Voluntary associations and the African American college student experience
McClure, Stephanie Marie
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This multi-method study analyzes the impact of membership in Greek organization as voluntary association on the success and satisfaction of students across race. Previous research has made little distinction by race on the impact of Greek membership although existing evidence indicates that this is important. The study first reviews the major historical and contextual factors associated with the emergence of black Greek organizations (BGO’s) as similar to but distinct from white Greek organizations. Previous research on student involvement and integration overall has failed to engage literature on the impact of voluntary association membership and the generation of social capital and its ability to facilitate integration more generally. Analysis of survey data indicate that there is a strong impact of Greek membership on white student satisfaction which does not emerge for black Greek students. These same data do not reveal a differential impact of Greek membership for student college GPA and academic integration. Responses to open-ended questions and focus group interviews support the findings that race is a highly salient identity for black students on this predominantly white campus, and that Greek membership does not have the same impact on the satisfaction of black students as it does on white students. This is due to differences in the level of closure that exists in the organizations, as the boundaries of black Greek organizations are more permeable and benefits accrue to members and nonmembers alike. The existence of conditions for the emergence of bounded solidarity among black students on campus also mediate the ability of Greek membership to form any significant boundary within the black student population. Finally, black Greek membership seems to accentuate existing black student concerns with the campus racial composition. This may occur either through group attitude polarization effects or because organizational survival is contingent upon a ready pool of potential members. The need for an institutional focus on satisfaction as a minority student outcome is also discussed, as it impacts community collective memory regarding the institution.