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Lehigh to add non-residential fraternity chapters

Lehigh University will welcome back two fraternities next semester in an expansion that will include non-residential chapters for the first time in university history.

The two fraternities selected by the university’s Greek Expansion Committee are Delta Chi and Pi Kappa Alpha. The committee, comprised of students, alumni and staff, undertook an extensive review process that began last May, when Lehigh put out the call for applications for new chapters to the North American Interfraternity Conference.

That request was met with a response by 12 Greek organizations that were narrowed down to five finalists, which had all previously been at Lehigh and had a network of active alumni who were interested in re-colonization, according to Tim Wilkinson, director of fraternity and sorority affairs.

In addition to Delta Chi and Pi Kappa Alpha, the list of the five finalists also included Phi Delta Theta, Zeta Psi, and Pi Lambda Phi.

Beginning in late October, members representing the five finalists gave presentations that were attended by members of the Greek community, and interested students, alumni, and Lehigh administration and faculty.

“We had great attendance at these events, and really probing insightful questions following very detailed presentations,” Wilkinson said. “We feel that the two groups chosen were the two best-prepared to come back to Lehigh in a non-residential capacity, especially given the resources offered by their headquarters and the level of alumni support.”

The effort to expand to include non-residential fraternities is one that will support the university’s commitment to enhance the quality of the Greek community on the Lehigh campus, according to John Smeaton, vice provost for Student Affairs.

“The alumni and national representatives of the returning chapters demonstrated a clear and firm resolve to maintain exemplary levels of scholarship, service, and personal integrity in their groups,” Smeaton says.

Administrators acknowledge that the experience students will have with the non-residential fraternities will vary from the traditional. But, notes Wilkinson, this non-residential model is one that has been successfully adopted by a number of other universities across the country, including Columbia, Cornell, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Tom Dubreuil, associate dean of students, says that by expanding to non-residential groups, the university provides additional options for students interested in being a part of Greek life.

“This is a well-established and highly successful model at universities across the country that will now be a part of the Lehigh culture as well,” Dubreuil says.

Bobby Buckheit ’09, president of the Interfraternity Council, pledges his group’s support in acclimating the new chapters.

“The IFC will work to help the new chapters enter into a positive, receptive Greek community by offering the same type of support and voice already recognized chapters receive,” says Buckheit, who adds that the expansion will present “a learning experience for IFC as we adapt to the new challenges put before us.”

The expansion will “provide a new option for students who may not want to live in a residential chapter, but are still interested in joining a Greek chapter. Ultimately, students can choose their Greek experience, and offer a new perspective.”

Dave Polakoff ’86, president of the Greek Alumni Council, says that the expansion is affirmation that the work of the Greek Life Task Force has enhanced the Greek life experience at Lehigh.

“The Greek Alumni Council is committed to the success of the expansion and are eager to welcome back two previously recognized chapters,” Polakoff says. “We are ecstatic for the alumni of these chapters."

A new chapter in Greek life

The re-colonization of two fraternities selected will begin at the end of the recruitment period during the spring semester, according to Wilkinson. The fraternities will operate under the same rules and conditions as currently recognized fraternities, but will not have a central meeting place.

Wilkinson emphasized that the university is committed with working with the chapters to help identify campus spaces and resources to support their programming needs.

“The expectations for conduct and behavior will not change,” he said. “We fully expect members of these new chapters to abide by the Student Code of Conduct, work with the accreditation process and embrace the high standards clearly set forth for the Greek community here at Lehigh.”

The university is also continuing to examine options to expanding the Greek community through culturally based chapters, and is working with student groups that have expressed an interest in making the Greek experience at Lehigh more diverse.

Last spring, Lehigh welcomed the first Latina sorority in the university’s history, Lambda Theta Alpha, which is founded on a respect of culture, tradition, history and philanthropy.

“We will continue to look at ways to expand the Greek experience and to enrich and enhance the experience for our existing chapters here on campus,” says Wilkinson. “We feel confident that the chapters we will welcome back here next semester will make a valuable contribution to the Lehigh community.”

--Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Wednesday, November 26, 2008

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