Lehigh’s Greek councils are working to create a more prominent sense of community after three chapters lost university recognition within the last year.
“Instead of being backward-looking…we said, ‘What are we doing as a community to, you know, hold each other accountable, to be transparent, to make sure that we’re creating a really positive environment?’” said Ian Davis, ’18, the president of the Interfraternity Council.
Molly Bankuti, ’18, the president of the Panhellenic Council, said the loss of chapters has caused members of the Greek community to take a hard look at their own organizations and made them more willing to talk about the challenges they face.
When Sigma Chi was dissolved, two chapter members had to vacate their executive positions on IFC. Although the board was forced to make a big transition in a short period of time, Davis said the changes didn’t impact IFC’s original objectives.
Davis said IFC members have focused on reevaluating their judicial process, enacting a hard alcohol ban earlier this semester and improving communication.
Panhel has taken a similar approach after the loss of AXO, which was the first sorority chapter to lose university recognition on Lehigh’s campus since Delta Gamma in 2013.
Bankuti said the executive council has emphasized tradition while determining areas for growth and is trying to battle apathy within the social climate by involving general members in conversation and decision-making.
IFC has also joined in on the conversation. Davis said executive members have attended different organizations’ chapter meetings to maintain transparency and pass along information from different administrators on campus.
“Having conversations with people that aren’t just the (chapter) presidents — it makes it much easier to convey what you’re doing, and I think you can get a little bit more buy-in that way, too,” he said.
The councils also worked together to host a campus-wide event.
Inspired by University Production’s Spring Fest and Delta Chi’s “Chi Chella,” the councils turned Greek Week into a Greek Unity Concert. The concert was held on the UC Front Lawn on April 13.
“We want to strengthen ties and relations with students not involved in Greek life,” said Erin Garrity, ’18, the vice president of Greek relations for Panhel.
Creating a sense of community between affiliated and non-affiliated students has always been a challenge for the councils. However, it has taken on a new meaning with members of dissolved organizations still on campus.
Bankuti said although the members of AXO made mistakes that warranted the dissolution, they did make positive contributions to the community for a long time.
“First and foremost, these people are our friends, and even if they’re no longer recognized as members of our community, they’re still part of the Lehigh community,” she said. “It’s something that we’ve been trying to really promote — to make sure that they are not feeling alienated and they are not becoming really cut off from the rest of us.”
Bankuti said Panhel has tried to motivate women to make personal connections and have conversations with former members.
Other Lehigh students have noticed these efforts.
“I think IFC, Panhel and the (Cultural Greek Council) are all taking really important steps to improve unity in Greek culture, which is really important to Lehigh,” Danielle Okun, ’21, said.
Unity can only remain a priority, however, if students continue to work toward positive changes.
“As we see chapters that are dissolved, it’s a reminder to the chapters that still exist that there is a standard we expect,” Bankuti said. “If they don’t meet the standard the university sets, they won’t be recognized anymore.”