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The Blue & Gray Press | December 11, 2017

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Student Senate passes motion on Greek life

Student Senate passes motion on Greek life
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By MARIAH YOUNG

A motion to begin the process of establishing a nationally recognized Greek life system passed in the University of Mary Washington Student Senate and the Student Government Association’s Executive Cabinet this past week. In a 15-10 vote, the Senate approved the process, while the Executive Cabinet, headed by SGA President Samantha Worman, passed with a vote of 3-0-4.

On Sunday, Nov. 5, Legislative Action Committee Chair Joe Dolan, Inter-Club Association President Matt MacAloon and Academic Affairs Council Chairperson Sarah Clay voted in favor of the motion, while Judicial Review Board President Kristy Ju, SGA Vice President Nate Levine, Honor Council President Catherine Purtell and Association of Residence Halls President Mia Boleis abstained from the vote. The other two members of the Executive Cabinet, Diversity and Unity Coordinating Committee Chair Kopper Carter and Commuter Student Association President Evan Smallwood were not present for the vote. Procedural order only calls for a vote by the SGA president in the event of a tie.

“That doesn’t mean we have Greek life at the university,” said Senate President Levine at the group’s weekly meeting on Nov. 12. “What it means is that the motion passed Executive Cabinet, that it’s been forwarded on to the administration for them to consider and review.”

The original motion, proposed by student senator Raymond Santivasci on Oct. 22, was tabled for two weeks before actually being voted on.

During the first two weeks, there was heavy debate within the Senate.

“Personally, I felt the debates were fairly useless. The purpose of debate in Student Senate is to discuss the ideas and open our minds to different perspectives,” said student senator and political science major Benjamin Hermerding. “Senators were so entrenched in their opinion that they couldn’t see other opinions.”

In addition to passing the motion, the Senate also passed a motion for the University to conduct a scientific poll to study the university’s perception on Greek life. That motion passed the Senate and then unanimously passed in the Executive Cabinet.

“The SGA will work with the administration to create a neutral poll on the topic of Greek life,” said Worman. “At this time we do not have any details on the poll.”

Levine, a voting member on the Executive Cabinet, was one of the abstaining members on the Greek life motion. He stated that he chose to abstain because he is a member of one of the off-campus, but nationally recognized fraternities.

“I felt that there was a conflict of interest,” said Levine. “I have a obligation to my brothers, but I also have an obligation to represent the student body.”

Two of the yes-voting members of the Executive Cabinet, Joe Dolan and Matt MacAloon, are also members of the Kappa Sigma Rho-Chi chapter at UMW.

“I would have encouraged them to abstain,” Levine said.

Worman stated that she believes the Executive Cabinet always votes in the best interest of the student body.

“They understand that they are representatives of their constituents, and I trust them to make the judgement call on if they believe that they have a personal conflict of interest in the matter,” Worman said.

Structure of Student Senate

The UMW Student Senate works to represent the student body when passing motions. According to the current SGA Constitution on the Student Senate, “The Senate shall have the responsibility to legislate with regard to all issues of student concern. It shall require a vote of fifty percent plus one of quorum of the Senate to approve any legislation before the Senate.”

Facing two weeks of tabling and debate, the motion regarding Greek life looked unlikely to pass because of stacking votes on each side within the Senate. According to Levine, the tabling continued because the debates occurring within the Senate were not reaching a resolution. In addition, the meetings were often spent on visitors, special speakers and other weekly Senate matters.

During the debate on Greek life, the Senate saw a steady increase in new senators being voted in every week, according to Levine.

“I know for a fact that those trying to pass the motion were trying to get other members to join, but so did the other side,” Levine said.

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.

“Every person who I talked to about joining Senate was interested before the Greek life motion came up,” Hermerding said.

Unlike the Executive Cabinet, in most circumstances the Senate does not participate in a roll call vote, meaning there is no way to see what senator voted in favor of or against motions.

According to Robert’s Rules of Order, which the Senate functions under, this is not required. While it is an option for the Senate, it is usually not necessary according to Obolensky.

“We tend to pass things unanimously whether it is in favor or against the motion,” Obolensky said. “In the past, there has not been a valid reason for using a roll call vote.”

Adhering to the Constitution

According to Obolensky, one reason senators were able to join last minute is the “constitutional backwardness” that exists with the current SGA constitution.

Both Obolensky and Levine are working with committees within the Senate to make changes to the constitution that would update and clarify current aspects that are not being met.

