Assistant News Editor
In the 2019-2020 SGA Senate, 82% (32 out of 39) of senators are in Greek organizations, causing senators to urge independent students to consider running for SGA positions.
According to publicly available information about the 2019-2020 SGA senators, 90% of the At-Large Senators, 100% of College Senators and 51.7% of Residence Hall Senators are members of a Greek organization. None of the International Senators are members of a Greek organization. There are eight vacant seats in the senate that will still be up for grabs in the new semester.
Furthermore, all Executive Board candidates are Greek except Morgan Long, running for president, and Ashlan Kelley, running for executive vice president. Long won by 52.99% of the votes, and Kelley lost with 48.43% of the votes.
Independent students represent 79.8% of the student body and 17.9% of the Senate. Alpha Gamma Delta Sorority represents 2.37% of the student body and 17.9% of the Senate. Alpha Tau Omega represents 1.33% of the student body and 15.38% of the Senate.
Student body and Greek memberships are based on latest available data from the Greek Report of Fall 2018.
Morgan Tew, a senior biomedical sciences major and former director of representation in SGA, said more independent students must run for SGA to make it more representative of the student body.
“I believe that the Senate is disproportionately Greek due to the lack of independent students running for SGA; generally, two-thirds of the students that run for SGA Senate seats are Greek,” Tew said. “Please do not be discouraged from running for the SGA because you are not part of a Greek organization.
“Put yourself out there, make connections, campaign hard, tell your friends to post your picture everywhere to get the word out.”
Morgan Long, a junior sports management major from Birmingham and the current SGA president, encouraged students who are not affiliated with Greek organizations to run for SGA senate seats if they are passionate about serving the student body and being leaders.
“On the surface it does seem that Greek-affiliated students have advantage when it comes to SGA elections, and maybe they do, but that advantage would only be present because independent students have not been running for seats as much as Greek-affiliated students do,” Long said. “I really encourage independent students who see themselves as servant leaders to run for SGA seats with passion and hard work, and I am certain they will be able to win and represent the student body.”
According to Long, SGA Senate candidates may get votes from their organization, but they may not get any of the votes from rivaling organizations, while independent students do not face that challenge.
Caitlin Hicks, a senior hospitality, sport and tourism management major from Troy, said independent students must make themselves heard.
“I believe you got to make your own opportunities most of the time,” Hicks said. “Don’t wait around for something to come along… if you’re passionate about something enough, you’ll find a way to be heard.”
Barbara Patterson, the director of student involvement and SGA adviser, said she would not call the discrepancy in Greek representation percentages “a problem.”
“We would like to have all students represented, and that is why we have college seats, resident hall seats and international seats in addition,” Patterson said. “It is possible for non-Greek students to win in all these seats.”
Patterson said senators must represent all students and understand their differing perspectives regardless of their Greek affiliation or lack thereof.
Patterson added that there is a myth that independent students cannot win senate elections.
“We have had two SGA officers and many senators who are independent, including the incoming elected president,” Patterson said. “Independent students can win; they just need to work for it.”
According to Patterson, there are many ways to get involved that do not require winning a public election like supreme court, traffic appeals committee, homecoming committee, welcome week and women’s history month, among other committees.
Beth Moore, a junior marketing major from Valley, said the reason independent students may be discouraged to run for senate seats is a feeling of being shut down.
“When I was in senate I had no say because I was an independent,” Moore said. “If I wanted to do something to better campus life for independents that conflicted with Greek interests, it immediately got shut down.”
Patterson encourages all students interested in getting involved with SGA to speak to her or SGA officers and they would be glad to offer advice and suggestions. Patterson further encouraged potential candidates to campaign aggressively and recruit students to campaign for them, as well.