This is the first time in recent history that all 38 seats of undergraduate Student Senate are full. The main difference between today’s Senate and past ones is that today’s is over one-half Greek; students in fraternities and sororities fill 22 of 38 available seats.
A quick look at the history of Senate shows that until 2004, it consisted of few Greeks. Why the change?
In spring 2004, Greek Council received a significant drop in funding for events like Greek Week and Greek Sing during the Joint Funding Process. During Senate elections later that spring, Greeks ran and won in larger numbers than ever before. There’s since been a steady increase of the percentage of Greeks in Senate. This means there’s been a decrease in the array of people representing the rest of campus (Greeks make up under 20 percent of undergraduates but 58 percent of Senate; hence, the other 80 percent of campus is losing some type of representation).
Many old strongholds of Senate are losing ground (today there are no representatives from KGB, which used to have a plurality of members), and some groups feel that because of the current make-up, they are losing influence on campus. At the last Senate meeting, there was a consensus between a few senators, many of them Greek, that there was a bias toward a particular funding motion because the person presenting the request was a fraternity brother of many senators. Luckily, there doesn’t seem to be an open bias against groups that are mainly non-Greek, such as Activities Board and cmuTV, which still received funding at the amounts requested. These groups do seem timid, though, in asking for money from Senate for large funding proposals, while Greek-backed groups continue to confidently present proposals to the Senate.
With rumors of bias emerging, the question every student must ask is: How could the Senate be more open to the campus community? The bigger problem at hand is that not every student thinks about this issue due to the overwhelming apathy toward the Senate on our campus, a problem I have tried to tackle since my freshman year.
However, some are getting involved: At the last meeting, one Greek senator talked about why she got involved in student government — because another Greek told her, “Senate is a good thing to do.” This concept makes sense; why do people join fraternities, sororities, student groups, or anything else? People get involved in activities largely by word of mouth: all of their friends are doing it, telling them how great it is, and that they should do it too.
Next time you see a friend who only plays computer games or watches TV all day, tell them to get involved in anything that this campus has to offer, whether it be a student group, research inside an academic department, Greek life, or even Senate. Until everyone is involved, there will always be a bias of some sort in Student Senate.