Christopher Mulvihill has been the associate dean of students for 19 years. He sat down with The Brown & White multimedia team to clear up some confusion on the new policies that went into effect this semester surrounding hazing and Greek new member education.
The New Anti-Hazing Law in Pennsylvania
The Timothy J. Piazza Anti-Hazing Law passed in Pennsylvania in October 2018. This law put new requirements on institutions to report hazing incidents publicly. Lehigh created a hazing prevention page on the Student Affairs website to outline these changes and post all hazing incidents that occurred in the past five years.
The criminal law regarding hazing also changed. Both students and organizations can be held accountable for hazing incidents, including the officers of organizations.
Mulvihill said a student can be cited by the police and they would have to go through Pennsylvania’s court system to have that charge adjudicated. Additionally, that case is also referred to the university’s conduct office for adjudication through the student conduct process.
“Who would go to jail would depend on a whole load of questions,” Mulvihill said. “Just like the criminal process though, the university conduct process allows us to hold organizations and individuals accountable for actions.”
Another important piece to the law was that it updated Pennsylvania’s medical amnesty policy. Lehigh has had a medical amnesty policy rule in place for many years, allowing for students who seek emergency medical attention for themselves or someone else not to be charged with violations of the Lehigh Code of Conduct, related to the consumption of alcohol or drugs.
Now, if a student were to seek emergency medical attention, they will be protected under state laws as well.
Shift in Greek New Member Education Policy
This semester, a new policy was put into place regarding Greek life new member education.
“No new member activities are allowed to involve alcohol and new members aren’t allowed to be at activities that have alcohol at them,” Mulvihill said. “That’s the interim action we’ve taken this semester because we’re concerned about the health and safety of our students.”
Mulvihill said this new policy is focused on Greek life because there are so many students currently going through new member education process as they join chapters. In the fall, there will be new policies focused on sports teams and other organizations, such as a cappella groups.
Mulvihill said he believes most of the confusion comes from students not understanding the distinction between the actual Pennsylvania hazing law and the new policies Lehigh has created on campus.
He said some students may be confused because they aren’t recognizing that the new law hasn’t changed what Lehigh defines as hazing.
“The reality is, the institutional policies relating to hazing haven’t changed,” said Mulvihill. “What has changed is society’s willingness to tolerate (hazing).”
According to the student affairs website, hazing is defined as, “any action is taken or situation created, whether on or off campus, to produce mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment, or ridicule.”
Mulvihill said in addition to the definition, the way Lehigh’s conduct board handles investigates campus cases of hazing hasn’t changed.
The Future of Greek Life at Lehigh
Mulvihill said it isn’t in Lehigh’s interest to decrease the presence of Greek life on campus in the future. Instead, he said its goal is to continue to create a diverse and inclusive environment that is safe for its students and provides a meaningful educational experience.
“I think fraternities and sororities can do all of those things,” Mulvihill said. “But there may be some changes that need to happen to do some of those things.”
One of the changes he is talking about is dealing with alcohol consumption in the Greek community. He said decreasing the emphasis on alcohol in the community “absolutely needs to happen.”
The future of Greek life at Lehigh remains uncertain to Mulvihill. He said he doesn’t know what Greek life is going to look like in the next five years with the construction of new residence halls, creating an influx of new students from different parts of the country.
“I think it’s about making our Greek system part of a different Lehigh,” Mulvihill said. “Bringing the Greek system along with the Path to Prominence is what needs to happen.”