Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Lehigh University Enforces 90% Occupancy Rule

Lehigh frat loses place to hang its hat
Alpha Chi Rho is first to fall under university's Greek house occupancy rules.
By Alex Roarty
The Morning Call

Lehigh University senior Matt Wolf started his final semester focused on getting good grades and having fun during his last days of college.But when he returned to school, he and 23 other members of Alpha Chi Rho fraternity discovered they also needed to find a new place to live.

That's because the the university had revoked his fraternity's on-campus housing privileges, forcing the students to move from their house near the top of South Mountain by Wednesday.The fraternity, known as Crow, lost its house because it did not have enough members to fill it - the university requires 90 percent occupancy of a fraternity/sorority house.

Alpha Chi Rho is the first Greek organization to lose its housing privileges under the new rule, part of sweeping rule changes in Lehigh's Greek life.The rules, which are designed to prevent fraternities and sororities from falling into an ''Animal House'' stereotype, are changing not just Greek culture, but also the culture of the entire university, students say.

In the last 10 years, nine fraternities have lost their on-campus housing privileges because of action by the university, alumni or the national chapter.

Alpha Chi Rho, which has had a chapter at Lehigh since 1918, lost its housing privileges because it failed to have enough members live in its fraternity house for four consecutive semesters, a rule originated in 2004 from a recommendation by the Strengthening Greek Life Task Force.

The chapter had a 61 percent occupancy rate in the fall of 2005 and a 55 percent rate in the spring of 2006 according to an assessment report from Lehigh's Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs. Under Lehigh's rules, if a Greek organization fails to reach the 90 percent mark for four consecutive semesters it faces losing its home.

Officials say the rules - maintaining a certain grade-point average, serving the community, keeping houses clean and well-maintained, and recruiting enough members to justify keeping the houses - strengthen Greek life, but they have met resistance from Greeks, many of whom think they are taking the fun out of Greek life.

John Smeaton, vice provost of student affairs, said there is ''no question about it'' that the task force is helping Greek life.''If you look at the overall impact,'' he said, ''the progress has been substantial.''

He points to cleaner houses and increased recruitment numbers as proof of their effectiveness. According to Smeaton, Greek organizations houses were at 72 percent occupancy in 2002 compared to 95 percent last year.

Many Greek members don't dispute the rules have helped the Greek system, but still question if some of them have gone too far. Senior Tyler Rock, president of Lehigh's Interfraternity Council, said the rules have made Greek life stronger because members get more out of it now than 15 years ago, when fraternities were places to party and little else.

But he said the campus has seen some drawbacks.''Lehigh's less fun,'' he said. ''It's like, 'What's Lehigh going to do now to reduce fun?''

Initially, university officials believed Alpha Chi Rho had recruited enough members. But on Jan. 9, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs received documents showing the organization had falsified information submitted to Lehigh, according to Smeaton. Lehigh informed fraternity members last Monday that they had failed to meet occupancy and had to move out of the house by Wednesday.

Joe Regensburg, president of Lehigh's Alpha Chi Rho chapter , disagrees with the university's definition of member. He said four students were recognized by the national chapter because they had agreed to pay a $325 initiation fee, money they still have to pay. He said recognition from the national chapter was ''100 percent proof'' that Lehigh should consider them members.

But Smeaton said the four cannot be members unless they go through the pledging process, a series of rituals used to initiate new members into a fraternity, which they have not done.

He also said Alpha Chi Rho had plenty of warning about potential trouble before last semester, receiving letters after each semester they were under occupancy.

Chapter members have had barely a week to find to new places to live. Instead of worrying about his grade-point average, Wolf is worried about signing a new lease.''I was coming back to buckle down on my GPA,'' he said. ''But I've had little free time to do so. We have a lot of other things to worry