On Dec. 8, after months of waiting, the night of the scavenger hunt finally arrived for the juniors of Alpha Chi Omega. But this was no scavenger hunt like it had been years prior — it was far more precarious, surpassing the region of juvenile fun into one of inappropriate, proscribed activity.
The juniors pre-gamed on the third floor of the chapter house as they always did, decked out in the theme assigned to them and prepared for what was supposed to be the wildest night of the semester. This was a veteran tradition for the sorority. No one expected this wild night would be the last one they’d ever share as sisters of AXO.
Once the scavenger hunt list got into the hands of not only the dean but also AXO Nationals, it was game over.
A suspension from formal recruitment — resulting in no new pledge class — was a bad enough punishment, but things only escalated when we realized our party schedule was shattered.
When the majority of juniors were told they had to disaffiliate from the sorority and possibly move out of the house before the end of the semester, the reality and unfairness of the situation sunk in.
A chapter so many girls join for the intense sisterhood it elicits has turned into a place where nobody feels they belong.
The night of the scavenger hunt — a night I didn’t even participate in — has changed the course of my time in college for the worse.
On the other side, after months of waiting, the start of bonding arrived for the brothers of almost every fraternity at Lehigh at the beginning of February. But this is not bonding that is accepted and encouraged by the school — it’s far more dangerous, surpassing the region of brotherhood into one of humiliation, harassment and physical and emotional abuse.
Every year brings new pledge classes, and with them comes seemingly endless hazing, though it usually comes to a close before the culmination of the second semester. While I am not saying I support hazing, I do support activities that turn an apprehensive group of strangers into a close-knit circle of friends.
But these are not the types of activities that occur on our campus.
Although I, like most girls, do not know the extent of the activities forced upon male pledges during hazing, everyone bears witness to the ways it changes them. I have seen my friends come to class with bruises or scrapes on their faces. I have watched as their personalities undergo distinct changes.
Last year, it reached an extreme extent when numerous fraternities were placed on suspension, forcing them either to cease these types of activities entirely or struggle to keep it low-key.
The point is fraternities haze, and they haze a lot.
And yes, the scavenger hunt was an act of carelessness and stupidity.
But, was anyone injured? Was anyone forced to engage in something they felt uncomfortable doing? No.
I know the answers to these questions not because I participated in the activities, but because I know the juniors in my sorority. I know that they’re suffering an unbelievable amount of pain knowing that they put their beloved chapter in this position. I know that they’re afraid of what could possibly happen to them next and they feel guilty for dragging their families into the situation’s legal issues.
AXO deserves a punishment for that one regretful night, but the consequences our members are facing, along with the lack of support we’ve received throughout the investigation, are unjustified.
Fraternities consistently engage in more heinous activities yet receive comparatively mild punishments.
Sure, a fraternity might get suspended or even kicked off, but a short time later, the brothers are merging with another fraternity and administering the same practices that got them kicked off in the first place.
Look at Cornell University, a prestigious institution with a large emphasis on Greek life, similar to Lehigh. Cornell’s chapter of Zeta Beta Tau fraternity has recently been disciplined after holding a sex contest called a “pig roast,” referencing the weight of women the brothers slept with. Brothers received points for sleeping with heavy women— the heavier she was, the more points earned.
This disgusting, misogynistic act, however, was not cause enough to make the fraternity illegitimate.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Greek life is an incredible addition to any university. It is an institution that fosters togetherness and philanthropic opportunities and has the potential to leave a positive, permanent mark on those who experience it.
That being said, I believe that Greek life is inequitable to sororities. It seems to me that while fraternities receive no more than a slap on the wrist for their wrongdoings, a single mistake made by a sorority yields eternal consequences.
As a supporter of Greek life, I hope to see a change in the way it is administered before I graduate.
For now, I’m grateful to have 83 sisters — even if we’re no longer allowed to share the letters.
Madison Schmitt, ’20, is an assistant sports editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached [email protected].