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Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life : New Member Orientation Health and Safety Module

The Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life (OSFL), in partnership with the Office of Title IX, Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards (SCCS), the Center for Health Education and Wellness (CHEW), the Interfraternity Council (IFC), the Panhellenic Council, and the Office of Information and Technology (OIT), created the New Member Orientation Health and Safety Module (NMOHSM) for all incoming new members for the Panhellenic and IFC communities. This module takes place through Canvas, and can be accessed from the time they register for recruitment through a set deadline (September 30 for fall and March 15 for the spring).

Fall 2020 was the first semester of this module, fall being the semester that most of our membership is recruited, and 2,051 students enrolled in the module, 2,013 students complete the module, and 1,741 students complete the survey. For the spring of 2021, there were 319 new members who joined the community with 100% completing the module. Because the module was released for recruitment, there were an additional 30 students who did not join an organization but still completed the module. Therefore there were 349 module and survey completions for the Spring of 2021. The 2020-2021 academic year yielded the largest recruitments for the Panhellenic and IFC communities, and they saw 97-100% completion of the NMOHSM from their new members. There was  85-100% survey response rate between the first and second round of this module.

Overall, the COVID Pandemic was a leading force in taking our traditional Health and Safety Orientation from a lecture-style, multi-hour presentation to a case-study-based e-learning module that is housed on Canvas. This module was developed by the same content experts that presented at the in-person orientation along with students who were able to provide input for real-life situations. The staff and students took the summer months to develop 6 case studies that revolve around the health and safety priorities of OSFL: hazing, mental health, drugs, alcohol, and sexual misconduct.

Along with case studies, the module provides valuable information on a foundational level about the sorority and fraternity life community, UTK resources, and recruitment information for chapters and councils. Beyond the safety impacts of not having 600-1,000 people in one place at a given time, these modules provide links to resources on campus, names of people and offices to seek more information from, and the ability to have each student soak in knowledge at their own speed. Ultimately, the online module makes joining the sorority and fraternity community easier and a little more equitable for students during a time when community and belonging are desired more than ever.

After completing the NMOHSM, potential new members would be able to:

1) Describe strategies to manage health and safety risks they may encounter.

2) Identify risk factors in the areas of alcohol, drugs, sexual assault, mental health, and hazing.

3) Recall campus resources to support them in the areas of health and safety.

 

Focusing on Spring 2021, as referenced above, the NMOHSM had a 100% survey response rate. The survey was embedded into the final portion of the Canvas-hosted module.

The following data was collected from the Spring 2021 survey results.

Demographically, 67% of those surveyed identified within the female council of Panhellenic while 33% identified within the male council of IFC.

We asked “After participating in the NMOHSM, how has your awareness in health and safety issues in the fraternity and sorority community grown?”

71% said their awareness increased a significant amount, 26% identified their awareness increased slightly, and 4% shared it did not increase at all.

Asking in an open-ended format, “In what ways did the NMOHSM enhance your awareness about health and safety issues?”

Common themes that we found were: knowledge around all health and safety topics, different types of hazing, alcohol awareness, warning signs of issues, best ways to act or intervene in different situations, ways to use and find resources on and off campus, how health and safety will impact recruitment or being a new member, laws and policies, mental health resources on campus, how to care for myself and those around me. “It made me realize how much the university cares for its students and encouraging students to help not only themselves but each other when something bad happens or when something bad may happen.”

“Which of the resources mentioned in the Orientation would you feel comfortable reaching out to for support and resources?”

76% listed CHEW, 69% listed Title IX, 71% listed SCCS, 79% listed the Counseling Center, 76% listed 974-HELP (DOS), 77% listed OSFL, 0.6% listed None. For the 2 that listed “none,” they were asked to explain. Both said that they would not “need” to.

“After completing the NMOHSM, how confident do you feel in addressing various health and safety situations:”

1. Alcohol – 95% said they were either “extremely” or “very” confident

2. Drugs – 95% said they were either “extremely” or “very” confident

3. Sexual Misconduct – 94% said they were either “extremely” or “very” confident

4. Hazing – 94% said they were either “extremely” or “very” confident

5. Mental Health – 93% said they were either “extremely” or “very” confident

Responses and themes from students not feeling confident were: not doing drugs in general, not being in that situation, and “I don’t know how to address me getting hazed without people disliking me or thinking I am soft.”

“Of the health and safety topics discussed during the NMOHSM, which ones would you like additional information or resources on?”

11% alcohol, 11% drugs, 16% sexual misconduct, 13% hazing, 38% mental health, 41% none. Of the “none” responses, they were asked to explain. The themes were that the issues were covered efficiently and if they needed more they know where to go.

Finally, we asked if they wanted other topics to be included in future NMOHSMs, and the following themes presented themselves: diversity, COVID-19, safe sex, and STDs.

This program is truly one of the most collaborative efforts that are constantly growing and gaining more information. After each semester, we have and plan to continue to reevaluate the module and its needs, effectiveness, and relevancy for our audience. Both Panhellenic and IFC want to continue the virtual module even after COVID has settled down. The team of staff and students is continuing the shape and grow with the addition and invitations to more students and other offices (like the Counseling Office).