Greek councils discuss increasing sorority vote in joint decisions
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In the General Body meeting of campus Greek leaders on April 11, tensions rose as representatives discussed a proposed bylaw revision that would change the balance between fraternities and sororities balance in joint voting procedures. Members of the Interfraternity Congress (IFC) and Panhellenic Council (PHC) were divided between several proposed policies and unable to reach a consensus in the meeting, leaving the issue unresolved.
In the current PHC and IFC bylaws regarding joint voting, which have been in place since 2012, each Greek chapter has one vote in joint meetings. However, there are currently 17 fraternities and nine sororities on campus. This results in considerably more votes for fraternities as a group, even though the current fraternity and sorority populations are almost exactly even at 801 and 797 respectively.
This issue has been discussed by sorority members in past, but this is the first time that it has made it to the amendment stage, according to PHC President Erin Buttars. The issue was brought up in a PHC meeting earlier this semester, after which PHC executive board members encouraged interested sisters to submit amendment proposals.
“[The PHC representatives] wanted to make a more fair voting process, so sororities had an equal amount of standing and voting powers as the fraternities…” said Khannah Wetmore, vice president of Greek and Community Affairs for Sigma Psi. “Just because there are more fraternities doesn’t mean they should have more voting power.”
One reason this policy remains may be that issues that actually divide fraternity and sorority votes are rare. Two years ago a vote to change sorority and fraternity dues was divided and passed with the fraternity vote, but there have been no such cases since. According to Sara Ahmad, PHC vice president of Administration, joint IFC/PHC votes are only used in occasional cases that impact the entire Greek community, such as bylaw amendments.
While most Greek leaders now agree that this policy needs to change, what it should change to is less clear. Four options were discussed in the joint meeting, and more have surfaced since.
The most popular option in the GB was based on a ratio of fraternities to sororities. Each fraternity would continue to receive one vote, while sorority votes would be weighted to the number of fraternities divided by the number of sororities—about 1.8 votes for each sorority with the current number of fraternities and sororities.
“That is the one that is pushed the most so far, but some people don’t necessarily think it’s the most equitable,” said Brian Parro, president of Pi Kappa Phi
A second, similar option was proposed in which the worth of fraternity and sorority votes are determined by dividing the fraternity population or sorority population by the total Greek population. Currently, that would result in a near 50-50 split of voting power between sororities and fraternities.
A third option was to weigh votes by population for every chapter, so larger groups’ votes would be worth more. However, many worry that that would place smaller chapters at an unfair disadvantage.
The fourth option was to keep votes as they are but require 50 percent of fraternities’ support and 50 percent of sororities’ support in order for any vote to pass.
Those at the meeting discussed these options for about an hour and a half, ending in a vote between the ratio-based proposal and keeping the policy as it is. The motion failed by a narrow margin, so the meeting ended with the policy unchanged.
“Lots of options were thrown out there and discussed a little bit, but when it came down to voting I think the reason that it failed is that we don’t want something that is inequitable, and we don’t want to change what currently is inequitable to something else that is also inequitable,” said Parro. “I think the Greek community needs to come together…and figure out what we productively can all agree to.”
While the vote was made via secret ballot, from the discussion many representatives feel that sororities largely supported the motion.
“Personally I wouldn’t say I was upset, but I think the outcome of the vote definitely demonstrated that this really is an issue that needs to be addressed, because passing the voting law to change would have been possible had the simple majority rule not already existed,” said Wetmore.
Following the joint meeting, PHC and IFC split to hold short individual meetings in order to conduct internal elections for open positions on both groups’ boards. Following their elections, IFC had some further discussion of the voting policy. The vast majority agreed that the bylaw needs to change, but again there was no consensus as to a replacement policy. PHC did not discuss the issue further; according to Buttars “it was evident that all the sororities were on the same page.”
That was the last scheduled joint meeting of the semester, meaning that under the current schedule this issue is tabled until the fall semester, unless an emergency meeting is called.
Lipak and Buttars requested that groups discuss the issue in their chapter meetings last weekend, and the vice presidents of administration for PHC and IFC convened a bylaws committee. The committee—two sorority representatives and two fraternity representatives—met on the saturday following the GB meeting in order to develop a proposed solution.
The committee worked to synthesize their favorite options in order to make one that everyone could agree to. In the committee’s proposal, all joint votes will begin with PHC and IFC voting separately. If both approve a motion or both reject it, then it is considered jointly approved or rejected. If one board approves a motion and the other rejects it, it will go to a joint vote, wherein the ratio approach applies: fraternities receive one vote and sororities receive a number of votes equal to the number of fraternities divided by the number of sororities (currently about 1.8). The portion of the vote required to pass different types of policies might also shift.
On April 19, the committee will present this proposal at the presidents’ meeting. Buttars is hopeful that this smaller group will allow for a respectful, productive discussion, where all perspectives can be considered. Jamie McMillen, coordinator of Greek Councils for the Greek Life Office, suggests that consistent dialogue across the Greek community would aid in reaching a solution.
“We want the best for our community and to ensure that each and every voice feels heard,” said Buttars. “We are one community, it should not become a battle between IFC and PHC chapters.”
Aquene Kimmel is a member of a sorority, Pi Beta Phi.