The Gamma Phi Beta chapter house is home to sophomore and junior members of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority. Graduate Assistants will not be living in the Greek chapter houses in the fall as originally planned. (Casey Farmer/B&W Staff)

Graduate Assistants living in Greek houses delayed one year due to PA construction pause


Graduate Assistants will no longer live in Greek chapter houses this fall as originally planned, according to an email sent to Greek students from the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs on March 31. 

GAs were supposed to live in each Greek house beginning in the fall 2020 semester as part of Lehigh’s 10 point plan for Greek life excellence. However, renovations required to house the GAs will not be completed by the fall due to the coronavirus pandemic, therefore delaying this aspect of the plan. 

GAs were told that they would be given their own suite with a private bathroom in each chapter house. 

The delay comes after a turbulent spring semester in the Greek community. The university paused all Greek life for roughly one month, before the pause was lifted on Feb. 25. 

Ozzie Breiner, the director of Housing Services, said 13 out of the 25 sorority and fraternity houses required extensive renovations to create those spaces.

Construction projects in Pennsylvania have been suspended indefinitely, following an order from Gov. Tom Wolf in response to the coronavirus. 

Breiner said construction on Lehigh’s campus has come to a halt, suspending the renovation for the Graduate Assistant suites, and jeopardizing other planned construction initiatives on campus, like the Singleton, Hitch and Maida houses. 

“We weren’t even sure if there would be contractors who were going to be available to complete these suites,” Breiner said. “For this year, it seems it’s better to delay it for a year as a cost-saving measure, in a way, to make sure we have the necessary means, timing and ability to create the suites in each facility.”

Chloe Abshire, assistant dean and director of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, said she began working on the GA portion of the 10 point plan when she started working at Lehigh in July 2019. 

Abshire said the goal of having GAs is to provide a common residential experience for all Lehigh students, regardless of whether or not a student lives in a residence hall or a Greek house. 

“I personally, as a director, was really looking forward to implementing this program, knowing that it is best practice and would really help our students,” Abshire said. “But, given everything going on, I definitely found peace with knowing it’s the right thing to do.

Abshire said adding GAs to chapter houses is a practice being initiated in Greek communities across the country. 

She said delaying this process by one year will ease stress and anxiety with some students, as there was hesitation and fear about how this new role would play out in the Greek houses. 

Becca Patterson, ’22, the president of Gamma Phi Beta, echoed this concern. 

“I think I am more biased because I came into Lehigh not having (a live-in GA),” Patterson said.“We didn’t know what it was going to entail, so we were skeptical because we felt like it was an invasion and not something we were used to.” 

Abshire said their plan is to initiate live-in GAs for fall 2021. 

With lots of work put into the GA plan, it is disappointing it will not be implemented in fall 2020, Abshire said.  

Breiner said the construction will most likely begin during summer  2021 to be completed for a fall 2021 opening. 

Abshire said she is hopeful the OFSA staff will have more time to work on a staff manual and training to ultimately give the GAs a meaningful  opportunity. 

“There’s a lot of benefit to having a staff member in the house for the students to receive support in a crisis and promoting overall health and wellness,” Abshire said. “With Lehigh working towards being an exceptional Greek community, we really felt that this would allow the community to prosper, and promote that safety, that wellbeing and opportunity to excel within a residential space.”

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