If someone saw the list of all the registered parties that take place during a semester at Lehigh, they wouldn’t believe we’ve been ranked as a top 10 party school.
At night, students migrate down the Hill for parties hosted in basements that are over capacity and don’t have the necessary exits in case of an emergency. The Hill, where majestic frat houses adorned with Greek columns and spacious interiors line the campus’s mountainside, stands silent on these rowdy nights — alcohol only to be found in the off-campus residences of those members old enough to supply it.
The great migration of students down the Hill at the beginning of the evening and then stumbling up once the parties are done is a weekend staple of life at Lehigh. So, no one questions it.
But not too long ago, parties were being held on the Hill. Fifth-year students and current seniors might remember these times, but for younger students, this has only reached our ears through hearsay. Fraternities used to host parties in their chapter houses, so what happened?
There doesn’t seem to be one incident that set off the change, since the social policy has been constantly changing since the raising of the drinking age in 1984. Pennsylvania is usually considered one of the strictest states in regards to alcohol consumption. Yet, one of the most impactful policies to come out of that is Lehigh’s social policy.
As of now, the social policy outlines how parties should be registered, administered and planned when using on-campus facilities.
If a fraternity were to host a party on the Hill, it would have to register the party with the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs more than a week in advance, or 21 days in advance in some circumstances.
It then needs to hire two or three event staff members to monitor the party by helping sign in students and give wristbands to those over 21 years of age. The also stand by the bar to make sure hosts are only giving alcohol to those with the appropriate wristband.
Hosts manning the bar at these events must have completed the social host training administered by OFSA. These events may not last for more than four hours and must only use one entrance and exit.
The list of requirements and rules goes on and on — for 16 pages to be exact — so it’s no wonder registered parties are an anomaly.
Off-campus parties pose more of a risk to students than parties hosted on the Hill.
The safety of students should be of paramount importance to the university, and since they can’t control the amount of parties fraternities host off campus, they should switch their focus to make sure parties are hosted in controlled environments. Students are going to drink regardless of the rules the university sets, and underage drinking on college campuses is a national trend. Lehigh should focus on creating a safer environment.
One step toward safety would be to bring parties back to the Hill — with consideration for the inevitability of parties, and the need to make sure they’re happening safely. Although a new pilot program aims to bring back some parties to the Hill, it’s still focusing on registered parties.
We believe bringing parties back to the Hill would have many benefits, the most important one being the state of the facilities in which parties are thrown. Instead of a dark, unsafe basement, parties could be hosted in rooms, which were — back in the day — specifically designed to be event rooms and hold a high volume of people. These rooms are equipped with safety exits, sprinklers and are an overall safer environment than an off campus basement in an old house.
The change in venue would also create less of a walk between parties and some residence halls for students, and might help make TRACS less crowded. Especially in colder months, this shorter walk between parties would be safer for students.
It could also help the strained relations between the Lehigh and Bethlehem communities, since fewer parties off campus means quieter weekends for residents, as well as less trash and general rowdiness. In part, our strain with Bethlehem residents stems from how disruptive partying students are to their day-to-day lives. Moving parties away from their residences could bring about better relationships in the community.
The change could also help Greek unity, because if they were to host open parties on the Hill, not every fraternity would need to host parties every night. And, if fraternities start to partner with student organizations other than sororities to host parties, our campus as a whole could become more united.
There are drawbacks to consider. It could have the opposite effect on campus and further divide Greeks and non-Greeks. Or, it could create an even more exclusive campus. There are, of course, limitations in regards to what the administration is able to do about unregistered parties, underage drinking and state law. The arguments laid out should still be considered in whatever capacity they can be achieved, because general student safety concerns should trump most of the arguments against changing the social policy.
For a school whose principles of equitable community state we should worry about each other’s safety, the best way to do so is by bringing Lehigh’s social life into a controlled environment — back to where it began — on the Hill.