Lehigh University officials on Tuesday announced an “indefinite ban” on hard alcohol at fraternity events due to “the alarmingly high number” of alcohol-related medical calls this semester, according to a statement posted on the college’s Greek community blog.
Fraternities will no longer serve hard liquor at social and recruitment events “in order to create a safer environment for its students,” according to the statement posted by the Interfraternity Council, which includes students from some of Lehigh’s fraternities.
“This self-imposed ban is an attempt to focus on the health and safety of our community members as well as regain the credibility we have lost in recent semesters,” reads the council’s statement. “It’s on us, as a community, to create a safe environment for students while holding all members accountable.”
The hard alcohol ban is a “fraternity leadership-driven effort,” university spokeswoman Lori Friedman said Tuesday.
“The students have had a number of conversations across the past few months regarding alcohol-related incidents and identified hard alcohol as a primary driver in those incidents,” Friedman said in an email. “This is one of many steps they are taking to address problematic behavior and move the community forward.”
The ban comes after concerns last year about “extreme drinking” and the near death of four students because of it prompted Lehigh officials to order increased patrols by campus and city officers to target student partying. University officials at the time also expressed concern about the use of hard alcohol by students.
In the first several weeks of the 2017 fall semester, city and university police cited nearly 150 Lehigh students for alcohol-related offenses, far surpassing the number of similar charges at other Lehigh Valley colleges, according to a Morning Call analysis of court records.
Bethlehem police Chief Mark DiLuzio partnered with university police to add patrols in off-campus areas where dozens of students were cited for underage drinking or having loud parties that spilled into the streets. DiLuzio said Tuesday he was pleased to hear about the hard alcohol ban and said some of the added police patrols still remain.
“If it saves a life, it’s for damn sure worth it,” he said of the ban. “It’s a tough decision because we live in a society where everyone feels entitled to do whatever they want because it feels good. This is a step in the right direction.”
Chapters that violate the hard alcohol ban will be subject to indefinite suspension of all chapter activities, the statement reads. Each violation will be evaluated case by case, ///according to the statement, and other sanctions may include suspending recruitment or losing eligibility to take on new members.
Matt Rothberg, a senior and student senate president, said he supports the hard alcohol ban.
“I think it’s great they’re taking the initiative to be proactive,” Rothberg said. “I’m hoping that over the next few weeks, when the new member recruitment process takes place that all their various organizations will do their best to make sure everyone is safe and follows the rules.”
Rothberg said in the last year, it seemed like more people across the country are aware of alcohol-related problems.
Last year, the death of Penn State student Tim Piazza during fraternity hazing highlighted the issue of the dangers of college drinking. It then hit close to home when McCrae Williams, a 19-year-old freshman at Lafayette College in Easton, died Sept. 11 of a head injury after what officials called a day of drinking.
“I think all leaders around campus — students, administrators etc. — are doing their best to make sure Lehigh isn’t just another statistic, but a leader in preventing alcohol abuse,” Rothberg said.
Rothberg said there are other efforts underway to try to tackle the issue, including an event next week in which there will be a roundtable discussion where members of the student body will be invited to talk to police officers about their role.
Vice provost Ricardo Hall also recently published a statement about hazing on the university’s Greek life blog. The entry notes that Hall shared the email with students Jan. 12.
Hall wrote that he is “clear and unwavering” in his support of Greek life, but added he is “also a realist.”
“Lehigh is not immune to the individual and organizational behaviors that have been recently demonstrated on campuses around the country,” Hall’s email read. “Alcohol abuse, sexual assault, hazing-related injuries and fatalities — all in no way related to the ideals of Greek letter organizations, but a sad, dangerous and ongoing reality — are recurring themes in news articles, court cases and campus and online discussions.
“For Greek life to not just survive, but thrive, at Lehigh, all such behavior cannot, and will not, be an acceptable or otherwise ‘ok’ component of our students’ Greek experience. Period,” Hall’s email states.From Pam, added missing word
In November, the university temporarily dissolved the Sigma Chi fraternity citing an off-campus champagne party where one student drank to excess and needed hospitalization, but “none of the members called for help,” according to the university’s Greek community blog. The Oct. 13 incident included two students hospitalized after alcohol-related medical calls and another student was cited for underage drinking.
DiLuzio said the large number of student arrests for alcohol-related issues made addressing the issue a priority for police as well as college administrators.
“If all those arrests didn’t happen over the fall, this ban wouldn’t be in place today,” he said. “This is students stepping up, policing themselves and taking some responsibility. It’s alcohol. It’s not worth dying for.”