“The current administration is not operating under the constitution, in fact they violated the constitution in many ways,” said Hermerding. “I think the biggest shame of all is that we have not run elections. If we had elections then the Student Senate would be more representative than it is right now. Under the current system, special interests can push their agenda.”

On the other hand, Levine and Obolensky think the Senate is currently following the proper rules listed in the constitution, yet it needs to be updated to meet the current environment.

“We are legitimate under the constitution,” Levine said.

In order for any constitutional changes to take place, three-fourths of the Senate must approve the changes, followed by 50 percent of the student body plus one vote.

Unfortunately, according to Obolensky and Levine, the student voter turnout in most elections is too low to expect over half the student body to actively participate in a vote on constitutional changes.

“We are trying to get the constitution to work for the students,” Obolensky said.

Hermerding emphasized that the representation in Senate continues to be the most pressing issue regarding constitutional violations. According to the Senate constitution “Each residence hall shall have at least one senator notwithstanding the number of residents in said residence hall.” Currently, the Senate does not have a representative from each residence hall according to the latest roster given to the Blue & Gray Press.

“I think more important than the constitutional changes that may or may not be taking place is the fact that the constitution that we have in place right now is not being followed,” said Hermerding.

Worman agrees that the Senate could be more representative in terms of gender and class, but student participation in Senate does not allow for that representation.

“For the past few years it has been difficult achieving representation from each residence hall as called for in the constitution, therefore Senate has been running on the basis of 50 signatures from each senator by their constituents to be voted into Senate,” Worman said. 

Administration and Greek Life

“I’ve been asking this question [about Greek life] for years at my lottery dinners. It’s a student life issue,” said UMW President Rick Hurley. “The dominant opinion of students at dinner is that they came here because we didn’t have Greek life and I want to listen to what the students say.”

Hurley said he continues to reach out to students in order to hear perspectives about Greek life. This includes views for students and alumni.

“I have to respect what [alumni] say and listen to their expressions because I want to maintain their loyalty with the institution,” Hurley said. “But it is really about today’s students and those who are yet to come.”

While he is focused on student concerns, he also noted that more often than not alumni are not in favor of instituting a Greek life at UMW because, according to Hurley, they believe “it is not part of Mary Washington tradition.”

“I also get the same about starting a football team,” Hurley said. As of now, Hurley thinks that “our sports teams have substituted for Greek life.”

Hurley also noted that he has paid close attention to the effects of Greek life at colleges, noting his professional experiences at Longwood, a university that is 30 percent Greek, before working for UMW.

“I’ve seen the good and the bad and the ugly. I don’t worry about the ugly side,” Hurley said. 

The Senate motions now wait for further action by members of the administration.

Comments

  1. Eric Turner

    I am a recent graduate and everyone I’ve talked to about this thinks that greek life is not right for this school. I’m not sure what the value is in introducing it. It may attract some students but I think it will drive more away, mainly those who wanted to avoid the alcoholism, violence, and elitism associated with greek life. If it’s community service you want, UMW has many clubs for those. If it’s a network you’re looking for, there are honorary fraternities as well as alumni outreach. It just doesn’t make sense to add greek life for any other reason than to make UMW more like every other public institution in Virginia.

    Keep Mary Washington weird, guys.

  2. Is that a joke?

    If you think that legitimate greek life wouldn’t draw in more applicants, then you are just kidding yourself. Moreover that is extremely presumptuous to assume that all fraternities and sororities indulge in “alcoholism, violence, and elitism.” I think your close-mindedness does nothing for the discussion that these comments sections are meant for.

  3. Eric Turner

    I wasn’t joking. The lack of greek life at UMW was a big draw factor for me. I transferred to UMW from a college where greek life was huge. Most of the students’ social lives revolved around the frat circle. I made a few trips down and while there was some positive social interaction, most of what I saw was disturbing. Fights broke out every time I went, sprawling into the street. Literally. Binge drinking was very common. I don’t mean to say that every campus has that type of hostile atmosphere, but it’s difficult to avoid. Would you still be pro-greek life if it was allowed with the stipulation that it remain dry? I’m curious about what the argument for greek life is. Is it just for seeking a higher rate of college applicants? I’d appreciate it if you’d outline the positives of greek life because I’m pretty ignorant.

  4. Positives

    Greek Life offers a unique, social experience that lots of people see as “the college experience.”

