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The Blue & Gray Press | August 15, 2018

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Letter: No Greek life, not like this

Every morning students on their way to class walk by an ivy-covered sign proclaiming an entrance to our campus; it reads, “Mary Washington College.”

This school may be a university now, but that sign signifies an enduring identity on the verge of being abandoned. Many students have expressed that this school is already a different place than it was for their Freshman Move-In day. Everyone from recent alumni to some observant freshmen have expressed this common feeling.

Given this widespread perception of a campus slowly spinning away from the students it is meant to serve, the University of Mary Washington Student Government Association should be extremely careful to promote a stable university community that can be recognized and desired by a majority of the students whom it is supposed to represent.

The recent movement toward establishing a nationally recognized Greek system would be the furthest erosion of the social and academic brands that have drawn students to Mary Washington for decades. Unfortunately, SGA’s democratic institutions are being manipulated to enforce the will of a vocal minority; the weakness of the representatives of the student body at the Executive Cabinet level is eviscerating SGA’s ability to advocate in the best interests of the student body.

Last Wednesday, after three weeks of heated debate, Student Senate passed a motion in support of bringing Greek Life to the University of Mary Washington campus. The motion was supported by a majority male coalition of senators, most of whom are themselves in a unrecognized Greek organization.

Additionally, a significant portion of the votes in favor were cast by senators who have limited previous experience in student government and seem to have been motivated to join Student Senate only by their own self-interest in creating a greater profile for their Greek organizations.

The vast differences between this coalition and our majority female, non-Greek affiliated university are obvious. Even more obvious is the deafness of this coalition to the will of the student body. After requesting a scientific poll of the student body’s opinion, they decided to proceed without waiting for the results of that poll or any input from the students they represent.

These actions demonstrate that this coalition knew the odds would not be in their favor if the student body were actually allowed to speak for itself.

The executive cabinet approved this motion by a vote of 3-0, with six cabinet members abstaining or absent. That is no mandate for the extreme change that recognition of Greek Life would bring to campus, and represents an abdication of the Executive Cabinet’s responsibility to head the Student Government Association.

As Student Senators, we are concerned that the Student Government Association is failing in its primary duty to advocate for the best interests of the entire student body, and is voiding its hard earned credibility by failing to stand up to the influential pro-Greek interest group.

I am joined by seven of my fellow Senator’s today – not necessarily because we believe an incorporation of Greek Life on campus to be fundamentally wrong, but because we are extremely concerned with the context in which it is occurring.

When the democratic institutions of student government are being abused by the flooding of Student Senate with pro-Greek members and the majority of the Executive Cabinet refused to even vote on the resulting motion, something is very wrong.

It is time for the student body to stand up and be counted. Tell your SGA Executive Cabinet to stop sitting on the fence, and actually make the decisions they were elected to make.

Tell your UMW Student Senate to listen to the will of the student body they are supposed to represent – not their members’ narrow self-interest. Tell the administration that students of the University of Mary Washington – past, present, and future – want to live and study on a campus that they can recognize.

If they are clever enough, everyone here at the University of Mary Washington might even realize that the reason why students come here is not to live some stereotype of the modern collegiate system, but rather to engage in the unique academic atmosphere that Mary Washington now risks losing. And for what? More parties, more privilege, and a few oversized Greek letters?

Alex Obolensky, Student Senator and Junior at the University of Mary Washington.  This letter is also signed by:

Amanda Orchowsky, Calli Burkett, Benjamin Hermerding, Chris Dingus, Julia Michels, Kelli Musick and Patrick Burnett


  1. UMW Student

    “While single issue voters are usually not that productive in Senate, most of the members returned to Senate even after the initial vote on Greek life passed, said Senate Vice President Alex Obolensky.” -MARIAH YOUNG, Student Senate passes motion on Greek life, Blue and Grey Newspaper
    “the democratic institutions of student government are being abused by the flooding of Student Senate with pro-Greek members”- Alex Obolensky

