Losing Hope for Prevention in the Greek Community? Not So Fast.

A recent research study that examined alcohol interventions targeting fraternity and sorority members has led to several news stories, many of which have over-sensationalized headlines, none of which outline the limitations of the study. While the study has several limitations you can read about here, it does highlight that many prevention efforts directed towards fraternity and sorority members do not reflect the evidence base or sound prevention theory. As suggested in the study, most programming directed at fraternity and sorority members has consisted of one-off trainings that are not part of a larger comprehensive prevention plan. When this type of programming fails, it only reinforces the negative perceptions of the Greek system that nothing can be done about these challenges.

To help prevention specialists who work with Greek organizations leverage the research literature and prevention best practice, EverFi created a guidebook titled “Leveraging Values and Challenging Misconceptions – Prevention Guidelines for Fraternities and Sororities.” This resource demonstrates there is an opportunity to leverage the positive attitudes and the values of these organizations to promote healthy behavior.

Despite the negative media attention fraternity and sorority organizations often receive, becoming a member of a Greek organization is a rewarding and enriching experience for millions of American college students. The benefits of joining a Greek organization are well documented: Greek members are more likely to enjoy their overall college experience, more likely to persist from their first to second year in college, and more likely to graduate than their non-Greek peers. These students also gain leadership experience, build professional networks, and give back to their community.

However, there is also substantial research indicating that members of Greek organizations are more likely to misuse alcohol, use illicit substances, and either perpetrate or become victims of relationship violence and sexual assault. While high-risk alcohol use, sexual violence, and hazing create visible incidents that draw negative attention and publicity to the Greek community, EverFi’s research indicates that these unhealthy behaviors represent a relatively small percentage of fraternity and sorority students.

Rather than consider prevention efforts with the Greek community to be a lost cause as media headlines suggest, institutions and organizations should rethink prevention within the Greek community. By educating students to speak out and empowering them to intervene against problematic behavior, prevention specialists are leveraging the healthy norms and values that most fraternity and sorority members endorse. In addition to giving the students a voice, administrators should apply prevention practices informed by data gathered from individual chapters and institutions, as well as sound behavioral theory and prevention science. EverFi’s guidebook provides practitioners a foundation to build upon and support the development of effective prevention efforts targeting fraternity and sorority members.