    If you want to look at fraternities form a nonsocial angle, then consider the economic, job-related advantages: 63% of all presidents’ cabinet members since 1900 have been Greeks; 85% of Fortune 500 executives belong to fraternities; 43/50 of the nation’s largest corporations are headed by Greeks; 76% of all congressmen and senators belong to fraternities or sororities; 40 of 47 supreme court justices since 1910 have been Greeks.

    Clearly there are distinct and unique opportunities that fraternities and sororities provide in the real world. Getting back to colleges, Greek Life is healthy and promotes a more unified social culture on campuses, as opposed to the largely divided and unorganized social scene that is UMW.

    There are certainly places where Greek Life can get out of hand, put to assume that all Greek Life leads to debauchery is presumptuous to say the least. Besides, UMW is a southern school, and southern schools are synonymous with Greek Life and a major pull for applicants.

    Additionally, it is an obvious pull-factor for applicants. Now, I think more applicants would do a lot for the school, which has one of the highest acceptance rates in Virginia. In fact, if I am not mistaken, getting students to apply to the school has been an issue as of late, which an appealing social life at the university could help to fix.

    This should help to enlighten you on some of the positives of Greek life.

  5. NKF

    Greek life is not right for UMW. If we want to be like “every other southern school” and have Greek life, then what makes UMW different? What makes us stand out? The fact that UMW did NOT have Greek life was a big draw for me when I was choosing which university to attend.

    I would also like to leave this here.. We don’t need this type of behavior at this University.

    http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/west-virginia-university-student-nolan-burch-dies-injuries-school-n248286

  6. Jeff H

    As an alumni myself, I oppose Greek Life. I’d rather a more targeted focus be put on small student organizations.
    And as far as the stats go, correlation doesn’t mean causation. How many of those are from smaller schools vs. larger more well known campuses?

  7. PB

    So we should support a faux structural nepotism? Thats all Greek life is then.

    More unified social life? Now you’re kidding yourself. I have been to schools with greek life and it is pretty segregated by which Fraternity or Sorority that you are in.

    There are other larger issues at play that makes UMW’s social scene poor; i.e. low budget for on campus clubs, few campus events, high rates of commuters, etc.

    “Besides, UMW is a southern school, and southern schools are synonymous with Greek Life and a major pull for applicants.”

    If many southern schools have Greek life then what is the real benefit to having it? It would just make us another school with Greek life.

    Again, acceptance rates are due to the factors in the Higher Education market. There are so many Universities and many students are applying for many schools, especially compared to the past. Now schools must accept more students to fill the classes because an even smaller percentage of them those accepted applicants will enroll.

    Educate yourself.

  8. UMW '11

    Instead of promoting Greek Life, they should expand the Alternative Housing communities – the most visible of which is Framar House – which are more inclusive and allow residents to form genuine AND lasting relationships.

    Start by renovating the three white houses on College Avenue (Fairfax, Tyler, Hamlet) and allow different groups or clubs apply to live in them. If one of the unofficial fraternities moves in, they’ve got their frat house with some pretty dope real estate on College Ave.

    Otherwise, Greek Life just doesn’t fit at UMW – the best case I’ve heard against it was “[At Mary Wash] ….it’s like we’re all in our own small fraternity.”

  9. David Hutchinson '06

    While I appreciate the thought and research put into the statistics cited by an earlier commenter, I think those are more indicative of patriarchy and classism than a value-added Greek experience.

    A big part of what caused me to fall in love with Mary Washington was the open social culture. My “college experience” was an amazing collection of varied experiences not defined by the rules of one single, exclusionary, expensive club. I was a music lover that learned to book concerts and run sound with Giant Productions, an aetheist that lived in Framar and gained amazing Muslim and Mormon friends, and a nelly homo that still can’t hammer straight but managed two Habitat for Humanity trips.

    I’ve gotten job leads and professional advice from classmates, dozens of visits to and from old roommates, shared tattoos with band mates, and three weddings this year with people for people I love that I met in Fredericksburg.

    I am exceedingly lucky and grateful for the college experience I had. I also recognize though that it was an experience of my own making – not anyone else’s. That prepared me as an adult to never be bored, always seek out new friends and opportunities, and define my own path. I could not have done that nearly as well in a frat.

    My point: you can have all the good parts of a Greek Life (including the occasional bottle of malt liquor – trust me) without Greek Life, but you can’t have the all the good stuff from non-Greek Life (open, cheap, inclusive, non-gendered, unique, weird, constantly evolving culture) with Greek Life.

