The Lehigh University Interfraternity Council executive board placed an indefinite ban on hard alcohol at IFC-sponsored events beginning on Jan. 16.
According to the Lehigh Greeks blog, any chapters found in violation of the ban are subject to, “at a minimum, an indefinite suspension of all chapter activities as determined by the IFC executive board.”
Ian Davis, ’18, the council president, said the decision-making process that led to the hard alcohol ban began last semester with a two-week trial period. Davis said he spoke to members of the fraternity and sorority communities at Michigan State University and Ohio State University to see what this indefinite ban might look like.
The suspension of fraternity activity at the Universoty of Michigan was self-imposed by the university’s interfraternity council while the suspension at Ohio State was enacted by university administrators.
“I used that to get an idea of the national landscape,” Davis said. “I think everything that happens at Lehigh is a very similar situation to what we see at a lot of other schools.”
Davis said though many Lehigh chapter presidents were on board with the ban, enforcement is difficult.
“When you’re dealing with smart college kids who like pushing the limit, they’ll try and find the technicalities that they can get around,” he said.
In his eyes, developing a sense of trust among chapter presidents is a large component of the policy’s success, in addition to talking with general members face to face.
Davis said he, along with other IFC executive board members, plan to attend chapter meetings and explain why the ban has been put into place.
Although the hard alcohol ban is an IFC policy, the cooperation of the Panhellenic community is expected and required.
Molly Bankuti, ’18, the Panhellenic president, said respecting this new policy aligns with the new community standards Panhel passed last fall. Bankuti said though it can be difficult to navigate national and Panhel policies because all Panhel chapters are technically dry, members of these chapters are expected to stand by the ban.
“This isn’t just an IFC issue,” Bankuti said. “We’ve had issues in the past with regards to alcohol as well, so (Panhel is) making sure we are living up to those standards.”
The hard alcohol ban was announced five days before the start of the fraternity recruitment period, which was shortened from three weeks to two weeks this year.
Ryan Kirton, ’18, the IFC recruitment officer, said the hard alcohol ban should not affect the way chapters recruit members because drinking should not serve as the main appeal.
Kirton said the increased number of transports, or alcohol-related hospitalizations, that occurred during last year’s recruitment period sparked conversation among IFC, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs and other administrators.
“What that (conversation) really came down to was a shortened recruitment period,” Kirton said. “We figured three weeks was just too long, gave too much time for a little bit of chaos.”
Kirton said the shortened period could make the process more competitive, but he said that might not be a bad thing, as it will push chapters to recruit more creatively.
The IFC recruitment carnival was introduced this year in an effort to show potential new members that individual IFC chapters are part of a larger community. Potential new members going through the recruitment process were required to attend.
Kirton said about 225 potential new members attended the event, which featured carnival-style games run by fraternity chapters.
Despite some initial growing pains, Kirton said IFC has already begun working with Lehigh After Dark to make changes for next year.
“I think that we’ve shown doing these kinds of community-based events that aren’t surrounded by drinking are possible and beneficial to everyone,” Kirton said.
Jonathan Levin, ‘20, the recruitment chair of Alpha Epsilon Pi, said his chapter’s recruitment process is moving in a values-based direction, away from a focus on alcohol.
Levin said potential new members were invited to AEPi’s philanthropy events to show the chapter’s values.
“The current climate at Lehigh right now is extremely toxic,” Levin said. “The focus on alcohol and partying really isn’t getting us anywhere and you can see across the country, it has actually led to deaths.”
Davis said the Lehigh community is beginning to recognize the problems that need to be addressed.
“I think we’re slowly making that progress to make people recognize and understand that above having a good time, it’s important to look out for the safety and health of your peers and your friends,” he said.