Lehigh University's Alpha Omega Chi Sorority Has Its Status Revoked After Allegations Of A "Reprehensible" Hazing Incident
In recent years, universities have been under scrutiny for the handling of their Greek life on campus — particularly when it comes to sorority and fraternity hazing, which all too often can become dangerous or even deadly. On March 6, the Lehigh University Greek community blog published by the University Committee on Discipline said that the Alpha Chi Omega sorority has lost its recognition after an alleged hazing incident — specifically, according to the blog post, that they "executed a scavenger hunt (Road Rally) that involved the use of drugs and alcohol, sexual activity, and other activities that violate Lehigh University policy" that took place on Dec. 8, 2017. After a disciplinary review, the sorority pled guilty to all charges, according to the post.
UPDATE: Lehigh University has responded to Bustle's request for comment. Lehigh's statement is below:
Lehigh University expects all students to uphold community standards and act in a manner that reflects the university's Code of Conduct. Violations of these expectations, which are in place to foster a safe, respectful environment for all members of the Lehigh community, will result in consequences.
The scavenger hunt held by the Theta Chi chapter of Alpha Chi Omega Sorority at Lehigh University involved the use of drugs and alcohol, sexual activity, and other activities which failed to meet these standards.
Like many institutions nationwide, Lehigh University works tirelessly to address hazing and safety among Greek organizations. This is a pervasive issue on college campuses across the country and though unfortunate, when circumstances like this arise, it is an opportunity to reaffirm our expectations and address the issues in effective ways.
EARLIER: In the blog post announcing the dissolution of the sorority, the university called the actions involved in the alleged incident "reprehensible," and wrote that "AXO created a situation that occurred on and off campus involving morally questionable quests such as a scavenger hunt, treasure hunts, etc. The acts described may not have been required for affiliation into the organization, but are clearly considered a rite of passage and a consistent part of membership in AXO. The willingness of members to participate in these activities does not preclude them from being considered hazing according to the Lehigh code of conduct."
Ultimately, after Lehigh’s Title IX Coordinator opened an investigation on Dec. 12, the University Committee on Discipline found the chapter guilty of six charges in a review that took place on March 5: Respect for Others D1 (Hazing), Respect for Community (General), Respect for Others (General), Respect for Community J1 (Encouraging Others), Respect for Self A1 (Unauthorized Consumption, Distribution, or Possession), and Respect for Community L1 (Failure to Report/Being in the Presence of a violation). The sorority pled guilty to all six charges.
Molly Bankuti, the president of Lehigh’s Panhellenic Council, spoke to Lehigh University's publication The Brown and White, saying, "I think we knew whatever outcome came of the hearing, that there was going to be repair work to do in our community. We knew we would need to take a hard look at ourselves to see where we are in terms of relationships with each other, relationships with women who were in AXO and with the Lehigh community generally.”
According to the blog post announcing the revocation of the sorority's status, the sorority also lost group housing rights immediately following the March 6 disciplinary hearing.
"This incident was a significant, reprehensible event that the entire chapter was aware of and leadership endorsed," wrote the university in the blog post, justifying the charges for the alleged incident. "This event did not only take place this year, but there is credible information that this event has been going on for years. The panel is deeply concerned about the escalated nature of the content of this year’s list and we are unconvinced that this escalation wouldn’t continue."
Alpha Chi Omega has been given the right to appeal; in the event an appeal does not succeed, the sorority will be banned from campus from now until May 2020, according to the Lehigh University Committee on Discipline. All students who participated in the alleged incident will have graduated by that date.
“This shows that the university is going to keep holding us to a high standard,” Bankuti said to The Brown and White. “It’s not that the university is trying to get rid of fraternities and sororities or that they are targeting specific groups. There is an expectation they have for us, and if we are not meeting that, they are not going to tolerate it.”