The Kappa Alpha Theta chapter house is home to many upperclassmen in the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. Many first-year students were unable to grow close relationships with upperclassmen in their Greek organization, as a result of the delay of initiation. (Margaret Burnett/B&W Staff)

First-years react to double-postponed initiations

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For the second time this semester, new member education has been delayed following the Greek life pause and closures related to COVID-19 — but this time, initiation has been postponed until the fall 2020 semester.

This leaves many students who have been awaiting their initiation struggling to come to terms with an untraditional introduction. 

Ariana Simms, ‘23,  said while she is respectful and understanding of the decision to move classes online, the fact that her first semester in a Panhellenic chapter looks so different from how she was expecting is still upsetting to her. 

“It’s still been really hard to have these experiences I had envisioned taking place in a certain way being changed or no longer happening,” Simms said. “This is obviously something that nobody ever expected to happen.” 

Simms said her disappointment largely comes from the fact that Lehigh’s move to online learning is not the first interruption she has experienced during her first semester trying to join a sorority.

In January 2020, all Lehigh Panhellenic and Interfraternity Council chapters were placed on “pause” following concerns about the safety and well-being of members in Greek life on campus. This effectively suspended all new member activity.

“I had hoped that after the pause, I would be able to make up for lost time, but now my first year is gone,” Simms said. 

David Kleiman, ‘23,  said the health and well-being of members of the Lehigh community should be the priority. He also expressed frustration at initiation being pushed back twice. 

Kleiman said the immediacy of the change in the spring 2020 semester “felt like a punch in the face.” 

Kleiman said he feels like he’s missing out by not having this time to bond with the members of his fraternity who are graduating this spring.

They are all great people who have tons of insight and experience on the whole process and how to enjoy college,” Kleiman said.

Samantha Thompson, ‘23, also said she feels like she has missed out on forming relationships with chapter members in other grades.

“Because of the double pause, a lot of our class has not had the chance to get to know the class above us and form relationships that could become big and little sisters,” Thompson said.

Kleiman said he feels like he is missing out on the daily interactions with his future fraternity brothers, which he really enjoyed while still on campus. 

“Moving to online education limits the face-to-face bonding experience and little moments that being on campus would facilitate,” Kleiman said. 

Although events such as parties and formals are fun, Simms said, she wants to be in a sorority for the sisterhood and to create bonds that go beyond her four years at Lehigh — which she feels was taken away from her.

New member education is expected to start again for the third time in the next few weeks and will take place over Zoom. Many members of Greek life have already started using Zoom as a way to communicate with other members of their chapter. 

Thompson said although new member education has not officially started on Zoom, she has participated in other chapter meetings on the platform and is confident it will work for this purpose, too.

Simms said many of her sorority sisters “attended” their date party on Zoom, which was supposed to occur March 20. 

Thompson said while she is frustrated by the delays, she feels that her new member class’ unprecedented first semester has brought them closer as a group.  

Despite their untraditional introduction into chapters, Simms, Kleiman and Thompson all said they feel fortunate to have gotten to know their new member classes, and look forward to resuming their involvement in Greek life on campus in the fall.

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