If you ask alumni who graduated from Lehigh before 2000 what their fondest memories are, many will recall their time spent on the Hill.
While Greeks still live on the Hill, non-registered parties have been forced off-campus to Hillside and East Fifth. As of a week ago, even off-campus parties are becoming non-existent in light of the Lehigh University and Bethlehem police departments’ zero-tolerance underage drinking policies. The police are breaking up parties and citing underage students more than ever before.
I sympathize with the fact that the LUPD and BPD are put in a tough position. Their No. 1 priority is to keep Lehigh students safe. Overall, they are doing their job and doing it well.
That being said, I believe this zero-tolerance policy is a short-term solution to a long-term problem. Let’s face it: whether we like it or not, underage drinking is happening and will continue to happen at Lehigh and college campuses across the country.
Instead of shutting down parties and citing students, the LUPD, the administration and all students should focus our energy on promoting safety, inclusivity, and of course, fun.
I believe bringing parties back to the Hill will accomplish this goal.
Back in the day, students hopped house-to-house on Friday and Saturday nights. It was an inclusive culture with open parties — it didn’t matter if you were in a fraternity or sorority, you could go wherever you liked.
Parties were held in large rooms equipped to safely host large numbers of people, and members controlled alcohol distribution through a bar. If you go to an off-campus party today, you’ll find dark basements with seven-foot ceilings. There’s usually no room for a bar, and the houses are so small that you can’t move around and socialize.
Fraternities generally only invite one other group or organization and cannot open their house to the rest of the Lehigh community due to lack of space.
Off-campus houses are not safe either. From broken staircases to shattered floor boards, these houses are not equipped to host 200 dancing college kids. This is often a recipe for a fire hazard.
The residents living near these party locations are not often part of the Lehigh student body, which can put both the South Side and Lehigh communities in danger. The local community should not need to be exposed to loud parties at late hours of the night.
So, is it possible to bring parties back to the Hill?
Last year, LUPD, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs and the Interfraternity and Panhellenic councils met to organize multiple “Epic Party Weekends” on the Hill. Epic Party Weekend events were hosted on Friday or Saturday nights, and a few fraternities were allowed to host parties on the Hill with restrictions.
At registered parties, fraternities are limited to a certain number of cases of beer, usually five to 10. Within 20 minutes, the beers are gone. The case limit is not reasonable.
Two security guards must also be at the party at all times. The fraternities are responsible for monitoring the parties, but a group of student affiliates and security guards also walk from party to party to make sure the organizations are following the rules.
These restrictions ensure that students would be more likely to go off-campus than deal with the Hill.
For future Epic Party Weekends, OFSA agreed fraternities could have a more reasonable case limit depending on the size of their party room.
The party weekends were not perfect, which was expected, but were mostly considered a success and something that could be improved in the future. The weekends fostered inclusivity with many Greek and non-Greek students.
Although a couple of citations were issued, students remained safe — and of course, it was a good time.
Things were looking positive until fraternity recruitment started last year. With increasing hospitalizations and hazing violations by fraternities, OFSA put an end to Epic Party Weekends to focus on other issues.
While I understand the administration’s frustrations, I believe off-campus hospitalizations offer even more incentive to bring parties back on the Hill. Lehigh can monitor the parties and ensure that students remain safe. If a student needs medical attention, LUPD has access to all the Greek houses — OFSA also requires fraternities to provide water and food for attendees so they have an alternative to drinking.
When fraternities are given the opportunity to have parties on campus, they follow the rules and expectations set forth by the university. I believe that parties on the Hill would be a step in the right direction for Lehigh’s social scene. Students see a need for change, and now is the time to make that change.
Lehigh has a long history of producing professionals who are intelligent and value personal connections. This stems from the “work hard, play hard” mentality that often translates well into the workforce.
Employers target Lehigh students for that reason. We must maintain the social scene that makes this school, and the students who go here, so unique and well-rounded.
Peter Gormley, ’18, is an associate data editor for The Brown and White. He can be reached at [email protected]