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Student body presidents come from mostly Greek backgrounds

The past five USF student body presidents have all been in fraternities, and this year’s candidates have ties to Greek life.

Student body President Matt Diaz won last year’s elections with 51.29 percent of the vote and said he wouldn’t have been as successful without the support of his fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon.

“I think it’s a little bit of an advantage, and the reason why I say that is that you have over 20 organizations that have 40 to 50 people and it’s something similar that everyone can identify with … which really helps out when it comes to the campaigning,” he said. “Many of our fraternities and sororities, throughout the councils, put a big emphasis on leadership and civic engagement and getting engaged on campus, and one of the premier opportunities to get engaged is Student Government (SG).”

Alan Ethington, a junior majoring in economics, was Diaz’s fraternity brother before deciding to run as a presidential candidate. He decided to leave Sigma Phi Epsilon in the spring because he said he didn’t want to be labeled as part of a fraternity.

“I didn’t want it to either be a deficit or a benefit for me,” he said. “I think here on campus fraternities get you involved on campus. Only a small percentage (of students) are actually a part of Greek life … and then you have that small minority making all of the decisions, as far as Student Government goes, for the entire campus.”

During the second presidential debate, Ethington said he would replace Greek Village with a football stadium.

It would save the University costs, he said, and Greek Village cannot support the growing University.

“The majority live off campus and are still involved,” Ethington said. “(Also), the stadium should go in that corner since that side of campus is already all athletics. The whole right side of campus would be athletics.”

Yet SG Attorney General and presidential candidate Brian Goff, a junior majoring in biochemistry, said the negative stereotype often attached to Greek life on campus is unwarranted. Goff and his running mate, George Papadeas, are both members of Delta Chi.

“If the student body president position is really used effectively, you can use that to show the other side of Greek life, which is we really care about the community, we really care about our grades and we care about each other,” he said. “We don’t just party every night.”

College of Arts and Sciences Senator and presidential candidate Omar Rodriguez, a junior majoring in history, is a member of the Lambda Upsilon Lambda fraternity and said Greek support does not necessarily guarantee a candidate the presidency.

“What if somebody who is not Greek doesn’t have the better qualities of a Greek person or vice versa?” he said. “You can’t do it just based on that. It just might mean that the person who is the most involved is getting the most votes.”

Antonio Morales, a sophomore majoring in criminology, is the vice presidential candidate to Sarah Pollei and is a member of the Lambda Theta Phi fraternity – the same one former student body president Cesar Hernandez belongs to.

With every ticket in some way involved in Greek life, Morales agreed that the Greek Village connections may not translate into large voting pockets.

“I don’t like to think of it as an advantage because there are a lot of Greeks running,” he said. “Honestly, it’s very split up already.”

Roman McCreary, a graduate student in the College of Public Health and a Zeta Beta Tau member, is running as vice president to Christopher Cano and said it’s too early to tell how influential Greek votes will be in this year’s election.

“(Zeta Beta Tau members) support me, but I haven’t made use of them,” he said. “The only thing that I have encouraged for them is to not vote for me but to vote for whoever they feel would be best as president. I want to be as subjective as possible.”

Though Christina Hughes and her vice presidential candidate Muhammad Shakir are not members of a fraternity or sorority, Shakir, a junior majoring in communications, is a student assistant in the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life.

“I believe that there is a lot of support within Greek life for voters, but I don’t think that they are the deciding factor for who is going to win the campaign,” he said. “I’ve heard a lot of candidates who are remaining neutral. There’s going to be some loyalty with someone in a direct Greek life candidate. I guess that would be the only bad thing as well.”

Diaz said that while Greek life comprises a small percentage of the student body, that does not mean a Greek president does not represent all students.

“I would say that I don’t represent just 5 percent of (students),” he said. “I represent all the students. It’s not just about the subculture. It’s about that we’re all USF students. We’re all USF Bulls.”

During last year’s record turnout, 6,001 students voted in the elections. In 2010, 3,980 voted.

Voting for the next student body president and vice president ends tonight at 8.