NewsSGA is more than 50 percent Greek. Here’s why that isn’t a problem

Unbalanced percentage doesn't raise any real conflicts of interest
identicon Kathleen CreedonFebruary 28, 2019702 min
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Photo by Matthew Claybrook

In this most recent Student Government Association (SGA) election, 60 percent of the students voted into office are a part of Greek life, a number that doesn’t reflect the overall percentage of students at Trinity who are active in a fraternity or a sorority, which is around 25 percent.

Students are elected to the SGA senate once per academic year. These positions are the only elected positions with voting power in SGA, and this year, nine of the 15 senators are a part of Greek life.

Junior and president of SGA Ty Tinker assured that even though the percentage of senators active in Greek life doesn’t reflect the percentage of the student body who is in a fraternity or sorority, there are no conflicts of interest on SGA.

“I really want to be sure not to confuse conflict of interest and vested interest,” Tinker said. “The culture of student government is to be unbiased and neutral and to come in with an open mind.”

According to Tinker, this imbalance is due to the tendencies of members of fraternities and sororities toward leadership positions. Tinker said members of these groups have the communication skills and connections that aid in getting elected to the senate.

Tinker also believes that SGA attracts the most concerned and willing students.

“The people who care the most send the people who they think will make changes. Those are the people who care right now, and personally that’s what I think is the issue. Everyone should care,” Tinker said.

Tinker sees a correlation between the values of SGA and of fraternities and sororities. This, and the lack of interest in being a part of SGA, is why he thinks the percentage of senators involved in Greek life is so high.

“One of the best ways to get involved is Greek life, and also student government, so a lot of the folks who join student government end up joining fraternities or sororities,” Tinker said. “I think there’s a deficit of interest in serving for student government or voting and just participating in its activities.”

Jamie Thompson, director of Student Life and interim assistant director for fraternities and sororities, agreed with Tinker about the leadership qualities that many Greek organizations value.

“I think generally fraternity and sorority leaders step in, fraternity and sorority students step in to taking leadership roles. They take initiative they want to be in those roles,” Thompson said.

According to Tinker, 14 of the 28 candidates who ran for elected senator positions were or became involved with a fraternity or sorority. Nine of those 14 candidates involved in Greek life were elected by the student body.

Despite the high percentage of senators who are involved in fraternities and sororities, Thompson said that the organization’s intent is to represent the student body. If students see an issue with the makeup of SGA, they should be more involved with the organization.

“It’s an elected body for the most part. The people who have the most authority are the senators, and those students are elected by other students,” Tuttle said. “Most students are eligible to run for office. All students are eligible to vote for people to be their representatives, and so it’s up to people to decide who they want to represent them.”

Though the senate is elected by students, the cabinet is a president-appointed group. Unlike the senate, however, cabinet members have no voting power. Three of the seven members are involved in Greek life.

“The cabinet has no authority to speak up, and they really are implementers of some of the tasks that are required to run the organization, taking minutes, for example, or helping with communication,” Tuttle said. “But I don’t see any conflict of interest there. Those people are there to help the president effectively lead the organization. Not to set policy, not to vote, not to have impact on student issues per se.”

Along with the cabinet members, there are three additional appointed positions, senators emeriti. The positions are also considered part of SGA but have no voting power. Of the three senators emeriti, two are currently involved with Greek organizations.

To avoid any potential conflicts of interest, senators are told to abstain from voting on funding requests when they feel too close or involved with the organization presenting the request. One instance when being in a fraternity or sorority and on the senate may present a conflict is when Greek Council, a governing group of Greek life, present their annual budget every spring.

However, the request is no real conflict, according to Thompson.

“I suppose there may be a perceived one, but there’s no conflict of interest in the actual thing,” Thompson said. “The presidents don’t play a role in the actual budget, the organizations themselves benefit from the funding, so that might be interpreted as a conflict of interest, but they’re not in on the development of it or how the funds are spent.”

Tinker has been a member of SGA since his first year at Trinity, and along with being the president of SGA he is also the president of his fraternity, Chi Delta Tau. Article 2 section 8 of SGA’s constitution states that an officeholder may not also be on Greek Council, however, so the situation is legal. Tinker attends some Greek Council meetings as a representative of his fraternity.

Tuttle, who has been an adviser for SGA for 25 years, explained that he doesn’t think the overlap is a cause for worry.

“It’s not against the constitution. If people don’t like the way it looks or the way its perceived that’s another issue,” Tuttle said. “My concern is whether a person can run a fraternity and have the time to run a significant organization like SGA, and that was a concern that I expressed with president Tinker early on, and he assured he could do both and fulfill his responsibilities as a student.”

SGA holds weekly meetings on Wednesdays at 6 p.m. in the Waxahachie Room in Coates Student Center. The Trinitonian reports on these meetings in our “Previously, on SGA” weekly briefs.

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Kathleen Creedon

| Class of 2020 | Major: English

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