All Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic chapters are on “pause,” and new members cannot be in contact with current members. Many students were excited to make new friends after joining Greek life, but are now left confused. (Courtesy of Lehigh University)

First-year students react to Greek life “pause”

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First-years who received bids from fraternities or sororities are stuck on “pause” along with all other members of Lehigh’s Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic chapters.

Isabel Lavine, ‘23, Arielle Mesica, ‘23, and Sydney Berkowitz, ‘23, completed the formal rush process and signed bids to join panhellenic chapters. 

But now, they can’t participate in new member activities, and they aren’t allowed to be in contact with current members who gave them bids.

“We got really lucky with our first semester friends, so we still have people to turn to, but some girls didn’t get as lucky first semester,” Mesica said. “They didn’t meet people that they liked and were planning to use Greek life as an outlet to make new friends.”

The Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic chapters were placed on an indefinite “pause” on Jan. 28. In an email to current and aspiring members of the Greek community, President John Simon and Vice President for Student Affairs Ric Hall said there was a “deep concern” for Lehigh students’ safety and well-being.

Berkowitz said the new members are confused. She said this would normally be the time to bond with their new sisters or brothers.

Berkowitz and Mesica said when they see girls in their sorority around campus, they don’t know how to act. They said they feel awkward and nervous because they don’t want to say the wrong thing. 

Mesica understands the intention behind the pause, but she feels as though there could have been a better approach. She said for the first time ever, a lot of students feel as though the university is against them, because although the “pause” is intended to help students, it instead leaves students upset.

“I think the fact that so many people reacted to the pause by leaving campus for the weekend shows that students are really here for the Greek life,” Berkowitz said. “And not just students that go here students that are considering coming here.” 

Lavine said she has friends who have submitted their Lehigh applications for next year, but they are starting to get worried about attending Lehigh without Greek life. They are nervous that by the time they arrive on campus, Lehigh may not be the same school they fell in love with. 

She said these prospective students are questioning whether or not Lehigh is still the university they want to attend. 

“When I came to Lehigh, obviously I could see myself being in a sorority, and, even if I chose not to be, I thought I could still go to sorority and fraternity events around campus,” Lavine said. “But now, I can’t even do that. It doesn’t affect just people in Greek life. It affects everyone.”

Lavine said she is worried that when the “pause” is lifted, new member education might be rushed and overwhelming, taking away from the relationships and experiences she was looking for in joining a sorority. 

Lavine, Mesica and Berkowitz said the longer the pause lasts, the harder it will be to bond with the current members.

The three said they feel as though Lehigh’s social life has been taken away, and they are worried about what students are going to do instead. The campus is known for its “work hard, play hard” attitude.

“People are just going to start doing things underground and secretly,” Berkowitz said. “(It) is just going to end up much worse and more dangerous for the students.”

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