Given the prominent role of civil society in political socialization, this work--which is based on an Internet survey of student organization presidents on a single campus—explores whether student organizations function as the equivalent of campus civil society, and whether they can supplement formal civic education efforts on campus. Findings indicate that traditional Greek organizations far outperform other types of campus organizations in activities believed to cultivate members’ civic identities, political skills, and political efficacy. This finding is troubling, as participation in Greek organizations is also associated with higher levels of both sexism and symbolic racism. The conclusion advocates more careful use of political science literature to identify best-practices for student groups, which serve as the on-campus equivalent of civil society.
Findings from this pilot study are reported in a forthcoming book chapter: Strachan, J. C. (2012) Do Student Organizations Help or Hinder Civic Education on Campus?, In From Service Learning to Civic and Political Engagement, Elizabeth Bennion, Alison McCartney and Dick Simpson, Eds, APSA Publications.