Editorial: Greek life at a crossroads

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Greek life is dead.

The news spread like a wildfire. It was a heavy blow to the side of the mountain where Greek houses stand as students talked about it in class, in dorms, in passing, over social media and over meals. 

For fraternities and sororities, this represented the end of a lineage, a family, a community. 

For new members and those interested in joining Greek life, this represented mass confusion at the beginning.

For the administration, this represented a step toward the end of hazing, “a blatant disregard of the rules” and the endangerment of student health. 

But it doesn’t have to be the end. Panhellenic and Interfraternity Council chapters have the opportunity to submit new plans, outlining the future of Greek life and proposing their own solutions to discipline members or chapters when they have violated the rules. It can still work. 

Drug and alcohol abuse and hazing are not new to Greek life or Lehigh’s party culture. There are often incidents of alcohol present at parties, disorderly behavior and violations, but this year proved to be especially worse. Though fall 2019 was relatively quiet, administrative actions against fraternities accelerated after winter break.  

Phi Kappa Theta was dissolved Jan. 20 after being on deferred disciplinary dissolution and receiving multiple violations and warnings. Theta Xi was suspended Jan. 24 following the successful appeal of its dissolution last spring and Delta Chi was suspended Jan. 27. To wrap up the week, all IFC and Panhellenic chapters were placed on a “pause” indefinitely on Jan. 28. 

Consensus on the hill is that Lehigh is trying to put an end to Greek life and parties. But the administration doesn’t think Greek organizations are willing to make changes and abide by the codes of conduct. This constant distrust between the students and administration contributed to starting problems and continues to splinter the relationship.

This doesn’t only affect those in Greek life. Students feel as though the administration is too strict and “cracking down” on parties   consequently taking away the fun. But the administration just wants students to be safe.

The safety of students should be a top priority. When there are multiple cases in recent years of students dying or going to the hospital from drug and alcohol consumption related to hazing and parties, it raises the question of how to prevent these situations and why they’re happening. 

Lehigh took measures to try to keep students safe, which included supporting the Timothy J. Piazza Anti-hazing Law, holding fraternities and sororities accountable with suspensions and dissolutions if they violate codes of conduct and encourages registered on-campus parties.

It isn’t clear whether these attempts are successful in decreasing the number of incidents or reports, but as more fraternities and sororities got “kicked off” or suspended, more parties started occurring off-campus where students had more freedom to behave as they pleased.

Moving off-campus doesn’t necessarily equate to a safer environment for students. Students can become more reckless with their alcohol and drug consumption, and there aren’t Gryphons or other administrative officials holding them accountable.

It is unfortunate that a few individuals can contribute to the demise of an entire fraternity or sorority, or a select few fraternities or sororities can contribute to the demise of Greek life as a whole.

We all have room for improvement. We can all individually and collectively work to be better. Fraternities and sororities should be more careful with following codes of conduct and actively show their willingness to work with the administration to promote safer behavior. The administration in turn should make sure the decisions are fair and thought through, and don’t show preference to certain chapters over others.

As members of the Lehigh community, we all have a role to play and responsibilities to uphold. As students, we have a responsibility to value our education and safety, and to be respectful to each other and the administration. We are a part of an institution and make up its larger culture. We must work together to keep it alive.

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2 Comments

  1. Steven Landbeef on

    Greek Life…addressing hazing, excess drinking and drugs is critically important. Please ask the Lehigh leadership to share what are their plans beyond putting a pause on Greek life activities and share those plans with the full Lehigh community. Thanks!

  2. Embarrassed to Be Associated on

    I never understood how Greek life at other schools seemed to be constructive to both the individuals involved and the schools at large. At Lehigh, it was often a disaster though….

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