  2. UMW Student

    Every studentat the university of Mary Washington has the ability to join student senate and are in fact encouraged to. The only requirement to join is getting a 50 signature petition. Each and every student at UMW is capable of doing this. Those students who are opposed to Greek Life had every right to join student senate and vote against the motion. The fact is that they did not do this. While I am sure it’s true that certain people opposed to the motion have other issues more pressing to them (I.e. various sports, an abundance of homework, other clubs they’re more involved in) people who are very opposed to Greek life on this campus would have been there. While its true that the majority of students at female on this campus, it is also true that one of UMW’s largest clubs is Alpha My Sigma. This club is modeled after Greek life,is almost exclusively female, and is very involved on campus. Perhaps the issue here is not that Greeks are taking over elements of student campus, just they are more determined to have their voice heard than those who oppose this.

  3. Alexandra Hoenscheid

    While any student COULD technically join the SGA, it was unknown that this issue would be brought to the floor. The sudden bringing in of pro-Greek members is very suspicious to me and suggests they must have known that Greek life would be brought up beforehand. Also, how could this decision be made official with 6 Executive Cabinent members absent? If this issue was raised in a LEGITIMATE process, I would be very surprised to see this same result. It is the duty of the SGA to represent the will of the students, and today geht have failed.

  4. UMW Student

    Networking — Once a student graduates, they will have a lifelong bond with individuals from their sorority or fraternity. Many of their friends will move across the country or even the world, so your student would have friends in all different locations. This scenario is beneficial if a student chooses to relocate after graduation to a new city, where individuals from their pledge class are living too.

    Diversity — Students come from all over the world with an variety of backgrounds, and many of these students will pledge a fraternity or sorority. A student would be surrounded by other students from all these different backgrounds, immersing them in diversity and helping them make friends with an assortment of individuals.

    Philanthropy — Many sororities and fraternities take part in volunteering and giving a helping hand to those in need. Not only do they volunteer but also many pledge classes will host lively fundraisers to raise money for organizations and help get students and college parents excited to help out.

    Support — If a student experiences a stressful day or awful breakup, there will be challenges faced in college and the brothers or sisters in their pledge class will always be there to give their support. Many pledge classes will go above, and beyond to cheer up a pledge if they are feeling down.

  5. UMW Alumni

    Well-written argument. How sad. Virginia has enough Greek-centered schools that consider making the best “party school” lists a badge of honor. Instead of copying those schools, UMW should proudly boast of what sets it apart — a socially mature, inclusive student population that enjoys deep ties with the local community. It should be proud of its focus on academics, career readiness, and access to some of the best internships in the country. I worry that adding the Greek system might bring it down to “extended high school” status.

  6. But after all

    Isn’t UMW more like high school than high school was? In terms of the cliques UMW is far worse than any high school. I think any actual alum of the school knows that “social maturity” is hardly a trait found in the student body at UMW or any college. Additionally, I don’t know what you’re talking about with regard to the relationship between the school, students and the community; it is painfully obvious that the residents of Fredericksburg resent the students and the school for buying up land and expanding.

  7. UMW Alumni

    I guess it depends on the student. My take when I was a student that it was full of opportunity. During my junior year, my suitemate was an intern to a U.S. senator, my good friend was a production intern at Channel 7 TV in DC, and I got to intern at DCs largest Arbitron rated radio station — not like high school at all! For those interested in building careers, all they need to do is get involved. As far as involvement in community, F’burg welcomes students who want to be productive. Ferry Farm, Hugh Mercer Apothecary, the Battlefield National Park, Kenmore, the Freelance Star — I’ve had great conversations with serious students doing serious work at all those places. Then again, I had some friends who did nothing more than go class, then to bars, and then to sleep. It’s what you make of your opportunity. Many of the homes surrounding the campus are well-kept homes that represent some people’s life savings, so I can understand if they feel protective of the residential nature of the neighborhood and their property values.