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PERC Study: How University Fraternity and Sorority Staffing Practices Affect Student Success

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Postsecondary Education Research Center (PERC), in partnership with the Penn State University’s Timothy J.Piazza Center for Fraternity and Sorority Research and Reform and the Association of Fraternity and Sorority Advisors (AFA), are conducting research on the effects of staffing practices in fraternity and sorority life offices on chapter and community outcomes. While the research is ongoing, the team recently released a preliminary report derived from three surveys during spring 2018: The AFA’s Institutional Survey (IS), the Piazza Center’s National Fraternity/Sorority Scorecard Survey (NFSS), and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). This preliminary report, which includes data from 68 institutions, shows a relationship between staffing models and chapter level outcomes. Patrick Biddix, professor in the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies and associate director of  PERC, explained, “Findings from this initial research provide an early glimpse at answering an important question related to supporting fraternity and sorority members. Results propose that member academic outcomes, behaviors and service are related to institutional support for fraternity/sorority professionals. Further, findings suggest that member and community well-being can be enhanced with additional support.”

Key findings from the report that point to a correlation between staffing size and structure and chapter outcomes:

  • The proportion of chapter violations is positively related to the full-time staff and chapter member ratio, which may indicate that increasing the number of staff results in increased conduct reporting and accountability among fraternity and sorority members.
  • Fraternity and sorority average chapter GPA (grade-point average) is positively related to whether the senior staff member dedicates over 50% of their time to fraternity and sorority life.
  • The average number of community service hours by chapter is positively related to the ratio of graduate student employees, indicating that increasing graduate student staff and providing intentional opportunities for them to engage with members around
  • service may be beneficial in facilitating, emphasizing and tracking service in fraternities and sororities.
  • Fraternity and sorority average chapter GPA is not related to the ratio of either full-time or graduate student staff and chapter members.

“We are eager to continue pursuing this research by expanding participants and to provide direct and implementable findings to support professionals. This research is an important step toward supporting stakeholders who develop and enhance campus communities and the membership experience,” said Biddix.

View the preliminary report, “University Fraternity and Sorority Staffing Practices: Effect on Student Success.”

The Postsecondary Education Research Center (PERC) at the University of

Tennessee, Knoxville, operates under the direction of Jimmy Cheek, Chancellor Emeritus and Distinguished Professor of Educational Leadership
and Policy Studies. The center comprises faculty, staff, and graduate students with affiliate research from the university and partner institutions. Its mission is to identify, conduct, and coordinate research on initiatives and ideas designed to enhance postsecondary policy and practice. PERC provides the methodological capabilities and objectivity of a research center with expertise in higher education data, student engagement, and student success metrics.