CORE Report Feedback Forum

Dear Faculty, Staff and Students,

We welcome your feedback on this report issued by the Commission on Residential Environment, or CORE.

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Commission on Residential Environment Report

The full report, including the recommendations and the accompanying executive summary, is available in PDF format.
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Comments

I served on one of the working groups and although the report accurately reflects the views discussed in my committee I fear some information was "lost in translation." Specifically, the report repeatedly infers and states at one point that fraternities "hold a near monopoly" on hosting social events involving alcohol. Although Greek life clearly hosts a majority of social events due to the size of fraternities and sororities, the term monopoly implicates something much larger - it implicates an aggressive mentality in forbidding other organizations from facilitating social events. This is quite simply not the case. Greek organizations encourage other groups to host social events, and oftentimes promote these events by cosponsoring. Most male sports teams host parties throughout the week, as do multicultural groups such as the "Latin house" and various acapella/choir organizations. Rather, the issue of binge drinking and unsafe consumption should not be construed as an issue derived strictly from the Greek hegemony of parties, but rather an institutional issue that occurs throughout every social group (some of the "craziest" parties are thrown by sports houses following game days). I hope this comment adds some clarification to the term "monopoly" from the perspective of both a Greek student and a CORE member.

The first major recommendation was to "Require all students live in university housing for their first three years". Throughout my undergrad (at a different school) people tried to get off campus as soon as possible to save money. The university housing was often more expensive than the off campus housing. Working group #3 stated " since off campus living is a privilege, not a right", but I think the real privilege is to be able to afford an education and the on-campus living.

I read the report in full and I have a lot of points to make. I did my undergraduate education and continued on as a grad student and I am also international. In addition I served in WG5 (International Student Life and Housing).
I am very surprised at the fact that most of the other working groups did not send out surveys to assess the viability of the ideas presented to the general student community. Also, I am unsure about the size of the WG's and how they translate into representing the campus community fairly.
The three year residential requirement is an impossibility with the current infrastructure. Evidently, in order for something of that size to work out, Lehigh will have to build at least 2 more residential buildings and add another dining hall. Not to mention that the requirement will add an additional financial burden to students. Instead, resources can be devoted to supporting the students who decide to go off-campus.
The argument that the social scene will force some of the activity to move on campus with the three-year residency requirement is shaky at best. We have witnessed examples in the past where nonresidential fraternities have thrived without a physical facility or university recognition. Therefore, the issue is not simply to provide more supervision and programming to students, instead the campus culture has to be taken into account more seriously.
Some of the current policies, not just the social policy, need to be reflected on in order to ensure that students get the support that they need. Most of the students that I have interacted with feel that the administration is "out to get them" instead of help them to have a good college experience. One of the ideas mentioned in this report, which is to add Gryphon staff in Greek housing, is a prime example of that.
I agree with the conclusion by the Graduate student life committee that the Graduate Student life is less than optimal. Lehigh should work hard in order to provide resources to integrate graduate students with the majority of the student body. In addition to that, Lehigh does not have housing capacity for graduate students, which is an immediate issue that takes precedence over the proposed three year residency requirement for undergrads.
The report correctly states that most social events are held off campus, however it does not provide the correlation to the real cause, which in my understanding, is the change in social policy that occurred over that period of time when parties started to move off campus. My other concern regarding the policy and the three year residency requirement is that if students that are more students that are over 21 on campus, it is expected that there will be less opportunities to host parties. This might incentivize fraternities to recruit more -- therefore the policy might not reach its intended purpose, instead it might place more institutional burden on people in order to move off campus.
One thing that I personally found appalling in the report is that there is not much mention as to what kind of programs were discussed by these committees (with the exception of WG5) in order to promote diversity and inclusion on campus. It is a very important point that should not be overlooked and should be seriously debated how that kind of programming will translate into the "residential communities" that are proposed.
Another, very important point in student living on Lehigh's campus is Parking and Transportation. That needs to be incorporate as well in order to ensure that everyone living on campus is satisfied with the available transportation options, as well as being able to park at a reasonable price.
As a final point, it is very peculiar that several of the working groups, which should consist of different members and work independently of each other, came up with the same conclusion that the undergraduate experience should require three years of living on campus.
Obviously, the report is a rough draft and I would expect that the university involves more students in coming up with a vision that will serve the needs of its students. As it stands right now, I see it as a "laundry list" of all the burning issues on campus -- however a lot more research should happen in order to get to the real causes and try to move campus in a direction that will benefit the students.

