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