Research partnership looks at fraternity and sorority staffing practices

February 24, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Timothy J. Piazza Center for Fraternity and Sorority Research and Reform and the Association of Fraternity and Sorority Advisors (AFA) in partnership with the Postsecondary Education Research Center (PERC) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, are studying the effects of staffing practices in offices of fraternity and sorority life on individual chapter and community outcomes.  

“While there is some promising practice out there around multiple models and approaches to staffing fraternity/sorority advising operations, there are still many unknowns in understanding the relationship between staffing and outcomes," said Jason Bergeron, executive director for the Association of Fraternity and Sorority Advisors. "AFA is excited about our evolving partnership with the Piazza Center in tackling some of these important empirical questions around the impact of staffing practices on both chapter and student-level outcomes."

While the research is ongoing, a preliminary report indicates that there is a relationship between staffing models and chapter level outcomes. The report “University Fraternity and Sorority Staffing Practices: Effect on Student Success” suggests that staffing size and structure impacts the chapter experience.  

“Findings from this initial research provide an early glimpse at answering an important question related to supporting fraternity and sorority members,” said Patrick Biddix, professor and associate director for PERC, University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “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.”

The preliminary staffing report included data from 68 institutions and 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).

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.  

The researchers conducting this study emphasized the preliminary nature of the work and note that as the number of participants increases, future work will provide stronger findings.

“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.

Institutions can help strengthen future work by participating in the AFA’s Institutional Survey and the Piazza Center’s National Fraternity/Sorority Scorecard Survey.

This work was completed by PERC at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in partnership with AFA and the Piazza Center. The study was funded through the AFA and Piazza Center.

The Piazza Center at Penn State was launched in January 2019, in an effort to become the nation’s principal home for identifying sound professional practice in fraternity and sorority advising. The center produces actionable data to give practitioners the evidence needed to enact meaningful change on their campuses and in their organizations. Since its inception, the center has worked to empower higher education to make the fraternity and sorority experience safer and more meaningful based on comprehensive research. 

The Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors is the catalytic force in aligning the fraternity/sorority experience with the changing dynamics and enduring principles of higher education. Through programs, publications, networking opportunities, and other resources, AFA enhances its members’ abilities to foster impactful fraternity/sorority experiences.

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

Last Updated March 04, 2021