Sorority and fraternity chapters face the unique challenge of adhering to policy outlined by both individual institutions and national greek letter organizations. From the viewpoint of an institution, each chapter has its own national policy in regards to alcohol, sexual assault, and hazing, yet from the perspective of a national organization, their members reside at hundreds of unique institutions that have their own approaches to written policy, enforcement, and adjudication.
In the prevention field, we aim to understand the complex connections between an individual, their relationships, community, and greater society, but for fraternity and sorority members in particular, there is a lot to unpack: individual members, with their own knowledge, skills, and beliefs, join chapters with unique norms influenced by its membership, the campus it resides on, and the broader national organization.
Research shows that consistent, synergistic, and ongoing messaging increases the effectiveness of prevention. How can we better integrate this prevention work to build upon mutual efforts, avoid duplication, and increase communication between these entities?
Four recommendations can help bridge the disconnect between campus and headquarters professionals:
- Share data: The evidence base continues to expand around what efforts have been effective in campus-based prevention, but it is important that our initiatives solve problems relevant to fraternities and sororities. Many campuses and national organizations collect data about the attitudes and behaviors of their students, and through sharing key findings, we can ensure that initiatives are meeting the needs of our community.
- Send regular updates: Both Headquarters and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life employ extremely busy individuals working to solve important problems for their community. It is often unrealistic to schedule regular calls or meetings to keep both offices updated with local happenings. Therefore, sending newsletters and updates to appropriate colleagues can go a long way in sharing what prevention initiatives are taking place and the data driving said efforts. These messages share both positivity and intentionality, while opening doors for future communication.
- Build a policy and programming repository: Students, especially members of fraternities and sororities, take part in many programming efforts related to alcohol, sexual assault, and hazing prevention. In times of limited resources, it is important to ensure we aren’t duplicating our efforts. It is worth the time and effort to build a repository of policies affecting fraternities and sororities and the programs members engage with.
- Empower students: Though research demonstrates increased rates of high-risk behavior within the sorority and fraternity community, data also shows that the majority of members maintain positive and healthy attitudes towards alcohol, sexual assault, and hazing. These findings can be leveraged to promote a culture more in line with the values fraternities and sororities were founded upon. Members are often social opinion leaders on campus, therefore they can play an active role in creating a framework to develop resonant messages and be responsible for communicating their goals to both their campus and National Organization.
Ultimately, transparency and collaboration are key. Through sharing insights, particularly local data, findings can inform prevention efforts and open the doors for future communication. Through building an integrated plan, we can begin to bridge the gap between national requirements, campus-led efforts, and local chapter leadership.