Monday, June 2, 2014

Could This Be the Most Important Study on Greek Life Ever Done?

Gallup just released a study on Greek life in partnership with the North American Interfraternity Conference and the National Panhellenic Conference.   You can read a summary of the study here, and the results tell an impressive story of the impact of fraternity and sorority membership:
"...fraternity and sorority members are more likely than all other college graduates to be thriving in each of the five elements of well-being (purpose, physical, social, financial, and community). Thus, fraternity and sorority members are more likely than their non-Greek counterparts to find fulfillment in daily work and interactions, to have strong social relationships and access to the resources people need, to feel financially secure, to be physically healthy, and to take part in a true community."

This could be the most significant study on fraternity and sorority life ever conducted.  I say could be because I don't know all of the studies that have ever been done, but of the ones in most recent memory, this study stands head and shoulders above the rest.  Here's why: this is a study that aligns most closely with the broader societal purpose of Greek life.  Do we really matter to our members and the communities they live and work in AFTER they leave our halls?  We need to keep checking on that, because if we fall short on that measures, we might as well pack it up.


Sure, it's fine to know that Greeks give more financially back to their institution.  And yes, of course it's important to know that retention of Greek-affiliated students outpaces other students by an impressive margin.  But studies like that are directed towards institutions of higher education to prove that Greek organizations offer value to the college/university experience.  That we deserve to be there.  Studies like these are meant to justify our relevance to the contemporary college campus.

Frankly, I'm tired of begging higher education to believe in our relevance.  Especially when it's so blatantly obvious.

This Gallup study looks beyond the college campus and justifies our relevance to the greater society, which hasn't been so obvious because we don't talk about it enough.   

It's also important to note that this is Gallup, which is much more accessible and well-known to the general public.  No offense to the doctoral dissertations or journal articles out there that provide great wisdom, but those studies don't typically find their way to places like the Wall Street Journal.

It's time we take our case directly to society at large, and show them that a fraternity/sorority experience can improve lives.  Here is some research that backs us up.

If the mission of the Greek experience is the prepare individuals for society (matching our designation as "social" organizations), then this study shows we're on the right track.  This study shows that fraternities and sororities make individuals, homes, workplaces, and communities better.  Incoming first-year students should take notice.  Parents should take notice.   This study should make every mayor hope that its citizens are fraternity members.  It should make every employer strive to attract them to their business.  

The results can be interpreted as a challenge as well.  In the five elements of well-being that were measured, it's true that Greek reported higher than other students.  But each still only reached about 50%.  

All studies are imperfect, and this one does leave room to wonder if Greek organizations simply attract people already destined to be better off.  I tend to think the results are significant enough to say that the influence of Greek life on the outcomes cannot be dismissed.  

Bravo to the NIC and NPC for seeking to undertake this study, not knowing what the result might be.  Let's do more studies that examine the broader life experiences and contributions of those who took our oaths. Studies that tell us if we're achieving our greater societal mission.  Studies like this.



5 comments:

  1. I don't know if this is already out there, but I would love to see a broad NSSE comparison that covers several types of institutions and as a pre/post test compares the scores of unaffiliated freshmen with their scores as seniors in fraternities and sororities.

    Additionally, I hate the assumption that Greek alumni donate more back to the institution. Has anyone ever come out and showed that with data? Alumni from long, storied Greek communities are certainly not one in the same as the younger Greek communities where the oldest Greek alumni are under 50 years old.

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  2. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who is a member/alum of a Fraternity or Sorority, but it is always great to have data supporting us! Great article and great report. Thank you for sharing!

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  4. Gentry - all research is open to interpretation - especially social science research. I believe there is a cause and effect. You don't. Fine. I believe the NIC acted with earnestness. You don't. Your disdain is obvious. I believe this is good research that's informative even though it doesn't read like a dissertation. I believe that we could have learned that Greek life has little significant impact on graduates which means we needed to confirm this. I believe that not everything in Greek life can be explained by the word "social." I believe people can choose to disagree without questioning someone's credibility, motives, intelligence, and ethics. I'm sorry you don't.

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    1. I never said the NIC wasn't earnest in promoting this research. I never said it wasn't good research. What I said was that we need to be cautious about the conclusions that we draw from the research. Research doesn't have to "read like a dissertation" in order to be useful, but some methodological rigor, beyond what is demonstrated in this study, is necessary before we can say that membership is the cause for these outcomes.

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