Appalachian State University’s student body is currently voting on a recent referendum proposed by the Student Government Association that would improve representation for minorities in the student senate.
Currently, Greek life has three seats in the senate. Those seats can be filled by members of any members of Greek life. Unfortunately, the demographics of Appalachian State mean minorities rarely get their voice heard.
“Basically, right now, all three seats could be filled by anyone in Greek life,” said Carson Rich, the SGA president. “Right now, just based on populations, IFC and PHC provide more votes than NPHC can, and it’s not fair and it’s not equal.”
To counter this problem, SGA has proposed a referendum that would guarantee the three seats are filled by each of the three main organizations which make up Greek life: the National Panhellenic Council, comprised of the African American fraternities and sororities; the National Panhellenic Conference, comprised of the sororities; and the Interfraternity Council, comprised of the fraternities.
“This would ensure that there’s equal representation, and that there always will be equal representation for each organization,” Jalyn Howard, SGA director of cultural affairs, said. “Just about every year there’s no representation from the NPHC side.”
Ty White, a junior political science major who wrote the initial bill, said each group needs to represent itself because of how different they all are from each other.
“Just talking to them, you can see how different they are,” White said. “It’s just weird that this is how it works, because someone is almost always unhappy when a decision is made without them, so it’s so much easier just to give them all separate seats.”
Howard said the lack of representation in SGA means a lot of issues important to minority students are overlooked.
“SGA is an organization that is made up of the majority, so typically the issues they address are of the majority,” Howard said. “The minority is not sufficiently focused on, or a big issue, because of that. I’m not saying SGA is racist, but it’s about perceptions and experiences. We are a predominantly white university, and SGA is a predominantly white organization. So when it comes to issues being heard, those are the issues that are brought to the forefront, and minority issues just aren’t.”
If the referendum passes, Howard said it could lead to more legislation being written.
“This is good for representation, but I really hope it paves the way for other things and get the ball rolling,” Howard said. “I hope this makes SGA ask itself, ‘Where else is there unequal representation? Where else are underrepresented students not being looked out for?’”
One of the major misconceptions regarding the representation in the senate is that it is fair because of the smaller percentage of students in NPHC, Rich said.
“People kept going back to the numbers, saying that you shouldn’t give one group a leg up over the others when, percentage-wise, they don’t make up that much of the population,” Rich said. “But if you look at this school historically, as a predominantly white institution, and at things that have happened over hundreds of years in the course of this nation, then of course you’re going to see that there’s a higher population of privileged white students here at Appalachian State University.”
White said she decided to write the bill for the referendum because she saw how much more inclusive Greek life could be with equal representation.
“I felt like Greek life can grow so much, and the place where they are now doesn’t allow for it,” White said.
Abby Hamrick, the SGA vice president, urged students to vote and make a difference in university politics.
“There is a general apathy among 18-25 year olds when it comes to any kind of a vote, and that’s been shown statistically,” Hamrick said. “So what I want to say to the students of Appalachian is that it’s a privilege to be able to have your voice heard, and to have a say in how you’re governed. So hone in on that privilege, whether you’re affected or not, because there might be a referendum one day that directly affects you, and you’re going to want people to care about it and vote on it.”
Voting is open until noon on Friday, Oct. 9.
Story by: Tommy Culkin, News Reporter