The Timothy J. Piazza Center for Fraternity and Sorority Research and Reform is partnering with the WITH US Center for Bystander Intervention at California Polytechnic State University and the Gordie Center at the University of Virginia to determine best practices in hazing and substance misuse prevention in fraternity and sorority communities.
The centers have been conducting a study to understand which programs and policies create safer organizations and campus communities. Six universities comprise the initial cohort: Baylor University, James Madison University, Louisiana State University, Penn State, Washington State University and West Virginia University. Within three years, the project will produce data for a larger, definitive study on curbing dangerous and deadly hazing.
“This is a potentially life-changing project that has a real opportunity to greatly reduce hazing in fraternities and sororities,” said Robert Turrisi, Penn State professor of biobehavioral health and prevention research and Social Science Research Institute cofund.
Turrisi is the lead investigator alongside Patrick Biddix, professor of higher education at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. For the study, nationally renowned prevention experts will work with universities to design research-informed prevention strategies.
“Working with researchers and other campuses, Louisiana State University believes that we can counter high-risk behaviors,” said Dan Bureau, Louisiana State University assistant vice president for health and well-being. “The opportunity to work with institutions and organizations that want to end hazing is something that we are truly excited about, and the potential to develop new methods to reduce hazing and dangerous drinking within fraternities and sororities is an important priority of our campus.”
The study will emphasize prevention of hazardous drinking, hazing and other resulting behaviors, with the goal of changing student, chapter and campus culture. This collaborative effort allows the cohort to utilize the expertise and experience of each participating university.
“The Gordie Center is proud of its role in this project and the focus on student engagement to identify and evaluate substance misuse and hazing prevention interventions,” said Susie Bruce, director of the Gordie Center at the University of Virginia. “The iterative process ensures prevention plans are customized to campus needs and the strong evaluation component will identify promising practices that can transform unhealthy environments.”
The Gordie Center brings expertise working with campus athletics departments to create effective, student-focused substance misuse prevention programs through their APPLE Training Institutes. The WITH US Center is providing insights into bystander intervention assessment and practices that will make a critical difference. StopHazing, which leads the Hazing Prevention Consortium (HPC), is also a partner involved with the project.
“Our work can literally save lives. We not only have the opportunity to build a formula for professional practice, but our efforts may be the breakthrough needed to reframe campus prevention and intervention strategies in student groups, fraternities and sororities,” said Stevan Veldkamp, executive director of the Piazza Center, a unit of Student Affairs at Penn State. “The study aims to fill gaps in literature on promising practices campuses are struggling to define.”
There have not been any large studies examining the methods used to reduce hazing and dangerous drinking within fraternities and sororities or the programs, policies and practices that produce positive change. This study has the potential to reveal which initiatives most effectively diminish hazing and dangerous drinking, and will enable further research on how to create institution-wide change to address campus cultures.