In this year’s ASUW elections, half the candidates running for Board of Directors positions represent 13 percent of the UW’s students.
As members of the Greek community, they are continuing a long and disappointing tradition of dominance over politics. At the UW, Greek-influenced tickets have been a largely insurmountable force for the last decade. Before then, a four-year streak of alternative tickets led ASUW; their legacy should serve as an example to current student politicians.
Discussions of the elitism of the Greek community, while important, are beyond the scope of this article. Instead, attention should be paid to the structural issues at play that have caused this situation and what remedies should be sought to end misrepresentation of the UW’s students.
Simply put, Greek dominance is a matter of organization. Students interested in ASUW positions who happen to be members of a fraternity or sorority have institutional support that those outside these communities are unable to grasp. Senator positions held by houses are a stepping stone, bolstered by the support of fellow brothers or sisters in logistics and block voting.
For students living off campus, such systems are impenetrable. To them, campus politics may appear machine-like, with tightly managed campaigns springing out of the ground in time for election season, complete with finely tuned rhetoric and a team of friendly Greek candidates.
Without fail, every such campaign includes a dedication to “reach out to the Greek community,” the definition of irony, since that group should be reaching out to the rest of the campus. The Greek community is incredibly insular but believes that it is well-suited to run ASUW for the rest of the student body.
In this year’s elections, there is only one party with Greek membership that is roughly proportional to the actual Greek population. This is absolutely no endorsement: Progress(UW) has just one Greek member. If another party wins or shares seats with Progress(UW), Greeks will almost undoubtedly be overrepresented in ASUW.
There are a few ways to restore balance to this situation. Putting a limit on Greek-affiliated candidates on each ticket would be esoteric and could discourage political parties from forming, but it would certainly be effective. Another, more equitable solution would be stimulation of opposition parties. This could not be institutionalized, so it would have to be student-initiated and could involve the formation of a Registered Student Organization (RSO) dedicated to uniting likeminded RSOs to participate in the ASUW Student Senate. Far too many RSOs do not take advantage of their Senate representation rights, and rectifying this would be critical in shifting the balance.
Either way, the burden of changing this system is on students. There is little awareness of this problem because parties do not advertise their Greek allegiances, so another reform could be forcing parties to include disclosure of Greek membership in their materials. Many students might be spurred into action by finding out that such a small group controls student politics.
As any frat brother or sorority sister knows, most stereotypes about the Greek community are untrue, and one of the most incorrect is the notion that it generates good leaders. The community is very adept at offering leadership positions to members — and later in life, they may use their fraternity or sorority connections to get higher-level careers — but this is cronyism, not training. Student leaders who reach their positions based on merit would better serve the UW.
Reach opinion writer Ian Cameron at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @OpinionDailyUW
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