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Greek community adopts Chapter Event Policy

Changes to Chapter Event Policy are an outgrowth of discussions on diversity, inclusion and campus culture that date back to last semester.

Lehigh University’s Greek community recently adopted a new Chapter Event Policy that prohibits theme parties that “negatively affect the dignity of any student” or inhibit promotion of mutual understanding among members of the campus community.

The endorsement of this new policy was discussed at the Greek Alumni Council (GAC) meeting that took place in mid-February and which brought together 120 students and alumni. The Chapter Event Policy was crafted with the support of the Greek community’s Governing Councils: the Panhellenic Council, the Interfraternity Council (IFC) and the Multicultural Greek Council (MGC).

The policy, which was developed in support of the university’s Principles of an Equitable Community, prohibits any Greek organization from sponsoring or endorsing an event or program that discriminates against anyone “based on color, disability, gender identification, genetic information, marital status, national or ethnic origin, political beliefs, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, socio-economics, veteran status, or any differences that have been excuses for misunderstanding, dissension or hatred.”

The policy will be administered in partnership with the Office of Student Conduct and Community Expectations and includes “on and off-campus events, activities and actions, as well as actions taken online via use of social media.”

John Smeaton, vice provost of Student Affairs, called the adoption and endorsement of this policy by Greek leaders a “tremendously positive development.

“Although the policy will not solve all issues related to campus climate and culture, it can serve as one clear, strong statement that moves Lehigh toward a more welcoming and inclusive community,” Smeaton said. “Events that insult and demean others cannot continue on our campus. They are in direct conflict to the values of this university and antithetical to everything we stand for as a community.”

“A force for positive change”

The development of the policy is an outgrowth of discussions dating back to last semester, according to Tim Wilkinson, senior assistant dean of students and director of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs.

“This is an issue that college campuses across the country are struggling with,” he said. “And as we take a look at the campus climate here at Lehigh, it’s opened up discussions. We share the sense that this issue, in particular, is one that we should step up and address.”

Kyle Ferdinando ‘14, president of the IFC, said the decision was an obvious one.

“With all the issues on campus last semester, it was clear that this was one simple thing that we could do, very quickly, to spur change,” he said. “Honestly, it was pretty amazing to all of us that something like this didn’t exist before.”

Ferdinando said that all three Greek leadership councils discussed the policy with individual chapters, and support of it was overwhelming. Smeaton also pledged his support at the recent GAC meeting and in meetings with Greek leaders this past week.

Adds Panhellenic President Kaitlyn Slattery ‘14: “This policy calls students to uphold these principles by rejecting discrimination in any form. We should never be making our peers -- or any person for that matter -- feel uncomfortable or pressured to dress and/or act a certain way to fit in with a group. This Chapter Event Policy is a small step in the right direction for a more welcoming campus climate, and we are devoted to taking responsibility for our actions to keep moving in this positive direction.”

In her leadership role with the Panhellenic Council, Slattery said she feels an additional sense of responsibility to address these issues on campus.

“I, as well as my chapter, should be setting an example for the rest of the community by rejecting any act of discrimination,” she said. “I also feel that it is my responsibility to spread this policy beyond the boundaries of Greek life at Lehigh, to other student organizations at Lehigh. With everyone's help we should be able to become the inclusive Lehigh that we always should be.”

Wilkinson said the Greek community can play a significant role in bringing change to this campus: “With their intentions and their actions, members of the Greek system at Lehigh have an opportunity here to show how they can be a force for positive change.”

Story by Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014

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