The issue of Greek Life at Lehigh is a topic that has received lively debate over the years and one that impacts half of our 40,000 undergraduate alumni. It’s a passionate and volatile topic and a potentially divisive one—but certainly one that we all need to join together on in an effort to make it work at Lehigh.
I want to talk with you this month about the Greek Life Task Force. I had the privilege of serving on this team (under the leadership of my previous boss, Joe Sterrett, director of athletics) that looked closely at Greek Life at Lehigh. Using a collaborative, open approach that included hundreds of alumni, students, faculty, and staff, the effort culminated in the publishing of our final report which you can find here
What was clear from the start was that Greek Life at Lehigh as it existed today could not continue to function in a manner that, in most cases, was running counter to the educational mission of the university. To do so would have placed the future of Greek Life in jeopardy. In short, if we didn’t do something now
, the Greek system would die.
Lehigh has had several opportunities in the past to change how Greek Life is managed and to establish expectations for Greek students. Most (if not all) of the recommendations in the past focused on modifying social behavior and increased regulations around alcohol and parties on the hill. Reading through our current report, you will notice something interesting: The section on social life is just one page and absent of additional rules and regulations. The bulk of the recommendations are in the form of fundamental and transformational changes in campus
life, not just Greek Life.
How the team came to the conclusions detailed in the report is nearly as important as the recommendations themselves. A commitment was made to use an open and transparent process in how we went about collecting data, analyzing the results, vetting decisions, and constructing the recommendations regarding how we should move forward. The benefits of this open process are immediate. Instead of a report that is blindly thrust upon all the groups involved, the recommendations are instead the best and brightest ideas originating from the groups themselves—students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
The recommendations are bold and transformational. They will change the Greek system and require all constituencies (students, alumni, and the university) to give a little and gain something much greater. It’s not about only the campus, the alumni, or the students taking responsibility. The approach calls for shared solutions, where alumni provide mature leadership and pass along positive traditions, the university supports the infrastructure and the housing assets that it owns, and the students concentrate on living the charter as they have pledged to do. And doing so seriously while engaging in a meaningful brotherhood and sisterhood experience.
Look closely at the recommendations, and focus more on the overall impact than on any one individual element. Many could find individual recommendations that run counter to what they experienced as a Greek. But viewed collectively, the changes weave together to form an overall plan for moving forward. The whole is indeed much greater than the sum of the parts. And moreover, the changes can be viewed as an important continuation of ongoing campus-wide improvements.
Over the past five years, Lehigh has enjoyed an academic renaissance. The recommendations contained in this report have added another dimension of campus change that we could call a “campus life renaissance.” The changes make Lehigh a better place to live and learn. And they will affect not only the Greek students, but every student who comes to Lehigh in the future.
I encourage you to review the recommendations and share with other alumni how we can best support them. Together, we will make not only Greek Life better, but our university better as well.
As always I welcome any comments, thoughts, or suggestions.
Chris Marshall ‘88