A recent report by the Greek Accreditation Committee shows that Lehigh is continuing to make progress in its efforts to strengthen the university’s Greek system, but that challenges remain.
Of the 30 Greek organizations reviewed, five sororities and three fraternities earned gold chapter status, 11 earned silver, and six attained a bronze ranking. However, five fraternities were ranked as “poor,” the most since the accreditation process began in 2006-07.
“This is an important time for these chapters,” said Tim Wilkinson, senior assistant dean of students and director of the office of fraternity and sorority affairs (OFSA).
“We have challenged our groups to define their relevancy and meaning as values-based organizations. This is a wakeup call, but we can turn this into a positive. We’ve met with alumni and chapter presidents, sent communication to parents, and will meet with each chapter in the coming weeks.”
The accreditation process was developed in 2004 as part of the Strengthening Greek Life Task Force. It was updated in 2009 to connect accreditation with student learning and fraternal relevance. The revised process has streamlined the requirements, challenges students to demonstrate learning, and also poses development questions tailored to each chapter’s needs.
“The accreditation process is about assessment, but it’s also about planning and transition,” said Wilkinson. “We encourage self-authorship and self-reflection in our chapters.”
A renewed emphasis on service
The revamped process has produced positive results for several chapters. Pi Kappa Alpha won The Raymond L. Orians Chapter Excellence Award from its national headquarters, just three years after recolonizing at Lehigh in 2009. The fraternity will transition into a new role as a residential fraternity on the Hill, after functioning successfully as a non-residential organization.
Chi Phi fraternity, which reorganized during the 2011-12 academic year, was the 2011-12 recipient of the Gehring Award for most improved chapter from its national organization, and Kappa Alpha Theta sorority won the Silver Kite award. Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity was honored as runner up for its province’s undergraduate chapter of the year award.
Wilkinson says OFSA is working with the offices of residence sife and student affairs on shared experiences between Greeks and non-Greeks. Chapters will continue to participate in anti-hazing initiatives and educate the community on bystander intervention.
OFSA also partners with the office of community service on service learning initiatives, encouraging students to use their resources to help the community. The program is netting positive results: members of Lehigh’s Greek system performed more than 2,500 hours of community service in 2011-12.
Lehigh’s Greek organizations have also taken a stand against alcohol abuse. The Interfraternity Council, PanHellenic Council and Multicultural Greek Council have enacted a self-imposed ban on the use of chapter funds for hard alcohol purchases, and have also banned hard alcohol at organization-sponsored social events. They anticipate that this new policy will reduce hospital transports and mitigate the danger associated with alcohol use.
“We encourage our chapters to be role models on campus,” said Wilkinson. “The work our chapters are doing can, when done right, be a catalyst for positive change at Lehigh.”