If Lehigh wants its undergraduate students to consider spending more years living on campus, then it should make its housing prices more competitive with off campus housing. If the university is unable to compete by lowering its prices, then it deserves to lose the students to the less costly alternative of off campus living. The report speaks of fraternities holding a near monopoly on parties, but this recommendation would give the university a monopoly of its own with regards to students' living options.

A quick glance at housing costs show semester housing rates are at least $3400, so undergraduates are paying about $1000/month to live on campus (considering roughly three and a half month semesters). In many cases, they are also sharing living space rather than having a room to themselves. At $1000/month, that's simply not competitive pricing.

Off campus housing is certainly not a privilege as stated by working group #3, and I don't think that's a constructive way to frame the discussion.

I think it would also be more honest and transparent of the university to state one of its interests in longer on campus housing commitments: money given to the landlords off campus does not go to the university. There is certainly a financial interest on Lehigh's part in making this recommendation.

There should be no merit based method for determining who lives off campus because there is no way to normalize GPA across different disciplines. The opportunity to live off campus should be viewed as an important component of the Lehigh student's transition into the greater community outside the university and should be available to students regardless of merit.

As a Junior here at Lehigh I have experienced two years of living on campus and I am relieved I am not required to live another year on campus. Here's why:
1. Living on campus is more expensive than off campus
2. Living on campus requires a meal plan which is also expensive AND during the 2014-2015 school year the dining halls were ALWAYS overcrowded during lunch time making it stressful to eat lunch instead of enjoyable
3. Living off campus allows students to gain real world experience (how to cook, how to lease an apartment, time management)
All in all, I believe students should maintain their right to choose whether or not they choose to live on campus their junior year.

As a member of a Greek chapter, the Gryphon Society, and various other organizations on campus, I believe students should have the right to choose their college living experience. Personally, living in a chapter house provided me with a community that enabled me to stay at Lehigh my sophomore year. In addition to providing me with a support network, joining a chapter, which I was originally against, increased my acceptance of those who are different from me because my sisters are all so different. As an incoming freshman, I was against joining a chapter because I believed it meant conformity. Living with my sisters taught me to never conform to my environment and taught me to always be who I am . While I did get closer with my sorority sisters, but I also maintained relationships with other athletes, my freshman year friends, and other peers. Living in the chapter house provided me with academic and emotional support which I truly believe I would not have gotten otherwise. Greek life living communities are similar to Live Lehigh communities, in which residents share common interests. While a Live Lehigh community may be especially concerned with the environment, a Greek house may be specifically concerned with their philanthropy. Additionally, while living in the chapter house provided me with relationships which bettered me as a person; helped me grow academically, personally, and emotionally; and increased my involvement on campus, I do have sisters who are sophomores that chose to live in residential housing. They are happy there, and the sorority was not upset with them for choosing to do so. They got to choose their own experience, and I chose my own experience. College is an opportunity for each individual student to grow to become who he or she aspires to become. With this in mind, students should be allowed to choose where they live and who they interact with because these relationships greatly form values, goals, and character. Additionally, living off campus as a senior is a choice that some students choose, and others do not. Those who do choose to live off campus are choosing to live on their own in a more supported environment than the real world. This experience bridges the gap between the "Lehigh Bubble" and the real world. Therefore, choosing to live off campus develops seniors' real world skills. However, those who choose to not live off campus do choose to live in residential housing. Students should be able to choose what they are ready for and assess what specific areas they need to develop in as individuals.
I believe that taking away housing choices takes away students' communities, necessary academic and emotional support groups, individuality, independency, and ability to grow. As a rising senior, I know I will likely not be present when the changes are potentially made to the Lehigh community. However, as a student who is whole-heartedly dedicated to the Lehigh community, I want future Lehigh students to have the opportunity to grow as much as I have in my three years here. These three years have made me the best person I have ever been and have seen more growth than any other part of my lifetime. I hope that every other student who graduates from Lehigh will be able to say the same thing. While there are some changes I believe would greatly benefit the Lehigh community in the proposal, I do not believe Greek housing should disintegrate. I hope that student body opinion is taken into consideration when this decision is officially made, and that everyone has the opportunity to voice their opinion.

From reading the report, I think the efforts and the work done by all the working groups are commendable and while I disagree with some of the claims and conclusions made in the report, I believe that this report is a valuable contribution to the issue at hand.
My major concerns were mainly regarding the potential enforcement of the three year requirement. Below are some issues that I felt were not addressed in the report:
1- Is the decrease in the number of off-campus upperclassmen houses going to cause an increase in the demand for attending an off-campus party held by seniors? Wouldn't that make these off-campus parties more exclusive? Will they become even more crowded and more ‘dangerous’?

