"We use data from Vector Solutions (formerly Everfi's Campus Prevention Network) to inform our strategy and supplement where needed with in-person education.” - Kyle Pendleton Director for Harm Reduction and Education, Zeta Tau Alpha
National sororities and fraternities face mounting pressure – both internally and from host campuses – to curb issues like sexual assault, alcohol abuse, and hazing. Like many national fraternity and sorority executives, the leadership of the Zeta Tau Alpha knew they needed to take proactive action. They embarked on a mission to expand and improve their harm reduction and risk management program, while continuing to focus the fellowship and commitment to civic excellence at the heart of the organization.
“We have really adapted our harm reduction and prevention models to each campus specifically, and the cultures on those campuses,” says Kyle Pendleton, Director for Harm Reduction and Education at Zeta Tau Alpha. “We realize there’s no one-size-fits-all model when it comes to prevention. We look at what the needs are of a given chapter on a given campus, while sharing an overall philosophy centered on improving the attitudes and behaviors of our members.”
Pendleton and his team needed an online platform that would allow them to engage a diverse national audience of students both efficiently and responsively. So they turned to Vector Solutions and GreekLifeEdu, an online course built to educate fraternity and sorority members on the risks and harms associated with sexual assault, alcohol abuse, and hazing.
Fundamentally, Zeta Tau Alpha needed to be able to educate at scale while understanding and responding to the particular needs of their different chapters on campuses as diverse as University of Central Florida, New York University, Texas Tech University, and Michigan State University. Equally important, they needed a platform that was aligned with their values and harm reduction philosophy. Vector Solutions provides an online curriculum driven by values, and built specifically for fraternity and sorority members. Rather than focusing simply on negative actions, this program emphasizes the positive aspects of fraternity and sorority life, reinforcing how organizational values are in direct opposition to high-risk alcohol use, hazing, and sexual violence. Because of the program’s deep customizability, Zeta Tau Alpha was able to tailor the curriculum to their organizational values and needs.
“Online courses are the easiest and most effective way to scale our educational programs across a broad set of campuses, chapters, and individual members,” says Pendleton.
Even as sororities and fraternities work to instill unique and lifelong values, it is clear that their members are at heightened risk. Nationally, fraternity and sorority members are twice as likely to be “heavy episodic” (defined as having 4 or more drinks in a sitting for women, 5 or more for men) or “problematic” drinkers (defined as having 8 or more drinks in a sitting for women, 10 or more for men) relative to the rest of the student population. They’re also five times more likely to fall behind in schoolwork and miss class as a result of alcohol use.
For this reason, it is particularly important that they receive proper orientation and support on these issues so they can make the most of sorority and fraternity life without falling behind. That’s why Vector's evidence-based program approaches alcohol abuse as a harmful behavior that can exacerbate sexual assault and hazing.
“It’s fascinating to see the evolution of these programs,” says Pendleton. “The chapters don’t feel forced to complete them, but actually want more. They recognize the need for their own education on these issues, and we’re there to fill that need.”
Over time, the accumulated data from Zeta Tau Alpha’s harm reduction and risk reduction efforts has proven to be an invaluable resource, and one that drives forward national and chapter strategy.
“The history that we have with our GreekLifeEdu data over the years is really important,” says Pendleton. “Over time, the data has helped us recognize that an individual’s sisters have the biggest impact on the choices they make.”
Charted by the data from GreekLifeEdu, Zeta Tau Alpha created a unique online learning experience on harm reduction and education that builds off of the learning outcomes of GreekLifeEdu called “My Sister, My Responsibility.” This program helps establish critical virtues among Zeta Tau Alpha members including a commitment to protecting and preventing harm among their fellow members.
Vector's data also allow Pendleton and his peers to look more closely at student engagement and activity on individual campuses, gaining an understanding of how best to target and supplement education for specific populations.
“This generation often needs to have reinforcing conversations about their behavior,” says Kyle. “We use data from Vector Solutions to inform our strategy and supplement where needed with in-person education.”
With Vector Solutions, Zeta Tau Alpha has fostered a values-driven, tailored, community-oriented approach to harm reduction for its members. The organization has taken a decisive step beyond simply “checking the box” to encourage and promote safer, healthier behavior that can persist throughout their members’ lives. As Zeta Tau Alpha continues to lead the way forward, they serve as an example of how fraternities and sororities can make a powerful, positive difference in the lives of their members, helping to guide them toward better and fuller lives.
Inclusion is about celebrating members and their many identities. And ZTA has met the call to create a deeper commitment to DEI with the philosophy of "Once you know better, you do better." Vector Solutions enabled ZTA to take an approach beyond just checking the box with DEI training; they integrated it from the membership experience all the way to the alumni position. The modules help to create a common language that ZTA was able to thread into all the spaces they operate in. Their goal is not to change everyone's opinions, but to teach members to learn from one another, see from each other's lenses, and treat each other with respect.