National fraternity/sorority scorecard launches first phase of safety efforts

June 10, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As part of Penn State’s continued leadership in the transformation of fraternities and sororities on college campuses across the country, the University’s Timothy J. Piazza Center for Fraternity and Sorority Research and Reform released today (June 10) its first National Fraternity and Sorority Scorecard (NFSS).

This inaugural scorecard aggregates data from 72 U.S. institutions of higher education to create, for now, a limited picture of how fraternity and sorority chapters are performing. In its current form, the scorecard has important value for student affairs practitioners and those working with fraternities and sororities, who can compare data by institution type (public versus private) or size to determine the performance of chapters on their own campuses. 

“The colleges and universities that are participating are part of a shift in how we think about fraternities and sororities across the nation, understanding that each institution has different terminology, different policies, and that we now want to rely on practices that require research and comparison to determine what is working and what is not,” said Penn State President Eric J. Barron. “This is the first iteration of the scorecard that we hope will eventually be seen as a standard tool to inform the public and allow comparisons over time.”  

This first scorecard produced by the Piazza Center includes information about grades, philanthropic activity, and organizational conduct in Spring 2019. While the report breaks down information by organization council type, the findings broadly show that:

  • average chapter size was 66 members with an average grade point of 3.25
  • average new member class was 9.8 and the new member grade point average was 3.16
  • average philanthropic donation was $79.53 per member
  • average number of service hours was 7.4 per member

Additionally, the scorecard shows that 77.4 percent of institutions reported at least one organizational-level violation. Among institutions reporting at least one violation, the average number of organizational violations at any chapter was 1.5, with the highest number of violations at 14. Of the organizational violations:

  • 23.5% of the fraternities had at least one organizational violation
  • 9.8% of sororities had at least one organizational violation

A key takeaway from this first report showed that collecting information on consequences/outcomes for organizational conduct was hindered by the different terminology used by schools and the various school-to-school processes for reporting conduct issues. The Piazza Center is conducting further research with the goal of including consequences/outcome information in future data collection and reports through a partnership with the Association of Student Conduct Administrators. Moving forward, the national scorecard is expected to be released annually. The next report will be for the 2019-20 academic year.

The scorecard was initiated after a growing number of public university presidents and chancellors indicated broad support for collective action to make fraternity and sorority systems safer across the country — first at a national conference co-sponsored by Penn State in spring 2018 at the Big Ten Headquarters in Rosemont, Illinois, and then again in summer 2018 at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) in Washington, D.C.  

The inaugural scorecard's release date was delayed until now to collect data from additional campuses, and because of challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. To view the full report, visit the NFSS webpage.

The Piazza Center is continuing outreach to higher education institutions to increase scorecard participation and expand the ability to examine organizations across the U.S. Over time, the intent of this newly launched tool is to give institutions the information needed to benchmark local communities against the national landscape, as well as have meaningful and constructive dialogues with national organizations.  

“We reached out to 730 institutions and more than 70 responded with data. We are grateful to those who are participating, providing information on 2,044 fraternity and sorority chapters, because it is our firm belief that eventually having a searchable database for parents and potential members, as well as researchers, will provide a clearer picture of those chapters that are adhering to their stated values of community and respect,” said Damon Sims, Penn State vice president for Student Affairs.  

“No one has previously attempted to aggregate and analyze this type of data, and part of the reason is because it is a complex endeavor, requiring collaboration and change. Penn State is committed to this initiative and we are still in the process of seeking a critical mass of participating schools that we hope will allow us to get to a more granular level for comparisons and identification of best practices within Greek-letter organizations in this country,” Sims said.  

A report of this kind is labor intensive, a strong factor for why it hasn’t been attempted in the past, according to Stevan Veldkamp, executive director of the Piazza Center. The project is a significant undertaking and requires three staff and a student intern to gather, analyze and produce the report, Veldkamp said, adding that the center is collecting data on a rolling basis, and institutions can go to the the NFSS webpage to participate.

The Piazza Center, launched at Penn State in January 2019 with a $2 million pledge from the University, is committed to the study of fraternity and sorority life, focusing on research to support positive educational outcomes, student safety, and the reduction of high-risk behaviors. To augment the initial funding, the multi-disciplinary research center is also seeking private support through a fundraising campaign aimed at garnering an additional $3 million, which will then trigger $3 million more in matching funds from Penn State.  

The nationwide fraternity and sorority chapter scorecard is similar to the Community Scorecard instituted in 2017 at Penn State, and will eventually include additional, more comprehensive information such as total members, cumulative GPA, alcohol and hazing violations, as well as chapter suspensions.  

Last Updated June 10, 2021