By Henri Gendreau
In ancient times, they invented democracy. But at Kenyon, the Greeks are disenfranchised.
Greek Council, which currently does not have a vote on Student Council, is making a case for representation. At its meeting on Sunday, Dec. 9, Student Council discussed promoting the Greek Council representative, currently Billy Braff 13, to a voting member of the Student Council. As it is now, only elected student representatives like class presidents, representatives, and the heads of various subcommittees, have the right to vote. The proposal comes as Student Council mulls over updates to Council bylaws and Article 3 of the Student Government Constitution.
Were just cleaning things up, and last meeting we decided to look at the membership, so who is on Council and what their roles are and the procedures, Faith McDuffie 13, Student Council president said.
Sam Baker 13, Delta Kappa Epsilon president and co-chair of the Business and Finance Committee (BFC), proposed that the representative of Greek Council, who maintains observer status at Student Council meetings, have a vote. Baker cited the fact that approximately 30 percent of the campus is involved in Greek life, more than the quarter represented by each class representative.
If we have someone whos there because a fourth of the students are represented by that candidate, who is voting, and we have a person whos there who represents a third of campus but isnt voting, it seemed only logical to at least consider them, Baker said.
But President S. Georgia Nugent is wary of this kind logic.Its easy to go down that path because you could imagine, for example, if they get a vote, why dont student athletes get a vote? she said. I hadnt heard about it yet, so I dont have any reasoned view, but I would think youre probably kind of privileging one group whereas there might be other kind of candidates for that.
The proposal to have a Greek representative with voting power comes in the wake of Greek Councils approval of the fraternity Sigma Phi Tau and the sorority Kappa Sigma Alpha changes that some say are indicative of a shifting demographic.
Is Greek life on the rise at Kenyon, and what does that mean for student government? McDuffie asked. I think thats the question that were coming down to.
Baker was hesitant to say if Kenyon was undergoing such a shift. I dont know if its a campus shift towards Greek life, but I think its a campus improvement in the Greek life thats here, he said.
President of Greek Council Andrew Tint 13 expressed his approval for the proposal, which will be discussed in Student Councils January meeting along with a host of other proposed changes to the constitution.
I think we certainly deserve [a vote] in the sense that weve done a lot for this campus, Tint said. We are such a large part of it and such an influential part of it that I think we deserve the right to at least be in the discussion to help make certain decisions that the Student Council puts forth.
Tint added that a Greek representative would contribute a unique perspective to Student Council. I think if youre going there as Greek Council, your vote will affect the Greeks. If youre going there as BFC heads both of whom are Greeks youre not representing the Greeks, youre representing your beliefs that will benefit the BFC and the school which at times may be different from the Greek Councils and Greek lifes view, so I dont think there would be an overlap or double views.
McDuffie remains concerned that some groups on campus feel that student government does not represent them. If they [Greeks] feel that their voice has not been heard, thats a problem, but are there other students who feel that their voice hasnt been heard and do we need to have specific positions for them to have a voice? McDuffie asked. I feel that student government as it is does take into account all students in representation. No student is left unrepresented. Even Greek members they are represented in the fact that they are first and foremost Kenyon students so they either fall into the category of being a first year, sophomore, junior or senior. Theyre represented.
McDuffie said Student Council had to consider whether a voting Greek member would be disproportionately representative of male students, as more men are involved in Greek life than women.
That definitely would be something to ask of Greek Council as a whole is to rethink that this is fair, Baker said.
He said that while there are seven fraternities and four sororities, the genders were more balanced in terms of overall numbers. I dont see that as being a major issue. Most issues that affect Greek life are really not gender-based, Baker said. The values that underpin all Greek societies are integrity, honor, brotherhood and sisterhood.
McDuffie said that it was important that the community at large participate in the decision. I dont feel like I can make a definitive decision by myself and nor should I, and nor should Council itself make a definitive decision without taking the thoughts of independent students into concern with this as well as the thoughts of Greek students into this, she said.
McDuffie plans to issue a survey to gather student input next semester, but until then, she encourages student feedback. Ill be seeking input from students, so if students see me coming up to them randomly in the servery asking them what their feelings are on this, you know why.
Baker sees a voting Greek Council representative as beneficial to the campus as a whole. I think we have a win-win-win in a lot of ways, he said. I think that it would be of value to everyone for Greek Council to be able to voice its opinion, but also I think theres a reciprocal nature. When that member is a voting member, that recognizes Greek Council as an entity on campus that is positive, that is well-run, that is worthy of a vote. I think it would help the engagement of both groups.
He noted that some of the concerns expressed could be solved by a compromise on the issue. If there are a few demands that we can realistically change to make this work, wed love to, he said.
Well see if theres a path that can be struck that makes all groups involved happy, and I think there is one out there, Baker said. We just have to find it.
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