2-I think that the claim that "Lehigh would ensure that the students living on campus would be exposed to curricular and co- curricular opportunities to a greater extent" by forcing juniors to live on campus is baseless. How would this happen? How is having juniors living off campus stopping that from happening?

3- Say there is a group of friends made up of juniors who are unaffiliated with one of the groups that the report claims or implies have a 'monopoly', which I think is a poorly chosen term, on social events. Does banning them from living at an off-campus house take away what would have otherwise served as a possible venue for that group to hold their own social events (not necessarily parties)? What possible venues are open to such students who might be under the age of 21?

4-If we assume that enforcing the three year requirement is successful at decreasing the number of parties held off campus or access to them, will that cause a migration of students above the age of 21 to the drinking establishments near campus?

5- I do not think that the significant decrease in the number of registered parties on campus is because more people are moving off campus. Didn’t upperclassmen always have a significant presence off campus? I think that it has more to do with the students seeing a decrease in their net value or net reward from holding such parties or events. This could be perhaps to the different laws or regulations that come into play when operating such a party that are simply not there for an off campus party. Another possible reason behind having many fraternities move their parties off campus could be the belief that off campus parties are less likely to result in the chapter being in trouble with the school or their organization's headquarters. Several Greek chapters have been removed from campus over the past few years so I think that is a valid concern.

From reading the report, I think the efforts and the work done by all the working groups are commendable and while I disagree with some of the claims and conclusions made in the report, I believe that this report is a valuable contribution to the issue at hand.
My major concerns were mainly regarding the potential enforcement of the three year requirement. Below are some issues that I felt were not addressed in the report:
1- Is the decrease in the number of off-campus upperclassmen houses going to cause an increase in the demand for attending an off-campus party held by seniors? Wouldn't that make these off-campus parties more exclusive? Will they become even more crowded and more ‘dangerous’?

2-I think that the claim that "Lehigh would ensure that the students living on campus would be exposed to curricular and co- curricular opportunities to a greater extent" by forcing juniors to live on campus is baseless. How would this happen? How is having juniors living off campus stopping that from happening?

3- Say there is a group of friends made up of juniors who are unaffiliated with one of the groups that the report claims or implies have a 'monopoly', which I think is a poorly chosen term, on social events. Does banning them from living at an off-campus house take away what would have otherwise served as a possible venue for that group to hold their own social events (not necessarily parties)? What possible venues are open to such students who might be under the age of 21?

4-If we assume that enforcing the three year requirement is successful at decreasing the number of parties held off campus or access to them, will that cause a migration of students above the age of 21 to the drinking establishments near campus?

5- I do not think that the significant decrease in the number of registered parties on campus is because more people are moving off campus. Didn’t upperclassmen always have a significant presence off campus? I think that it has more to do with the students seeing a decrease in their net value or net reward from holding such parties or events. This could be perhaps to the different laws or regulations that come into play when operating such a party that are simply not there for an off campus party. Another possible reason behind having many fraternities move their parties off campus could be the belief that off campus parties are less likely to result in the chapter being in trouble with the school or their organization's headquarters. Several Greek chapters have been removed from campus over the past few years so I think that is a valid concern.

Major recommendation #1 is a terrible idea. Every student that I have spoken to about it is in complete opposition of it. Not only do many students oppose this recommendation, but it will also prevent them from obtaining valuable life skills that can only cone from living in offcampus apartments. Your students can learn more about living in the real world by living off campus than on campus. If you truly care about the students, then you wold not even consider that rrecommendation, because if this issue was taken to a university wide student vote, it would be struck down. And should this idea be approved, you will lose a lot of alumni support, including me.

As a raising senior, I disagree with a lot of points made in the CORE report. First, I was approached by my friends who said that they were getting a house off campus for both our junior and senior years. Four of us were in the same major and the fifth was in a similar major. I am in a greek house as well as 2 others in my house. The other 2 guys were in academic fraternities and 3 members of the house were in the marching band. Together, we were 5 people with completely different lives, but learned to live together and how to deal with the daily life of living in a house, such as paying bills, buying groceries, cleaning, etc.
I made the decision to move into this house while I was 5 weeks into living in my fraternity's house on the hill. My reasoning was that I was closer to my friends in my major and not just around my fraternity brothers all the time. To me, it was a way to focus more on my academics by leaving the place with all the distractions. I think many students would feel this way if they had to spend a third year on campus and two years in the dorm. It creates more hassle for someone trying to sleep with an important exam/final the next morning and their roommate is up all night playing music. In my house, I can close the door and not have to worry about outside distractions.

