Study on fraternity, sorority culture offers opportunities for enhancing student experience
July 10, 2019
A year-long study of Virginia Tech’s fraternity and sorority life experience commissioned by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost has resulted in recommendations for improving and enhancing Virginia Tech's Greek programs.
The Commission on Fraternity and Sorority Life Culture brought together a diverse group of faculty, staff, students, and officials from the Town of Blacksburg to consider a number of factors, including student well-being, academic success, and alignment with Virginia Tech’s Principles of Community, and recommend strategies for enhancing the university’s fraternity and sorority culture and experience.
The diversity of this commission was an important asset to the group’s work and consisted of individuals with a broad range of experience with and exposure to the fraternity and sorority experience.
Executive Vice President and Provost Cyril Clarke received the commission’s findings and recommendations and is working with university leadership to develop action plans based on the outcomes of the report.
“I am pleased that the report confirmed that students participating in fraternity and sorority life are well engaged in the Virginia Tech community and are academically successful,” said Clarke. “I also recognize that the report has identified areas in which improvements can be achieved, and I look forward to working with colleagues in Student Affairs and the Greek organizations to design and implement policies and programs that best serve the interests of our students.”
Led by Frank Shushok, senior associate vice president for student affairs, the commission gathered information through reviewing a number of contemporary fraternity and sorority research studies and reports and publications from a variety of perspectives. They also reviewed Virginia Tech-specific data, such as conduct records, demographic trends, academic and retention reports, and records from the Town of Blacksburg regarding off-campus fraternity housing. The commission also took personal tours of on- and off-campus fraternity and sorority houses and participated in multiple small group discussions.
In addition to engaging the campus and local communities, the commission interviewed several national leaders to assess landscape issues facing fraternities and sororities across the country and to gather data for developing tactics for strengthening the culture at Virginia Tech and positioning the institution as a national leader.
In its final report, the Commission on Fraternity and Sorority Life Culture presented several high-level findings:
- Fraternity and sorority life at Virginia Tech continues to flourish with a growing number of students participating and succeeding in the classroom.
- While most fraternities and sororities at Virginia Tech maintain a positive and safe culture, Virginia Tech has not been immune to incidents of hazing and dangerous alcohol-related behavior.
- Suspended fraternities that continue to operate without university recognition are a serious threat to the reputation of Virginia Tech.
- Fraternity and sorority life at Virginia Tech remains largely demographically homogenous and has a unique opportunity to model inclusion.
- Housing is an important facilitator of fraternity and sorority culture at Virginia Tech, and efforts to enhance Oak Lane to better enable desired outcomes is necessary.
- The infrastructure necessary to advance the highest level of educational programming for fraternities and sororities at Virginia Tech is under-resourced and under-developed.
- Fraternity and sorority life at Virginia Tech needs a more robust collection of student experience data to better inform the strategy for strengthening the culture.
The commission also shared several assumptions, each with recommendations and timelines for moving Virginia Tech forward and positioning the university as a national leader in fraternity and sorority programs and experiences. The assumptions included the following:
- Prospective students and their families deserve a clear, coherent, and honest assessment of the culture of fraternities and sororities they consider joining.
- Obstacles to student well-being continue to erode the potential impact of fraternities and sororities at Virginia Tech (hazing, alcohol abuse, etc.).
- The housing and gathering spaces of fraternities and sororities, both on- and off-campus, are critical factors for student success, well-being, and town-gown relationships.
- As a land-grant institution committed to growing its enrollment to include 40 percent underrepresented and underserved students by 2022, a carefully designed, managed, and executed structure that supports Virginia Tech’s commitment to inclusion is fundamentally important to the success of fraternities and sororities.
- The type and frequency of educational experiences, trainings, and interventions have a profound influence on the culture of fraternities and sororities and, therefore, the view students adopt.
Moving forward, Clarke will work with university and Student Affairs leaders to build upon the recommendations of the commission in an effort to enhance the fraternity and sorority experience for current and future Virginia Tech students.
The complete report from the Commission on Fraternity and Sorority Life Culture is available online.