    I hope the administration is able to block this. Mary Washington is too special of a place to become another Greek drone factory.

  10. I was here before U

    I think it is unfair to cast Greek Life as nothing but a parade of horribles (e.g., “alcoholism, violence, and elitism”). But I don’t think such behavior is in a dismissably small minority, either. There are frats/sororities doing great things for academics and society, and if all Greek Life could emulate that–great!

    For me, the absence of Greek Life was a very big factor in choosing to attend Mary Washington. That kind of “networking” often does benefit certain types of people. I’m not one of them, nor were the vast majority of my friends from my time at Mary Washington. I think some of the proponents of this change need to consider the differences between “correlation” and “causation.” I do not believe that Greek Life will improve the school in a manner that would have encouraged me to enroll.

  11. LJP

    When this “debate” came around a few years ago I was a leader of the anti-institutionalization side, and I was told by many students they came to UMW because there wasn’t a rigid and forced social system denoted by which Greek letters were (or weren’t) on your sweatshirt. I found a job by developing a strong repertoire with my professors, who were happy to write me recommendation letters. I made friends by getting involved on campus in clubs. UMW has changed a lot since I first toured the campus, but Greek life would change the dynamic of the school and its students more than silly catch phrases, construction, and trailers ever could.

  12. Laura '08

    Has anyone thought to start a petition opposed to greek life? I did a quick search of the usual websites and didn’t think of anything. I think the vast majority of alumni are opposed, and probably most of the student body. One of the great things about Mary Wash is the absence of greek life and all the negative things that come with it. We didn’t miss out on anything that greek life has to offer. Sisterhood, brotherhood, friendship and camaraderie were all integral parts of my experience at Mary Wash. Just ask any girl randomly placed in Virginia Hall and who ended up with the best friends of her entire life! Or the nights of debauchery enjoyed after a great rugby game or swim meet. We had all the good things that greek life offers, without the hazing, rape culture, or elitism that pervade greek life.

  13. Rachael Wonderlin

    I was SO thankful, and am thankful, that UMW didn’t (and doesn’t) have Greek life. There was just a terrible article in The Rolling Stone about the awful things the fraternities at UVA have been up to. UMW is a wonderful place, and Greek life just isn’t right for us.

    Please, keep the tradition alive and keep Greek OUT of Mary Washington.

    Rachael Wonderlin, ’11

  14. Rachael Wonderlin

    Good idea…can we start a petition?

  15. Brodie Collins

    On behalf of nearly all the alumni, this is a horrible idea. Period. Greek life encourages rape culture. There is already enough within college life in general. Please stop.

  16. Nathan Anderson

    We don’t want it here!

  17. Greek life is not for us! Promote our sports teams, promote tailgating, flood the bleachers with blue and gray. Honor students achievements, create sturdy mentoring programs, think up incentives to join clubs, bring in great speakers, hold fancy conferences, host raucous musicians. Raise a great graffiti wall. Let them tell their story. Knock on all the doors. bombard them on social media. Get students active. don’t get Greek life.

  18. Bridget

    One of the biggest reasons that I chose Mary Washington was for its lack of Greek life. The school is a small close knit community that offered all the opportunities I wanted and needed in my college experience. And who needs more applicants the size of the school is perfect as is.

  19. UMW 2014

    This must be a joke. Are we seriously bringing Greek life to UMW when there’s a common trend in other schools across the country? AKA kicking out and banning Greek life. Let’s be real UMW – keep your traditions. I chose UMW for a reason. And Greek life was not it.

  20. AP Class of '09

    Wonderful Point Made

  21. Amanda Pullen

    Agreed, Rachael. 100%

  22. Amanda Pullen-McGrath

    There are so many things I loved about UMW, and not having Greek life was one of them. There are plenty of other areas where campus could improve or the school could put its money and effort. Greek life is not necessary and I loved the community that I did have, the classes where I made plenty of connections and friendships with students and professors… I just feel like Greek life becomes more trouble than it’s worth and don’t see any “unification” coming out of it.

  23. Class of 11

    As many alumni are saying, I chose UMW over other universities in part because it was the only school without a Greek system. It really distinguishes UMW from other universities. I understand the argument that it’s a way of strengthening social ties, but UMW has such an active club and on-campus organization life already. There is very little a Greek system would add to that.