To the social aspect, it comes with the situation the students are given. When there is a school with not a lot of outside activities that are within a 5-10 minutes walk from the residence halls and the area around the school is dangerous, students will tend to stay on or very close to campus to socialize. I personally do not feel comfortable walking around parts of South Bethlehem that are further than the off campus houses. To the point made about the houses being too exclusive when events are held off campus, that is no more than a mother of a kindergardener complaining when her child is not invited to a birthday party. I have held three different events where I did not discriminate who was invited or who was allowed in at the door. My roommates as well as many of my other friends who live off campus have done the same. We want to be able to socialize with our friends and have them to be able to be around the people they want to be around. Just because the occasion fraternity party has people standing at the door does not mean every event held off campus by someone at Lehigh has a door person. Also students know that on campus clubs, not just fraternities, hold events off campus. They rarely have someone guarding the door leading to a more inclusive atmosphere.

I'm sure you've seen this next point, but living on campus is too much of a financial burden for some people. I have no student loans, scholarships, or any aid money to help pay for school. The difference I saw in how much I paid last year verses what I paid when I lived in my freshman dorm or my fraternity house was startling. The overall cost of food was much cheaper as well. A large majority of my friends at Lehigh are not as fortunate as I am financially and they would really benefit from not having to pay so much for three years of room, board, and a meal plan.

I believe the reason why so many students took the CORE report so harshly was because barely any of us were even aware this was happening. These are major chances that will drastically how Lehigh is as a school overall. Maybe having town hall discussions or even an online survey would help us understand the changes than want to be made as well as help the administration implement any chances.

I just graduated from Lehigh, and even though I lived on campus all four years (only because, ironically, I received enough financial aid that living in a dorm was cheaper than living off campus), I think the recommendation to require undergraduates to live on campus for 3 years will not have the intended effects and may even undermine other initiatives.

From my experience, this requirement will not result in many of the changes that Lehigh hopes to see and will punish third-year students that are not involved in Greek life or athletics. First, the “nuanced recommendation” that sophomores in Greek life should live in dorms won’t really affect the “exclusivity” of their social life. Aside from my first year, no one in the dorms interacted much with their neighbors. So even though I wasn’t in Greek life, I can say that living in a dorm won’t affect their social life because the dorms themselves aren’t a strong influence on ANYONE’S social life. Second, participation in the Live Lehigh communities isn’t only hindered by the appeal of moving off campus. I considered living in what used to be the Green House, but I never did because I wanted to live with my best friends over people who happened to have one interest in common with me. (I ended up meeting most students in the Green House through other clubs, anyway). Third, the main intent of this recommendation is to change Lehigh’s social scene, specifically reducing off campus parties held by Greek life and athletics. I and many others, however, were not part of either of these organizations. I know we tend to emphasize the large percentage of undergraduates that are Greek members and athletes, but the fact is there are still a lot of students that don’t fall in these categories. By targeting these two groups, a large number of third-year students that don’t happen to participate in either of them are forced to live on campus for nothing. And besides, a good number of off-campus parties I went to when I was a student weren’t hosted by fraternities/sororities OR athletes. Students will still find off-campus parties even if they aren’t living off campus when they’re a junior.

I am also concerned about how this recommendation will affect Lehigh’s relationship with Bethlehem. “Sketch-lehem” already has an unfair reputation for being creepy, dirty and dangerous; why give students another reason to stay out of the South Side? The more students are kept in the “Lehigh bubble”, the harder it will be for Lehigh to improve its relations with the South Side. CORE states in its Vision that they want graduate students’ residential environment to “strengthen a sense of community among the larger Lehigh and Bethlehem communities.” Why should undergraduate students not be included in this vision as well? They are the majority of the people at Lehigh, so drawing them away from the South Side seems hypocritical and detrimental to the numerous initiatives to improve relations between Lehigh and South Bethlehem.

I have positive or indifferent feelings in regards to most of the different aspects of the core report. However, I feel that requiring sophomore students in Greek houses to live in the dorms is a mistake. As someone who chose not to be part of the Greek system, I still believe that this lifestyle is positive overall. Many students in Greek Life say that the best part of being in a fraternity or sorority is living in the House and having the sense of family that is built there. This should not be taken away from these students as brotherhood and sisterhood is the foundation of Greek Life. From the perspective of an independent student, having Greek students in the dorms past the first year would not be ideal. Whether Lehigh likes it or not, Greek Life is a majority culture on campus. Many people who chose not to be a part of Greek Life did it because it would be too much of a distraction from their schoolwork, did not want the commitment, or simply felt that it wasn't for them. As someone who lived in a first year dorm (M&M) with many students in Greek life, I felt that this lifestyle, with all of its parties, formals, and rituals, was constantly in my face. I was attached to the Greek culture even though it was something I did not choose for myself, and am relieved that next year in Sayre it won't be as present for me. Please consider all of this when reevaluating the core report.

