The Greek influence on SGA

While some might say the recent impeachment scandals with the Student Government Association remind them of a Greek tragedy, others seem to think the real tragedy is the heavy involvement of Greek Life in student policymaking.

Among more than 15,000 students of Northern Kentucky University, only 40 are tasked with representing and defending the views of students to the University administration. Those students face the daunting task of representing the needs of all students on campus. However, the makeup of the SGA does not match the vast diversity of the student body. Some current and former SGA members are among those who question whether the organization can be effective in representing all students, particularly when so many of them are members of the same community, Greek life.

‘I feel that Greek members are so involved because the Greek community is full of leaders, already having experience in their own separate chapters,’ said SGA Senator and Alpha Tau Omega member Chad Howe. ‘It could also be statistics. Greek life is largest on campus so ratio wise more people will be Greek.’

However, Greek Life students are actually a very small percentage of the entire student body.

Of the 33 positions that are currently filled in the SGA, 17 are filled by students involved in Greek life according to numbers released by the SGA, or 51.5 percent of the organization. However, less than half of one percent of NKU students are involved in Greek Life, according to numbers provided by the Office of Student Life.

Do student leaders’ involved in Greek Life think independently?

‘I don’t know why Greek students are so involved on campus,’ said SGA Senator Ebonique Moss.’ ‘However, I do feel as though it does other organizations a disservice because the purpose of the organization is sometimes overlooked because of the letters worn by the student.’

Former SGA Vice President Dennis Chaney said he thinks that because nearly two-thirds of the Student Senate is composed of Greek Life students, the risk is high that’ many of the few student representatives will temper their student activism to protect their fraternities or sororities. Chaney, who had been the only student on the Executive Board not involved in Greek Life, was recently removed form office due to direct insubordination to the Executive Board.

‘Now I’m not saying every Greek member on SGA is a robot that takes and follows instructions blindly without thinking,’ Chaney explained, ‘but the culture of conformity and following the herd is ingrained in Greek life.’ Dress the same, associate with the same Greek circles and worry about what the (University) administration thinks because they are concerned with money for housing, activities and recruiting more Greek members.’

Are Greek Life Students Natural Leaders?

However, most of those involved in Greek life and the SGA said they think otherwise.
‘Student Government and the representation in it is not about who is Greek and not Greek,’ said Student Senator Kevin Golden, who also serves as President of the Interfraternity Council (IFC).’ ‘ ‘It’s a nonpartisan organization where we are working for the advancement of the students and the university as a whole. We serve as the student voice to the administration and being Greek doesn’t mean that we all have the same background or ideas or even want all the same things.’

Some members of SGA’s executive board indicated that Greek life can contribute to effective student leadership.

‘I would like to mention that Greek Life does prepare individuals to these leadership roles,’ said SGA President and Student Regent Keith Kaseke, who also is a member of Pi Kappa Alpha. Kaseke thinks that leadership comes from within and Greek life just prepares students to take advantage of that leadership.

‘In Greek life, we all strive to be leaders and student government is an organization where you can really become that leader,’ said Wade Miller, the vice president for communication for the Interfraternity Council and SGA’s vice president for public relations, and is also a member of Tau Kappa’ Epsilon.’ ‘We strive to achieve goals and we have higher standards.’

But Chaney seems to disagree that Greek life has a higher standard and reiterated that Greek life keeps students from thinking outside the box in determining solutions.

‘NKU students I’ve met and got to know over the past four years generally view Greeks as acting like their still in high school while students are expecting something better and more mature out of college,’ Chaney explained. ‘Not surprisingly the Greeks had a high school prom themed dance this year. Greek cliques and popularity concerns develop into a culture of conformity of not thinking beyond the views of authority and popularly accepted assumptions.’

But Miller said that one of the disadvantages of having so many Greek Life students in SGA is that they are subjected to inaccurate stereotypes.

Expert: Heavy Greek life involvement a sign of ineffective student representation

Having high involvement by Greek students in SGA is a common scenario at colleges and universities, according to Butch Oxendine, the executive director of the American Student Government Association, an organization devoted exclusively to student governments and providing them with networking, research and training resources. He also said that it is indicative of an ineffective student government that is unwilling to reach out to its constituents.

‘Most student governments don’t promote themselves very well,’ Oxendine said. ‘They are very poor at reaching out to their peers. The only time they are good at it is during elections.’

But, at least at NKU, Oxendine seemed to indicate an ineffectiveness in both.

Oxendine attributed NKU’s high amount of Greek life students in student government to the low voter turnout in SGA elections. In the most recent SGA presidential election, only 639 of the more than 15,000 NKU students voted for one of the presidential candidates on the ballot. He said Greek students tend to vote in blocks and are most likely to vote for candidates from their community.

In order to rectify the situation and increase diversity in student representation, Oxendine said that every SGA member should be tasked with reaching out to a new student every day. He said they should meet face to face with students and ask them about their life as an NKU student and what they can do to improve it. Through this, Oxendine said he believes the SGA can reach out and increase diversity in the students that are impacting student policy. And, students will begin to see SGA as something that works for and has an interest in them and not just interest of its members.

Nonetheless, Oxendine admitted most SGAs do not really have an interest in doing that and are content with the way things are.

‘Again, they are not some evil empire like Darth Vader,’ Oxendine said. ‘They’re doing what they do. They’re active people and involved people…They are involved much more than the general student body.’

Did Kaseke join Greek Life to gain votes?

Chaney indicated the Greek influence on the SGA might be more ominous. He alleges that Kaseke, his running mate, conspired during the campaign with Pi Kappa Alpha, or ‘the Pikes’, that he would join their fraternity in exchange for their votes, despite running on an anti-Greek ticket. Kaseke admits to running on an anti-Greek ticket, but he denies the allegation that he traded support for votes.’ Kaseke is now a member of Pi Kappa Alpha.

‘No, that’s ridiculous. I don’t know what it is that (Chaney)’s trying to prove,’ Kaseke said, adding, ‘I wish people could channel their efforts…to the students instead of things between two people.’

Serving Two Masters: Are they meeting all their commitments?

Many of the SGA leaders who responded to The Northerner indicated that one of the key
disadvantages to serving in both the SGA and being active in Greek Life was that the SGA took time away from their Greek obligations and finding a balance to do both.

‘I have had quite a busy schedule this week already.’ I have class until 9 p.m. on Monday and have an internship in Frankfort on Tuesdays and Thursdays on top of Homecoming Committee stuff jumping in to full gear, and a full schedule of classes, so it is kind of funny you’re asking about involvement,’ Golden said.

Even Miller admitted a ‘disadvantage is that SGA is very time consuming and that can lead to not putting a lot of effort in the organization.’

Story by Jesse Call