about the learning experience.

“Greek life is like anything else,” he said. “Students make mistakes and we expect them to learn from those mistakes. There is no such thing as a perfect organization, but there needs to be accountability. “We don’t have gryphons up there and the majority of students are underage so we have given them a great deal of latitude.”

The hard alcohol and multiple alcohol violations policies were implemented when it became an issue that students with more than one alcohol violation were still allowed to join Greek organizations.

“We felt that the necessary education and reflection hadn’t occurred,” Wilkinson said. “Ultimately, those are the students who will be leading new member education. Like most policies, it’s in the best interest of the Greek community and moving forward.”

Current members of the Greek community, especially those who have held chapter positions and deal directly with these issues, understand the concern over new members drinking alcohol.

“There are other people liable for their actions, not just themselves,” said Kit Landry, ’15, the former president and risk manager of Kappa Alpha Theta. “We have to be responsible for them since we are also putting our futures on the line.”

While Landry said she understands the excitement and pressures of joining a sorority or fraternity, she stressed that general safety takes priority and new members need to understand there is more to Greek life than alcohol.

Despite the general consensus that there should be some type of repercussion, certain aspects of Lehigh’s hard alcohol policy are not favored by everyone.

“I personally think it’s a little harsh,” Landry said. “People could get cited when they are being extremely responsible. As a new member, you don’t necessarily know how to handle alcohol yet, or there can be a freshman who gets cited the first weekend of classes and this ends up affecting the rest of their college experience.”

Similarly, a senior in Pi Beta Phi sorority, who preferred to remain anonymous, said she believes there should be an alternative way of handling the situation, speaking from her personal experience when she was cited in October 2013.

She said she was walking home from a party while intoxicated and fell near a Lehigh police officer, who then breathalyzed her. She later received a citation of drunkenly disorder.

“It was very traumatizing,” she said. “I was explained everything in my intoxicated state, which was overwhelming, and no one would answer my questions. Putting myself in the position of a potential or new member being cited, I could not have imagined going through that process and additionally having my eligibility to join a house taken away.”

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