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The Difference M of Gender in Perceptions of the Fraternity/ Sorority Experience

uch has been written about the “complexities� of describing the fraternity/sorority experience (Asel, Seifert, & Pascarella, 2009). Explaining experiences monolithically has often been the focus of the research on fraternity/sorority life; however, there are differences based on factors such as ethnicity, organizational type, and institution (Hayek, Carini, O’Day, & Kuh, 2002; Pike, 2003). The experience is also influenced by gender (Vestal & Butler, 2005). We know students have different perceptions of their involvement in a fraternity/ sorority in regard to academic pursuits (DeBard, Lake, & Binder, 2006; DeBard & Sacks, 2010), use of alcohol (Wall, Reis, & Bureau, 2006), participation in hazing activities (Ellsworth, 2006), and approaches to leadership (Dugan, 2008), among other issues. Many factors influence, both positively and negatively, the overall experience of membership in a fraternal organization. This article explains results from research that investigated the differences between men and women and the perceptions of the fraternity/ sorority experience. It adds to the literature on fraternity/sorority life in that we have further evidence about how students perceive their experience and can explain how perceptions differ by gender.

By Dan Bureau, Ph.D. and Fred McCall

Research Process

Instrument. The Fraternity/Sorority Experience Survey (FSES) has been administered to over 20,000 students since 2008. Covering twelve areas of the overall undergraduate fraternity/sorority experience, student respondents are asked to self-report as to how the experience has helped them learn and develop through membership in fraternities and sororities. The twelve areas are: background information, early fraternity/sorority experiences, perceptions of the facility, gaining new members (intake and recruitment), the new member/intake educational experience, chapter affairs, chapter advising, involvement in campus activities, academics, personal growth and development, alcohol, and open-ended summary questions. Institutions can add up to 10 questions. The stories that have emerged from data analysis of the instrument can help professionals create intentional experiences to foster learning and development in the context of fraternities and sororities. Constructs, Context, and Research Questions. As part of a larger initiative within the Big Ten Conference, the lead author of this article created a collection of constructs, or clusters of questions, to explain themes in FSES data. These constructs have not been examined for statistical validity or reliability; they are conceptual in nature. Ten constructs have been conceptualized: College and University Desired Learning Outcomes, Academic Experiences, Alcohol Use, Role of Alcohol, Integrating Fraternity/Sorority Life, Personal Growth and Development, Sense of Community, Volunteerism, Financial Concerns, and Satisfaction. The lead author created these constructs using questions from the survey. A full list of each construct,


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