Between a “pause” on Greek life this past February and Lehigh’s closure of campus due to COVID-19 just three weeks after the pause was lifted, some students and staff involved in Greek life are concerned about a growing disconnect between new members and their chapters.
When the pause was lifted on Feb. 25, new members were excited to engage with their chapters before leaving campus for spring break on March 7 — only to have all new member education and Greek-related events canceled when campus shut down.
The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs has been offering coaching calls throughout the spring and summer to help council leadership to prepare for another remote semester.
The two main concerns for the upcoming semester include welcoming first-year students to the Greek community in a virtual environment and keeping chapter members — especially current sophomores, who were first-years last year during a chaotic spring semester — engaged remotely.
Chloe Abshire, the assistant dean and director of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, said chapters will have to be intentional about how they care for their sophomore students this fall.
“Not only did this happen during their new member experience, but for those chapters who have a chapter facility, they’re not going to have the opportunity to live in, at least for the fall semester,” Abshire said.
Alex Farricker, ‘23, said her new member class has heard no plans for initiation or the fall semester. Since sophomores can’t return to campus, they remain unsure of what happens moving forward with their chapter.
“The most disappointing part is that we can’t get a lot of experiences because of everything being virtual,” Farricker said. “It’s kind of difficult because everyone who’s older had the opportunity to do everything in person from the beginning.”
Abshire stressed the importance of making an effort to help sustain the Greek community now to help emerge stronger when all students can hopefully return in the spring.
Panhellenic President Julia Voelzke, ‘21, said the Panhellenic National Council is confident that they will have formal recruitment in the spring. There are several universities across the country coming up with creative, virtual ways to do recruitment this summer and fall, and those are the schools Lehigh will be looking to build their recruitment plans off of.
Each fall, Fraternity and Sorority Affairs hosts an in-person “Go Greek” fair on the front lawn. This year, they’ll host two virtual events to ensure accessibility to potential new members.
The event will be formatted as a town-hall, where Fraternity and Sorority Affairs will introduce the Interfraternity Council, Panhel and Cultural Greek Council.
Abshire has limited details but said potential new members will be able to create profiles and express interest in chapters, which then have the ability to communicate through the virtual platform.
Sophia Closter, Panhellenic’s vice president of external recruitment, ‘21, has been planning to utilize Rho Gammas as mentors to potential new members. Rho Gammas are specifically selected Panhellenic members who guide potential new members through the recruitment process.
“We’re enthusiastic about the Rho Gams that were selected for the year. Training will be virtual and is still being coordinated,” Closter said. “With the limited opportunities we have, Greek life will serve as a way to meet new people and I’m confident that the Rho Gams will be able to serve as mentors to first-year students.”
As first-year students remain hopeful for recruitment in the spring, Voelzke said chapters are doing their best to keep everything as interactive as possible.
“The chapters are definitely all planning ways to keep their sisterhood and philanthropies alive during a time that maybe we can’t all sit in the same room, but it’ll definitely be a very big social experiment,” Voelzke said.