Lehigh only guarantees on-campus housing for freshmen and sophomores (and I have known students who were on the waiting list for housing until two months before sophomore year began, so even that guarantee does not seem optimal). Perfect solution: guarantee housing placement for juniors and seniors who actually want on-campus housing. If that had existed, I would have been less likely to live off-campus junior year.

As members of the Lehigh Community the Muslim Student Association would like to voice their thoughts on the recent CORE report and its policy recommendations
One of the first pros we perceived in the recommendations was the increased focus on Live Lehigh communities to help strengthen diversity of interests, personal growth, and academic experiences among students. A second was the effort towards promoting student safety by requiring students to live on campus for the first three years and concentrating the social scene on main campus. Thirdly we favor the increased support for international students as having a supportive and inclusive environment so far from home is essential.
However, we also have some concerns based on some of the proposed policy recommendations. Firstly, by requiring students to live on campus for the first 3 years this could cause an increased financial strain for students and their families. Living off campus is often substantially cheaper and requiring students to live on campus could cause a financial strain which many might not be able to bear. Secondly, we perceive a possibly negative economic effect on the local community by requiring students to live on campus for the first 3 years because this will take business away from local landlords and concentrate it on the Lehigh Campus. Lastly, there are many life skills to be learned through living off-campus and by restricting this opportunity this impedes students’ experiences with the “real world” and many common adult responsibilities.

Based on this forum and general discussion with other students, the first major reccomendation is pretty disliked. Either people outright don't agree with the recommendation, or at least think the negatives (such as increased cost) out weigh the positives (minimal increase in on-campus activity). All-in-all it is not a popular recommendation. Based on the reasons the committee provides, I find hard to believe they felt those were great justifications for making students, who are living on sometimes strict budgets, pay upwards of $3,000 extra for less space (Yes, I know people who pay $350 a month for acceptable living) and that doesnt even start to incorporate being required to buy into the sub-par, overpriced meal plan or overpriced parking.

I think there are much more obvious reasons why Lehigh administration, as a whole, is pushing for 3rd year housing and I find that pushing for a required 3rd year through this avenue and stating its only for a 'better on-campus community' is quite misleading and, on some level, straight lying to the students. It's all about the money (hear me out). It is pretty well known that Lehigh has a housing issue. They not only struggle to house all sophmores, who are on waitlists for extroadinary amounts of time and now sometimes live off campus in houses lehigh has bought up (the packer house, the one next to birkle), but also grad students and others. This housing problem is a long time coming and is not going away as class sizes get bigger. Lehigh needs to make a substantial investment in housing (campus square cost 25 million back in the early 2000s) and they want to make sure they get to see that money come back to them. To my understanding, this is the exact same thing they did in for campus square. They wanted to build campus square and thus, at the same time, increased required living from 1 to 2 years. This is not unique to Lehigh; I talked to a different high college administrator and he blantently admited this is common around the nation and they just did the same thing: move the housing requirement up so they are guarunteed revenue from their new housing project. While this seems like a random tangent, I thought it should be more obvious to student who couldn't see it. This decision has a lot to do with this, and for the core committee to ignore it and only talk about topics such as "mov[ing] much of the social life back onto campus, where the environment will be safer, better controlled, and where the social scene will be more inclusive" , then they are either terrible at looking at and reporting all aspects of a recommendation or want to leave it out of the report since the community will not act favorably.

So if you are making the decision based on simply on the thesis stated in the report, "We think this change will move much of the social life back onto campus, where the environment will be safer, better controlled, and where the social scene will be more inclusive" then listen to the community and vote this down for the easiest decision you'll ever make. But if you want to have an open discussion on some of the other motivations of this decision, which include money and how Lehigh needs more housing, please do instead of disguising this decision under the umbrella of social life, safety, and inclusiveness.

If you want to want students to live on campus you should give them an incentive to do so. I am sure some people would want to live on campus if the prices was not so high compared to an off campus house. If someone lives off campus he or she would get a private bathroom, much bigger rooms, kitchen and lounge for around $400 while he or she would pay more than that for sharing a room with someone! The prices need to be decreased or at least reevaluated for each room, for example a person who is living in a forced double in Taylor and anywhere should not pay the same as someone who has his own room in campus Sq. If different prices were set for different rooms this would give people with different financial background more options to choose from based on their ability to pay. The second problem I want to commend on is the increasing number of students in each admitted class without the increase of dorms, number of classes or the capacity of classrooms.