Academic journal article College Student Journal

Developing an Instrument to Assess College Students' Attitudes toward Pledging and Hazing in Greek Letter Organizations

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Developing an Instrument to Assess College Students' Attitudes toward Pledging and Hazing in Greek Letter Organizations

Article excerpt

This study examines students' attitudes about pledging and hazing in Greek letter organizations through the development of an instrument, the Survey of Attitudes About Fraternities and Sororities (SAAP). Two hundred and fifty-eight undergraduate students at a Midwestern university completed the SAAP. Forty-seven items were subjected to exploratory factor analysis, yielding six factors (i.e. Purpose of Pledging, Impact of Pledging, Conformity to Pledging Rules, Perceptions of Greek Organizations, Moral Concerns About Pledging, and Beliefs About Pledging Difficulty). Differences by ethnicity, gender, and Greek status were found.

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In spite of their long history of being a part of many college students' experiences, fraternities and sororities have often been maligned. It is believed by some observers that the benefits of Greek letter membership are outweighed by the disadvantages. In fact, the very existence of fraternities and sororities on college campuses has been called into question (Fyten, 1995). Nevertheless, the fact is that the Greek system remains an important institution in the lives of many college students. An often misunderstood college student developmental task is the process of becoming a member of a fraternity or sorority, also known as pledging (Cokley & Wright, 1995). For many college students, especially underclassmen, pledging a Greek letter organization becomes an important developmental event because it requires the student to make a decision which in some cases is expected to be a life long commitment.

When the pledging activities of Greek organizations are recklessly administered, the actions can constitute a form of abuse known as hazing (Cokley & Wright, 1995). While pledging has been officially banned by the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) and hazing is officially banned by all the Greek umbrella organizations, continued media reports of hazing suggests that pledging and hazing activities continue "underground."

Hazing has existed in Greek organizations for over 100 years (Sheldon, 1968). Although many policies and laws have been passed in an attempt to curtail hazing, it is still a pervasive problem on many college campuses (Spaulding & Eddy, 1995; Bryan, 1987). The type of hazing incidents that occur vary within each fraternity and sorority. However, some of the more common hazing activities that pledges experience include sleep deprivation, calisthenics, eating unappetizing foods, engaging in embarrassing behavior, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, verbal abuse, and physical violence (Baler & Williams, 1983; Shaw & Morgan, 1990). Unfortunately, there have been cases where hazing resulted in hospitalization, and even death, of the pledges (Bryan, 1987). As a result, many attitudes toward fraternities and sororities appear to be influenced by highly publicized cases of hazing.

The purpose of this study is to examine attitudes toward Greek letter organizations through the psychometric development of a research instrument. It is believed that a research instrument can yield data which provides insight into the attitudes different student groups have about Greek letter organizations.

Method

Participants were 258 undergraduate students enrolled in undergraduate liberal arts classes at a large Midwestern public university. There were 105 men and 151 women. Two participants were not identified. The ethnic composition of the sample consisted of 51 African Americans, 105 European Americans, 9 Biracial Americans, 76 Latino/a Americans, 3 Native Americans, 5 Asian Americans, and 5 individuals who identified themselves as "other." Four participants did not identify their ethnicity. There were 124 freshmen, 75 sophomores, 32 juniors, and 22 seniors. Five participants did not identify their status. There were 42 members of Greek organizations and 211 non-Greek participants. Five participants did not identify their status. …

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