Editor’s note: the names of students and fraternities mentioned in this story have been removed in order to protect them from violations of Lehigh’s code of conduct.
Despite the excited young men who officially received acceptance bids from fraternities in past few weeks, 26 percent of men who signed up for fraternity recruitment were ineligible to receive bids this year. Said ineligibility is due to past and new restrictions from the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs and the Interfraternity Council.
According to the OFSA, the average size of a fraternity’s new member class is about 16, and this number remains on par with recent spring new member classes. However, with 125 Lehigh men being denied a bid this year due to restrictions and regulations, some individuals try to find ways around the rules.
Ghost pledging, as it is termed in the Greek community, is the practice of fraternity chapters giving unofficial bids to men who are ineligible to receive a formal bid to join a fraternity house. Jennifer Tedeschi, an assistant director in the OFSA, said that ghost pledging does not comply with the code of conduct.
“OFSA’s academic requirements is on par, if not a tad below, most universities across the nation,” Tedeschi said. “I always tell students, you come to college to get an education first, so we value that as an office as well. When it comes to hard alcohol violations, we know that fraternities and sororities are the central location for many social functions here on campus so we expect that our students understand alcohol use going into any Greek organization.”
The office maintains that in order for potential new members to be eligible for recruitment, they must have taken at least 12 credits at Lehigh and have a minimum GPA of 2.25.
“IFC created additional requirements this year for recruitment,” Tedeschi said. “These requirements included signing up by the first day of recruitment and attending all Greek educational sessions, much like the way sorority recruitment is run. The potential new members also were required to attend at least two of the three nights of open houses held at the fraternities and attend three open events for at least two different chapters.
She said that out of the 480 men who registered for recruitment, 402 were eligible to rush based on OFSA and Lehigh requirements. When IFC requirements were factored in, only 355 were eligible to receive a bid.
However, the restrictions are not stopping certain chapters from accepting new members that are not recognized by the university and their nationals. Of the 17 fraternities currently recognized by the university, about half admitted to having taken ghost pledges either this spring or in the past. While it is against the code of conduct, some chapters feel that it is necessary in order to maintain new member class quotas.
A representative of one chapter said his fraternity has nine ghost pledges this semester.
A member of a different chapter, who was one of three ghost pledges in his new member class last spring and has since been initiated into the chapter, said he thinks the requirements are too strict. He said that even though he had good grades and was taking enough credits, he was cited and wasn’t allowed to rush.
“I was lucky enough to get to know a great group of guys in my chapter and ghost pledged,” he said. “The ghost pledge process isn’t any different than regular pledging. I didn’t feel excluded or separate from the rest of the brothers and that’s great. If I hadn’t of ghost pledged, sure I could have probably accepted a bid once I was eligible, but it wouldn’t have been the same and I wouldn’t have the bond with my pledge class that I currently do.”
Other chapter members who ghost pledged seem to feel the same way. One student said the process is exactly same for ghost pledges as any other new member, except for the lack of recognition from the university. He said it doesn’t mean as much, though, when the chapter treats the ghost pledge equally to other members.
“We usually never ghost guys because it’s usually not worth it to us to potentially get in trouble with OFSA,” said a fraternity’s new member educator. “We usually just keep inviting the guy around and if he is eligible we give him a bid in the fall. We almost ghosted a guy for the first time in years this year, but he ended up accepting a ghost bid with a different house so we didn’t have to worry.”
Tedeschi said the OFSA often discovers when a fraternity is accepting ghost pledges and will bring up the chapter on code of conduct charges if the office can prove it.
“So far, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs has not found any chapter to be in violation for this semester,” Tedeschi said.