  24. Marissa

    Here you go! Just saw this from a facebook friend (and fellow alum): https://docs.google.com/forms/d/107aKdWtjQsLLyvBd-z4-7ABXqvkAsB6yayjhFdOgccI/viewform

  25. Nicolette Nelson

    I intentionally chose to attend a school without greek life in order to avoid the strict gender definitions that are inherent to fraternities and sororities. Mary Wash was mentioned in the rape song quoted in the recent Rolling Stone article exposing the crimes that fraternities and the administration have committed at UVA. We are in a unique position of standing at a fork in the road of never having our own rape song or having similar articles written about UMW in 10-20 years. Let’s stay ahead of the game and remain safe place for women and the GLBT community.

  26. Renee N. Ormsbee

    Put me down as another alumni voice against Greek Life at Mary Washington. One of the chief attractions of the school when I attended was the fact that they didn’t allow a Greek system. There are thousands of other schools to choose from if students want to participate in Greek life. I hope that Mary Washington will decide to keep the traditions that made it an excellent educational institution and the place where I made many of my closest friends.

  27. parentofdaughter

    Neighbors with daughters possibly attending UMW in the future don’t want Greek life either. Stay special UMW!

  28. Kate Andrews

    I’m a 1996 alumna (so: old), and one of the reasons I attended MWC was because it wasn’t Greek. I’m proud to say that I have very close friends from college 20 years later and it’s not because we bonded over hazing rituals (other than Junior Ring Week!) or drinking too much. I truly hope that the Rolling Stone story about UVa makes students, faculty and administrators think hard about introducing official Greek life to a school that does FINE without it. I’m aware of the arguments that it would draw more people to apply, but are they the right people, the ones who make UMW a special place where individuality and thinking for oneself flourish? That’s not a chance I’d take.

  29. Kristen

    I also transferred from an in-state VA public school with a greek life. I really didn’t feel like it was right for me, and additionally, some of the costs (official and unofficial) were prohibitive.

    As you said: Mary Wash, please stay weird.

  30. Cameron

    “Positives” points out that fraternity members get funneled into prestigious occupations among America’s highly-privileged ruling elite. His point is solid that that fraternities and sororities serve as gatekeepers to cushy lives, keeping society’s middle-class riffraff off of the gravy train.

  31. unsure

    Yes, Greek life “pulls” more applicants, but why do we need more applicants? Our school prides itself on the small student to teacher ratio, and our Greek free campus is one of those unique qualities that sets us apart from JMU and many other schools in the state and across the country. I came from a large Southern school with Greek life, and to be honest I did not like it at all. To all of you who want Greek life, why not transfer to a school with Greek life? Our Greek free campus is one of the best things about us.

  32. unsure

    Don’t forget to sign the petition if you’re against Greek life at UMW!

  33. UMW alum

    Just out of curiosity, has anyone on here ever been apart of a fraternity or sorority? Because if you haven’t, which I’m assuming most of you haven’t since you’re mostly UMW students or graduates, then I’d say its safe to say you are all ignorant on what Greek life would actually bring to the school. Sure, you can read the internet or whatever articles that view Greek life in a negative light, but until you’ve experienced it you really can’t judge. I mean seriously, does the media ever reveal the positives anyway? Everyone has opinions but some of the comments people are posting are almost as if they’ve personally experienced it. I’m posting because I too have attended UMW and I too am apart of a sorority. I see both sides since I attended the non Greek institution of Mary wash, which I loved, and also another school that I transferred to and became apart of Greek life. Joining a sorority was the absolute best part of my entire college experience and I would wish that on anyone attending college. In retrospect, I wish UMW had Greek life when I attended because I believe that would have combined the school that I loved with the college experience that I loved. So before you judge and post all your statistics and one sided articles you’ve googled or seen at your other schools, get ALL your facts first.

  34. unsure

    Actually, I was in a sorority at my last school and hated it. Loved my sisters and what we did but if I could do it again, I wouldn’t have joined. I could have done all of the charity projects without being in a sorority.

  35. Fake Name

    My heart bleeds for those of you posting on this wall who are terrified at the prospect of Greek Life coming to Mary Wash in an official way. But, you know, if you truly do want an all-inclusive social experience at Mary Washington, as many of you state, then maybe you should stop opposing the inclusion of new social groups. If you truly do hate frats and sororities, don’t join them. Those opposing Greek Life are the epitome of hypocritical intolerance.