Ending the Progressives: A Case Study Into One University's Social Action Movement to Address High-Risk Activity Within Its Greek Life Community

Open Access
Mallen, David Aquinas
Graduate Program:
Higher Education
Doctor of Education
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 11, 2018
Committee Members:
  • David S Guthrie, Dissertation Advisor
  • John Jesse Cheslock, Committee Chair
  • Glen Kreiner, Committee Member
  • Leticia Oseguera, Committee Member
  • Abigail Grosvenor Diehl, Outside Member
  • Social movements
  • Greek life
  • Gender inequity
  • high-risk activity
  • sexual assault
  • Feminist Identity Development
  • Greek power
  • Social influence
  • Institutional change
  • Competition and Status
Social movements on college campuses often encounter resistance by supporters of the status quo because change can be viewed as a threat to the traditions, power, and privilege afforded to the dominant population. This is evident in one case at a university where the Greek life social climate was heavily influenced by gender inequity issues and environmental factors that, over time, fostered conditions that enabled sexual assault to become normalized as part of its recruitment process. For at least two decades, the final round of Greek fraternity recruitment incorporated “Progressive” parties where the risks associated with the event escalated as students progressed through rooms involving excessive alcohol consumption, drug use, and sexually-charged themes and activities. Normalized as an honor to be invited and beneficial to a sorority’s social status to have its members attend, the structure of these parties resulted in years of sexual assault of Greek women and men but was covered up to protect its values and traditions. This climate persisted until several women came forward to lead a social movement to enact a cultural shift and put an end to the Progressive parties that promoted sexual violence within the Greek community. Through interviews and analyses of documents, this dissertation will illustrate the extent to which elements of Feminist Identity Development Theory, Social Cognitive Theory, and Organizational Change research were evident in a social movement that was both publicly and covertly initiated by students and supported by Student Affairs professionals to alter the short and long-term cultural landscape of the Greek community.