Today’s college students are more socially aware and safety conscious. A recent study of college-bound high school seniors reported that a school’s commitment to issues of safety, well-being, and inclusion were as important as academic rigor when deciding where to enroll. Just as institutions of higher education will have to adapt to these changing demographics in order to elevate their brand and meet enrollment objectives, so too must fraternities and sororities.
With a decline in the population of graduating high school seniors, organizations will be competing for potential members from a much smaller pool of students whose opinions and views include greater attention to diversity and inclusion, and an increasing desire to avoid situations that could potentially derail their academic and future goals. They view alcohol misuse as one of those roadblocks, resulting in a downward trajectory of drinking rates over the past decade that has implications for how fraternity and sorority life may be perceived.
Recent research by Vector Solutions (formerly Everfi's Campus Prevention Network) suggests that these generational attributes may play a role in the hesitation of some students to pursue involvement in fraternity and sorority life. Headlines and prevailing research continue to reinforce fraternity and sorority life involvement as a risk factor for numerous problematic and harmful behaviors. At the same time, the Vector Solutions study found social, physical, and civic thriving among fraternity and sorority members compared to non-members, without evidence of deficits in character or academics
Leveraging these positive developmental aspects associated with fraternity and sorority membership - particularly civic engagement and community connection - may help to challenge aspects of the culture that are barriers to thriving. This begins with helping members shift their own ideas and attitudes about what it means to be part of a fraternity or sorority.
To support that effort, Vector Solutions is excited to introduce CommunityEdu: Fraternity and Sorority Life. From its name to its content, CommunityEdu is designed to empower fraternity and sorority members to contribute to an experience that emphasizes their strengths, encourages them to lead on issues critical to today’s students, and helps change the narrative that is impacting the ability of their organizations to thrive.
Significant updates to what was previously GreekLifeEdu were informed by an advisory board of representatives from national organizations, including Alpha Gamma Delta, Delta Zeta, Phi Delta Theta, Phi Sigma Kappa, Sigma Nu, and Zeta Tau Alpha. The move to rename the course to CommunityEdu was driven by a desire to emphasize belonging, the human emotional need that everyone has to feel connected, accepted, and a part of something greater than themselves.
The course’s positive framing is reinforced through constructive and encouraging language meant to empower members to challenge attitudes and behaviors - both their own and those of others - that may be counter to creating a sense of belonging in their organization. Interactive features like knowledge check-ins and the ability to respond to scenarios are designed to remind members of their strengths, encourage them to challenge the status quo, and embrace opportunities to be leaders and changemakers both within their organization, as well as on their campus.
CommunityEdu still has the robust data insights of the GreekLifeEdu Course. Overall the survey is shorter, additional questions have been incorporated to support areas of interest to national leadership, including feedback from members on how well current issues are being addressed by the national organization. Questions about the quality of participation include how often members participate in fraternity and sorority life activities, how they prioritize and balance their various responsibilities, and how satisfied they are with their fraternity and sorority life experience.
CommunityEdu survey questions are also better aligned with the updated content and learning objectives of the course, with demographic questions that reflect continually evolving best practices for inclusivity and data quality. The data derived from the updated surveys will enable Vector Solutions to continue to contribute to the national research base on fraternity and sorority life.
Both the content and data from CommunityEdu: Fraternity and Sorority Life will help national Greek-letter organizations and their members draw upon their unique strengths to shift perceptions that may be barriers to growing membership, and the ability for individual members and the organizations themselves to thrive.