Independents hope to improve, increase student involvement

Vice President for Student Affairs Levester Johnson addressed the difference in involvement between Greek and non-Greek students at the most recent town hall, and it has caused a buzz among students.

The university has conducted no formal studies, but  it seems as though it is widely-held idea that Greek students are more involved with leadership positions.

Johnson said this is due to the structure and stated goals of Greek organizations.

“Greek organizations have very intentional and direct programs; their missions and goals are founded in giving back to the community,” Johnson said. “It is easier for a Greek house to organize 60 members than non-Greek students to organize thousands.”
Irene Stevens, dean of student life, said this imbalance has a negative effect on student life.

“You always want your student life to reflect your student body,” Stevens said. “Independent students have different views and perspectives and should be represented.”

The Independent Council was founded in 2008 by student Sarah Morefield to help bridge the gap between non-Greek and Greek students, particularly in terms of all-campus events, according to the Independent Council’s website.

The organization began with 15 interested members and has grown to 94 members today, according to the website.

Senior Amie Wright, president of the Independent Council, said the reason for the lack of independent voices among leadership positions is because leadership positions are often passed down.

“Those who hold certain positions are more likely to pass them down to people within their own house,” Wright said.

Wright said there must be a continued dialogue between the administration and Independent Council to ensure the independent voice is heard.

“It’s a matter of the information getting out to independent students who don’t have the same level of organization Greek students have,” Wright said.

The Independent Council hosts and collaborates with organizations for many senior events through the year, according to Hannah Wysong, an executive board member.

“We get members involved through events like the Spring Sports Spectacular, which is our biggest event,” Wysong said.

Wysong said a stated goal of Independent Council is not necessarily to increase independent student leadership but to increase involvement.

“The reason for such a high percentage of Greek involvement is networking,” Wysong said. “The IC hopes to provide this sort of networking to an extent but most importantly help independents become more involved.”

Wright said the PuLSE Office is important in passing along leadership information.

“PuLSE can send IC leaders information on leadership positions, which can then be passed along to other members,” Wright said.

PuLSE Office Director Caroline Huck-Watson said she hopes to continue the dialogue with independent students to help increase their involvement.

“Campus is more vibrant and powerful when as many voices are heard,” Huck-Watson said. “Every voice is important.”
Johnson said this situation should be viewed in context.

“Although there is a difference between Greek and non-Greek involvement, Butler students as a whole are more involved than the national average,” Johnson said.

The National Survey of Student Engagement found Butler to be higher in many areas of student involvement, including service projects and volunteer work — something Greek organizations particularly excel in.

“Students don’t need organizations around them to be more involved,” Johnson said. “Oftentimes the division between Greek and non-Greek students is due to competitive events that are based on places of residence.”

Johnson said in the future the administration might try to create smaller residential communities and be more intentional in leadership training programs.

Wright also said it is important to get independent freshmen and sophomores involved so that they may pursue leadership positions in the future.

“We need to continue to try and get independent students involved,” Wright said. “The 65 percent of independent students is definitely not represented.”

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