Lehigh reflects on how Greek life changes and issues will affect student interest

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Lehigh admissions has seen a decrease in interest in Greek life from prospective students. About 30 percent of Lehigh undergraduate students are involved with Greek life. (Megan Burke/B&W Staff)

With various Code of Conduct violations and hazing allegations surrounding fraternities and sororities, the administration has been focusing on ways to improve Greek life, including implementing the university’s 10-point plan.

Some chapters have been kicked off in 2018, such as Pi Kappa Alpha, Kappa Alpha Society and Alpha Chi Omega. Others have been suspended. All 13 fraternities were charged with identical violations earlier this semester.

Greek life makes up a large portion of Lehigh’s social life, with just under 30 percent of Lehigh undergraduates participating in Greek life as of fall 2017, the lowest it has been during 2013 to 2017, the years in which the Office of Student Affairs conducted a study. With a diminishing Greek presence and recent university action, current and prospective students are seeing a different institution when it comes to Greek life.

Director of Admissions Bruce Bunnick said he believes Greek life is not as big of a factor in a students’ decision to attend Lehigh as it has been in the past.

“I’ve been at Lehigh for about 22 years now, and there was a time when students would ask questions about Greek life and its presence on campus,” Bunnick said. “Today, the conversation has shifted dramatically to general campus culture and how they are going to spend their time and investment at Lehigh.”

In the past seven to 10 years, even with a diminishing Greek presence, the university has grown more popular, with an application pool of 15,647 applicants for the class of 2023, the most in Lehigh’s history.

Ricardo Hall, the vice provost of Student Affairs, said there is no local or institutional interest to get rid of Greek life, and in fact, he sees a bright future for the Greek community.

“I feel that Lehigh can be a positive example of how Greek life can be done in a beneficial way on campus,” Hall said. “By working with our fraternities and sororities, they will learn how to recruit differently and better.”

Hall is looking to implement the plan over the course of the next several years, and said Greek life at Lehigh has strayed away from its original intentions.

“I believe in the ideals of fraternity in the means it was founded: principles of brotherhood, sisterhood, philanthropy and service to the community,” he said. “Because of these foundations, students will be driven to Greek organizations. We are on a positive path toward those ends.”

Liz Tully, ’21, the vice president of member recruitment of Alpha Phi sorority, said she feels, however, that Greek life is a factor for many students when choosing colleges, like it was for her.

Tully said she chose a school based on its Greek presence, and was drawn to Lehigh for this reason, but can understand why Greek life could be polarizing.

She noted that the numbers of first-year women joining the Greek system are decreasing and that Lehigh is attempting to recruit low-income, first-generation students who Tully said are historically not attracted to Greek life.

“But I have an optimistic view about the future,” Tully said. “Greek life has been around for over 100 years, and I am sure it will be around for more. At the end of the day, it is up to the school if it wants to keep the Greek system alive.”

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6 Comments

  1. We are looking forward to the LU sponsored programming on campus that Mr. Hall will organize and provide. Lehigh has benefited from Greeks houses providing much campus entertainment and social programming over the years. With fewer greek houses, and those houses being less open to non-members [rightly so], the 70% of LU students need the administration to step up and bring more programming to campus. Lehigh is behind peer schools in this regard and will hopefully step up this next school year.

  2. Responding to the quote from Liz Tully: It is not up to Lehigh to keep the Greek system alive. It is up to us–alumni, alumnae and undergraduates–to demonstrate that we deserve a place on any university campus by our actions, and specifically by living up to or exceeding our values and ideals. If we are ready to meet the challenges by changing and improving–and I believe that we are–then we will indeed be around for the next 100 years.

