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Title:A Hierarchy of Identity: The Effects of Tier system Stereotypes on Members of the Greek System
Author(s):Howe, Jennifer; Molitor, Taylor; Versaci, Mary Beth
Subject(s):Greek Life
University of Illinois
Abstract:The goal of our research project was to examine Greek system stereotypes based on houses and the tier system, where these stereotypes come from, and how they affect the way members of the Greek system perceive themselves and others. The Greek system here is divided into three tiers: top, middle and bottom. Our main research question asked: How do stereotypes affect self-identity and perceptions of others across Greek affiliations? We believed that stereotypes would have a significant effect on self-identity and perceptions of others across Greek affiliations. We found that stereotypes based on house and tier do have some effect on Greek-affiliated students’ perceptions of themselves and others; however, these stereotypes do not have as much of an influence as we had hypothesized. While Greek affiliations do make up a part of students’ identities, they do not make up their entire identities or their entire views of others. According to our interviews, students listed many other factors as having more influence over the way they view themselves than their Greek affiliations, including their individual values and morals. Survey data also showed that many students (78 percent of the top tier and 80 percent of the middle tier respondents) only believe these stereotypes to be “somewhat true,” thus implying that they do not hold these stereotypes to be completely strict and reliable ways by which they can measure and evaluate others. However, although the people who participated in the surveys and interviews addressed the imperfect nature of the stereotypes, they still acknowledged that they judge others according to them and feel judged in return. We also found that the tier system itself is based on history and tradition and not necessarily entirely on recruitment data. According to recruitment data from fall 2007 through spring 2011, the middle tier houses seem to have lower member numbers in comparison to top tier houses, but these numbers steadily increase throughout the years we examined. Some houses actually fall into the same size range as the top tier houses for a few or more years, sometimes even exceeding the recruitment numbers of the top tier. This brings up an interesting question of balance of power within the Greek system: whether power comes from having the most members or being the most selective in order to maintain a small elite. This idea of a small elite might contribute to the top tier’s having more pride in their affiliation, as well as stereotypes of arrogance associated with that tier. Similarly, it might contribute to a middle tier stereotype of being “average” since there are more people within that tier.
Issue Date:2011
Course / Semester:Kinesiology 442 Fall 2011
Instructor, Melissa Littlefield
Publication Status:unpublished
Peer Reviewed:not peer reviewed
Date Available in IDEALS:2012-06-29

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  • Student Communities and Culture
    The university offers an extraordinary opportunity to study and document student communities, life, and culture. This collection includes research on the activities, clubs, and durable social networks that comprise sometimes the greater portion of the university experience for students.

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