An investigation of all fraternity chapters for multiple alleged violations to the code of conduct related to alcohol has led to interim measures being put in place as of Jan. 14, 2019.
Interfraternity Council (IFC) President Matt Tracy said these measures were developed in response to an anonymous letter President John Simon received from a concerned mother. According to Tracy, the mother said her son received texts from fraternity men encouraging him to drink with them in unhealthy and unsafe ways.
“I am going to flat out acknowledge that the texts were bad and promoted unsafe drinking behavior and were indicative of the alcohol culture that surrounds Lehigh, as well as Greek life specifically, but it’s not solely limited to Greek life,” Tracy said.
On Feb. 5, all 13 fraternity chapters were charged identical violations including respect for others, respect for community and respect for self.
“I do want to acknowledge that the interim measures placed about alcohol address the root of the problem far more than charging chapters with hazing,” Tracy said.
Tracy said there were six total charges that each IFC chapter received — hazing being the worst. He said every chapter will plead responsible for the other five charges because he believes they are guilty. However, no chapter was found in direct alignment with the texts in the letter that President Simon received.
“I think calling this hazing takes away from people’s focus from what the actual problem is,” Tracy said. “The real problem here is the alcohol culture. People think that drinking is the only way to have fun. That’s been a problem not just in Greek life but at Lehigh since like the ’70s.”
Ricardo Hall, vice provost for Student Affairs, sent an email to fraternity presidents on Jan. 14, when the interim measures signed by each fraternity took effect.
“While there has been no definitive indication that one chapter is responsible for the specific hazing behaviors highlighted in the allegation, the overall communication by all chapters to potential new members cause great consent,” Hall said in the message.
According to Hall, the requirements of the interim measures were laid out to the fraternities. First, they are to not offer, force or in any way compel underage students to drink alcohol. Second, even if a member is of the legal drinking age, bylaws say there shouldn’t be alcohol at an on-campus fraternity-sponsored event. Third, if it’s an off-campus registered fraternity-sponsored event, consuming alcohol in the presence of underage members is not authorized.
Hall said it is within any person’s right to drink if he/she is 21 years old and that no one had to agree to the interim measures.
“I made that very clear and said go back and take that to your membership and talk about it in hopes that they would think about whether or not this is even doable,” Hall said.
Hall said it’s also noteworthy that these measures were put into place in the context not just of an investigation, but an admission by all of the chapters that they had violated the code of conduct in some way.
Tracy said he believes the measures were successful and that the IFC has made extensive progress within the past few weeks. He said he feels calling this hazing detracts from everything they have accomplished.
An email was sent to all presidents of Panhellenic sororities on Jan. 21 that the new rule for IFC fraternities applies to sororities as well.
The email to sororities states “there has been no indication that any of your chapters have planned any events that would not comply with Panhellenic Membership Recruitment Policies and Procedures.”
Tracy said extending the rule to sororities doesn’t make sense. He attended the Panhellenic meeting and said the women are upset because they did nothing wrong. Tracy said he believes Hall extended the rule to sororities to help keep the fraternities accountable, which he said is a bit of an overkill.
“Knowing that there were going to be some registered social interactions between the groups, I just wanted to ensure that the same thing didn’t happen in mixed company,” Hall said.
Hall said during sorority recruitment, sororities and fraternities shouldn’t be giving alcohol regardless. He said sororities can’t have alcohol in their houses, and at off-campus events, they should simply not consume alcohol in the presence of recruits.
“It’s the same question,” Hall said. “What is the value added?”
Katherine Lavinder, dean of students, said in an email that there is elevated concern about alcohol and new member education as a result of the investigation.
Because IFC and Panhellenic are the groups in the midst of formal new member education processes, she said the same measures have been put in place for both groups.
But Emily Brown, ’19, the Panhellenic president, said that issues between her organization and IFC are completely different.
“The Greek system supports drinking, not directly, but within its member retention and activities that it supports,” Brown said. “But that is not something that Panhellenic and IFC deal with congruently.”
Hall said the rule was not extended to sports teams or other student organizations because no other groups were charged.
Tracy said these allegations will set a precedent that anything negative can be charged as hazing.
Another issue is that after some restructuring of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, the interim director is Chris Mulvihill, who is both the associate dean of students and the person conducting the investigation.
“To me, it doesn’t make sense to have the person who’s supposed to be advocating for us being the person investigating us,” Tracy said.
Hall said that his people are professionals, and their interest in advocating for, mentoring and advising students doesn’t taint any work that they do.
“I think all of us are generally and specifically supportive of student interest,” Hall said.
A hearing will occur to determine the specific charges for each IFC chapter.
Hall said being charged and being found responsible are two different things entirely and that the institution has an obligation to investigate every instance of possible hazing.
“Chapter outcomes can vary based on findings of responsibility and disciplinary history,” Lavinder said in an email.
Hall said the Greek community has to make a decision about how they’re going to broadcast the actual good work they do on campus, regionally and nationally. He said that these types of stories should not drive the narrative of Greek life.
“Hopefully, all of the new members will become productive members of the Greek community and focus on leadership, scholarship and service,” Hall said. “I hope they will have behind them a recruitment and education period that was informative, productive and safe.”