  3. current student on

    Does the administration actually understand the campus? LU after dark is a joke, some students would rather stay in and watch a movie with friends, many other students would rather go off campus and party. I think I have been to 2 LUAD events and both had less people than a single small party. Get ready for students to be bored and do the same exact stuff as they have forever (drink and party), and now with less regulation when they get kicked off. Instead of trying to end Greek Life and spending millions to get a single artist on campus, maybe spend less and get more liked artists and performers more? Oh yeah, also don’t end Greek Life – at least they pay for their own fun unlike geeds.

    Good luck Lehigh, Rich, and Simon!

  4. Ric Hall is completely delusional. What upper-class college student will want to live in a Greek house with a university-subsidized nanny/babysitter/spy in residence? And how many more hoops will Greeks have to jump through to prove to the university that they deserve to exist? They are already held to an impossibly high standard as compared to non-Greek students, and Lehigh continues to up the ante every year. As a result, interest in Greek life at Lehigh will surely continue to wane as Simon, Farrell, Hall and their minions are effectively squashing the culture that has made Lehigh successful for 150 years. The ill-conceived Path to Prominence will only distract Lehigh and redirect resources from its traditional strengths in its effort to make Lehigh more “worldly and diverse” (read: more like every other liberal arts university in the country).

    Current Greek (and ex-Greek) students feel they are constantly under a microscope, and need to hide or leave campus to party. They are not happy, and many have grudgingly accepted that Lehigh will never be what it was. Most will tell you the Lehigh they attend is not the Lehigh they applied to – it has changed that much, and not in a good way. They essentially feel betrayed and abandoned by their school and have an adversarial relationship with an administration they feel does not care about them. Alienating a third or more of the student population is simply not good business and does not bode well in the future for the tremendous alumni loyalty and monetary support that Lehigh has traditionally enjoyed and relied upon for generations.

    Sadly (and Bruce Bunnick should pay close attention to this) these same students are now telling their excited friends and family members who were recently accepted to Lehigh to consider going elsewhere, as Lehigh is “not fun anymore” (I have heard this first hand). Fun obviously means different things to different people, but what 18 year old wants to hear that the college they are thinking of attending isn’t fun?

    Lehigh’s administration is conducting a very risky experiment – one that will backfire in a big way if not executed with great consideration and care. Times are changing, and admittedly Lehigh must evolve with the times. However, no one can deny that most alumni’s tremendous loyalty stems from the memories, friendships and connections developed through their Greek experience. But if the only substance contained in Ric Hall’s progressive new vision of Greek life is a lot more work, no fun, and the constant threat of loss of recognition if someone dares to break one of the many ridiculously strict rules, there surely will be no Greek life at Lehigh in a few short years. If and when this happens, Lehigh better have a backup plan to develop the strong friendships and loyal connection to the school previously provided by Greek life. They also better have a plan to provide a vibrant social scene for their students, as this was also provided by the Greek system – at its own expense, I might add. (Sorry Mr. Hall, movie nights and ice cream socials just won’t cut it.) Finally, they better have a plan to attract a new type of student, as they will have totally destroyed the culture that has previously attracted the historically successful Lehigh student – high achieving, well rounded, bright, hardworking, and yes – fun loving.

    • I’m currently a senior and this comment hits the nail on the head. The Lehigh I see today is nothing like the one I applied to, and I’m not just talking about the “fun” aspect. Over the past 2 years especially, I feel the administration has placed their pipe dream (path to prominence) at a higher priority than the needs of their current students. The campus is a mess, students are abandoning majors because some departments are in such bad shape, and Ric Hall is hellbent on destroying the only good social outlet Lehigh has to offer. You are correct, I have told family members and parents seeking advice to steer away from Lehigh. There are just much better options available (most at a lower cost too). Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for my education here, but I’ve come to see it more as a means to an end (getting a degree and finding employment). I know so many others who feel the same way.

  5. I learned about group management with my house. I would like to see my chapter recolonize. Our house is now a interest house. Our alumni did contribute money directly to the chapter, which our chapter will never see. There are advantages to the Greek system that non Greeks don’t experience. Lehigh supports many other organations.

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