Student Senate president, Dakota DiMattio, ‘17, never thought she would be having conversations with the Lehigh administration about how to keep students alive.
After four near-death experiences this semester as a result of excessive partying, the administrators have been looking to her for an answer. DiMattio is hoping her fellow students can help her come up with one.
On April 26, Student Senate hosted a town hall to discuss campus climate and brainstorm solutions to dangerous drinking habits. The discussion was only open to Lehigh students. Administrators, faculty and staff were not invited to attend.
At the event was a panel consisting of DiMattio, Margaret Burnett, ‘17, the president of the Panhellenic Council, Kyle Durics, ‘17, the president of the Interfraternity Council, and Alexandra Fotinopoulos, ‘17, the president of University Productions.
DiMattio said the aim of the town hall was to come together as a student body to devise tangible goals for Senate to bring forth at the next board of trustees meeting May 18.
The Senate president is always in attendance at board of trustees meetings, but DiMattio said this is the first time the organization will go in with a concern and a tangible proposal it would like to address.
After a brief introduction, DiMattio invited students to ask the panel questions, speak openly about their experiences and share ideas for improvement.
The proposed solutions included revising the medical amnesty policy, improving alcohol education, holding Greek chapters accountable for breaking social policies and moving parties back on campus.
Last semester, fraternities hosted several “epic party weekend” events, or EPWs, which were registered parties in their on-campus chapter houses. After 80 incidents occurred in the first weeks of the spring semester — ranging from student citations to hazing allegations — the administration canceled all EPWs this semester.
“Right now we have not earned the privilege to have parties in our facilities,” Burnett said.
She said if students want parties to move back on campus, they are going to have to abide by Lehigh’s rules, which forbid hard alcohol and limit the number of cases of beer to a maximum of 25.
Burnett said students and the administration need to meet halfway. She said EPWs were the test run, but fraternities were giving wristbands to minors and students were signing in under fake names.
“We all want to have parties on The Hill because we think that’s the safest place to be,” Burnett said. “But all we do is ask things from Lehigh and then flip them off when we don’t want to follow any of their rules.”
Student Senate is revising the EPW policy and presenting a proposal to the board of trustees. Senate hopes this will lead to more EPWs next fall semester.
The panel also spoke about the four students who were hospitalized and close to death, three of whom were affiliated with Greek chapters. Burnett said one of the students blew a .39 and ended up in the intensive care unit. Lehigh was ready to send out an email about the student’s death.
In another case, a potential new Greek member went to an event hosted by a fraternity. The student was so drunk he was dropped off at his residence hall and left alone outside. Burnett said if another student had not seen him and called an ambulance, he wouldn’t be alive. Fotinopoulos added that in each of the four cases, the students were found alone.
“I need this community to take some kind of responsibility for our drinking culture and habits,” Burnett said. “It has come to the point where we don’t even know when to get somebody help because so many of these things become normal. Throwing up? Normal. Passing out? Normal. Blacking out? Normal.”
Durics said the administration and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs have been receiving letters from parents concerned for their children’s safety. He said this, along with increased hospitalizations and hazing allegations, have led the administration to lose trust in its students.
Durics stressed that the administration is young. President John Simon came to Lehigh two years ago, Student Affairs is hiring a new provost for next year and four out of the five administrators in OFSA are also new.
“If you gain their trust and work with them, they’re willing to help you,” Durics said. “You guys have a lot more power than you think you do.”
DiMattio said she was pleased with the turnout and ideas students proposed, but she wishes more first-years and sophomores took an interest in Lehigh’s future. Looking out into the audience, she noticed many students were seniors.
“I don’t want to lose one of my classmates,” DiMattio said. “For the people that were here, I think that’s a sign that they see a problem, and they also want to find a solution.”
Students are encouraged to email their concerns and possible solutions to [email protected].