Recent discussion of campus elections has brought attention to one well-known, yet often unspoken issue: Greek organizational advantages in our elections. As a non-Greek student who worked on four campus campaigns across three years, I have seen these advantages firsthand. To develop a more equitable election system, it is important to understand the advantages of Greek candidates.
One of the greatest advantages is access to funding. According to 2018 election expense data released by ASB, the only non-Greek candidate for Mr. Ole Miss spent slightly more than half of what each of the other three Greek-affiliated candidates spent. Likewise, all candidates for Miss Ole Miss and two candidates for Mr. Ole Miss acknowledged that their campaign was funded by their respective Greek organizations.
While Greek candidates have the option between self-funding a campaign or receiving organizational funds, often the only option for non-Greek candidates is to self-fund their campaigns. When I ran for an ASB executive office during my sophomore year, funding was a problem. I saved for almost a year before I had enough resources to feel confident enough to consider running.
A lack of funding alone may dissuade potential candidates from running, and this situation is more likely to affect non-Greek candidates. Campus elections should not be competitive based on access to resources; they should be competitive based on candidates’ ideas and personalities.
Another Greek advantage is in sheer numbers. According to the 2017-2018 University of Mississippi Viewbook, approximately 42 percent of our student body, or slightly more than 9,750 students based on 2018 enrollment information, were Greek-affiliated. Even broken down by chapters, the numbers are considerable.
Greek houses have access to hundreds of active members to organize a campaign, pass out stickers, build campaign signs and more. Likewise, as most candidates in ASB elections are Greek-affiliated, members of those organizations are more likely to have experience in running a campaign. Some Greek organizations even have positions to oversee all campaigns from members within the chapter. Non-Greek candidates are less likely to have such immediate access to volunteers or experienced campaigners. Even if non-Greek candidates are part of another organization on campus, few rival the size and resources of Greek houses.
Another hurdle for some non-Greek candidates is the culture of Greek-dominated elections. In the past, Greek organizations have encouraged or coerced members to vote in elections. This point was addressed in debate surrounding ASB Senate Bill 18-14, which passed in August. The bill clarifies existing ASB election rules by prohibiting organizations from coercing or incentivizing voting, and its approval seems to further signal that these actions were present in past elections.
Greek organizations have significant advantages in our campus election system. It is time that we as a student body recognize those advantages and work together to ensure non-Greek students can fairly engage in elections. Every student deserves the opportunity to run for an office or campus position regardless of funding availability or organizational affiliation. We must stand up and speak out for more equitable campus election procedures for all students.
Levi Bevis is senior public policy leadership major from Florence, Alabama.