In light of a recent article concerning the existence of Greek life on Lehigh’s campus, I felt that it was my duty to defend the existence of the institution. I am by no means an apologist for Greek life. We, as members of an antiquated and heteronormative institution obsessed with a gender binary, must acknowledge that Greek life is not without its issues. But to suggest that members of our Greek community are not aware of these issues, and are not doing anything to try and fix them, is naive and ignorant.
There are several grass root movements and institutional programs that have been created to support positive social change in our Greek system. As the co-president of Greek Allies, a student run organization dedicated to creating a more LGBTQ-inclusive Greek community, I have seen exactly how passionate and dedicated Greek students are about being inclusive and making their chapters safe places for marginalized groups. Our membership has grown over the years and institutional support from the university has been phenomenal. All of our meetings are open to non-affiliated students and have never been secret or exclusive. Whether or not non-affiliated critics of Greek life know or care to know about our existence or the hard work we put in is far more questionable.
Aside from actively supporting Greek Allies, the university student affairs staff has implemented many programs to improve our Greek community. The Greek Emerging Leaders Program from the Office of Student Leadership Development allows older Greek leaders to mentor and educate younger Greek students in order to promote positive social change. Having been both a GEM mentee and mentor, I can say with confidence that the program works hard to equip future leaders with the tools and skills needed to affect positive change. It is also evidence that the administration isn’t just “throwing up their hands” as the main contributor to this article alleged. There is also mandated TIPs, Social Host, and Red Watch Band training for chapters and their leadership. Greek organizations aren’t allowed to just run amok. To say that that entire institution should be dismantled just because it has problems is defeatist and, frankly, lazy. It’s also insulting to those that are already in the trenches, doing their best to try and improve our system.
The critiques of Greek life featured in this article also often incorporates actions and incidents from other campuses or from many years ago. Bringing in hazing and discrimination from other campuses or from a distant past (often from before any currently affiliated students were even on campus) ignores the autonomy of current Lehigh students. We are generalized and stereotyped and stripped of any way in which to redeem ourselves. Each campus, each council, each chapter, even each member class has their own personality and characteristics that those outside the system choose not to recognize.
That said, we Greeks are often guilty of exonerating ourselves from any and all bad behavior if one particular incident doesn’t relate directly to us. It is so much easier to say not my campus, not my council, not my chapter, not my member class, to continue to operate in your own sphere without consideration for our community as a whole. So in my defense of our institution, I would also like to embed a call to action. Too often we dismiss criticism as a problem of PR. “They just don’t see all the good that Greeks do: the philanthropy, the friendship, the leadership, the networking connections!” But that’s not our problem. Our problem is that we don’t unify to push ourselves to greatness. We don’t hold each other accountable and try to help each other along. Let’s own our problems, together. Instead of squabbling with non-affiliated students who will never understand the deep and powerful bonds we have made, or the tremendous amount of work it takes to keep a chapter functioning, let’s make sure that we don’t give them anything to talk about. Let’s make our community excellent, not just our chapters.
— Megan McMichael, ’17