Thursday, December 19, 2019

Response to the Anonymous Letter

December 18, 2019

To all of the Greek chapters at Lehigh University, 

On August 8, 2019, the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Affairs received a letter outlining details of the writer's experience with Lehigh’s Greek community. This letter suggested inappropriate behavior related to use and misuse of alcohol, as well as significant social pressure to attend parties in order to be considered for membership into your chapters. 

Every IFC, Panhellenic, and CGC chapter president was interviewed by the Office of Student Conduct. While almost all chapter presidents agreed that some of the alleged behaviors occur at Lehigh, none of the presidents believed the alleged behaviors to have occurred in their particular organization. 

At the end of the investigation, there was not enough credible information provided to move forward with conduct charges for any individual chapter.  That said, the acknowledgement of issues like those described in the August 8 report elevates our concern about persistent cultural issues that permeate the fraternity and sorority community.  In addition, the Office of Student Conduct has received other recent reports that align with some of the statements in the anonymous letter.  As of now, we have received two reports of alleged hazing in the past few weeks, and those chapters have been notified as the first step in the student conduct process. 

The timing of this letter is purposeful, and is intended to serve as a warning to the fraternity and sorority community.  We want to clearly state our expectations of the Lehigh community in advance of the formal recruitment season ahead of us.  As you know, Lehigh has an institutional commitment to our students, as well as a legal obligation to address and investigate all allegations of hazing related behaviors. We will continue to do so in the future, and we will not tolerate behavior that creates an unhealthy or unsafe environment. 

Lehigh has made significant efforts to support and invest in our fraternity and sorority community.  We have worked to share clear expectations and to provide our students with tools and strategies for promoting a safe, respectful environment. These efforts are illustrated through programming such as Intervene, Base Camp, Social Host Training, and Pregame. Additionally, Lehigh’s Hazing Coalition is working to improve the Medical Amnesty Policy, a New Member Bill of Rights, and a Hazing Amnesty Policy. Lastly, the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Affairs is leading the effort to improve the Social Policy.  

While we are working at a university level to foster a strong fraternity and sorority community, making a change to our community’s culture requires partnership.  In addition to our commitment to respond to behaviors that do not meet our community expectations, it is also imperative that your organizations take the time to truly and candidly assess your recruitment strategies, social environment, and shared expectations of one another as members of the FSL community at Lehigh.  The greatest potential for improving this community rests among those of you all who inhabit it.  By setting expectations, holding one another accountable, and striving to cultivate a community characterized by respect and care for one another, our fraternity and sorority community can excel.  

Lehigh University is committed to supporting a positive FSL experience and to helping your chapters be successful, and we have great hope for the positive growth of this community through partnership with our students.  

Thank you, and we look forward to seeing you next semester. 

Katherine Lavinder
Dean of Students

Holly Taylor
Assistant Dean of Students

University Wide Current and Future Responses 

  1. Closing the chapters conduct cases and letter to the community. 
  2. Investigation report
  3. Letter from Vice President of Student Affairs Ric Hall and Dean of Students Katherine Lavinder. 
  4. Letter from council presidents (IFC, Panhellenic, CGC)
  5. Letter from Dean of Students Katherine Lavinder and Assistant Dean of Students/Director Holly Taylor
  6. Office of Fraternity & Sorority Affairs Response
    1. Intervene
    2. Social Host Training
    3. Base Camp
    4. Greek Recruitment Pregame 5x10
    5. IFC and Panhellenic Council Meetings
      1. IFC Recruitment: structure, bid day on weekday
      2. Panhellenic Recruitment: recruitment rule revisions, positive Panhellenic contact
    6. Advisor Academy
    7. Recruitment Chair and New Member Education Institute
    8. Revise New Member Education Plan approval process and expectations
    9. New Member Hazing Academy (during new member semester)
  7. Hazing Coalition
  8. Medical Amnesty Policy
    1. Development of New Member Bill of Rights
    2. Development of Hazing Amnesty Policy
  9. Revision of Social Policy

    Tuesday, August 20, 2019

    Anonymous Letter Written to OFSA

    The attached document was anonymously submitted and is unedited.   The author's summary appears to reflect his/her experience within an IFC or Panhellenic organization.  We are mindful of the broad and diverse nature of the Lehigh Greek community, and believe our students make informed decisions on membership and behavior (to include alcohol consumption), whether they belong to an IFC fraternity, a Panhellenic sorority, a Cultural Greek Council fraternity or sorority, or no Greek letter organization at all.

    Rather than present statistics on student alcohol consumption or list the programs and initiatives in place (including timely anonymous reporting mechanisms) to address some, if not all, of the alleged behavior, we encourage the thoughtful dialogue that this post will surely prompt.  

    We agree with the author's assertion that students and parents should be aware of this person's broad and specific characterizations of our Greek community.  We also understand that while some students/alumni prefer to communicate anonymously, we are always happy to speak with anyone who might want to provide general or specific reflections on their own experiences.

    Ricardo Hall 
    Vice President for Student Affairs

    Katherine Lavinder
    Dean of Students