It was a simple status update.
Beatrice Diehl, 22, a journalism senior and a member of the Sigma Kappa sorority, felt a need to express her opinion about Student Government after she read an article in the Alligator on Monday about a Unite Party member throwing away copies of the paper. In an interview with the Alligator on Tuesday, she described a social environment that catered to the Unite Party by coercing members to vote and pass out fliers for Unite to get privileges and that generally perpetuated a silent mandate to support the party or be subtly ostracized, even reprimanded.
"It's patronage politics," she said, "and that's what I hate so much about it. It's not democratic at all."
Diehl, a member of Sigma Kappa for four years, said she doesn't usually get involved with SG, but after the trash can newspaper incident, she had to speak out. On Tuesday at about 2:30 a.m., she wrote this:
Everyone remember to vote today!! As a Senior, it would be really great to leave this school knowing it was in good hands, with people who actually care about the ENTIRE student body. I've hated campus politics and avoided them for four years because they seemed so petty. And this proves they cane [sic] be: [link to article was provided here]
Please vote for the Students Party. I think you'll find that a new and fair SG administration is just what we need. I tried to be apathetic for my entire college career, but reading things like this (and frankly knowing other sneaky tactics) makes me so upset.
And again, in case I wasn't clear, you should really vote Students Party. Because they're awesome. And democratic. Which is, you know, the way our government, whether university, local or national, should be. Okay. Off my soapbox. :)
Diehl said she knew the post might potentially offend some, but was surprised to receive two separate messages from two different sorority sisters. The first, who Diehl asked to remain anonymous, said this: I'm not trying at all to limit your rights to freedom of speech, but since we as a Sigma Kappa chapter endorse Unite, your status is contradictory to our chapter views as a whole. It is also very unsisterly, considering we have sisters running on the Unite Party ticket this semester.
If you would like to keep your status as is, I suggest that you please remove all of the Sigma Kappa paraphernalia from your profile (including profile pictures with Sigma Kappa shirts, hearts and doves, etc).
Two hours later, Diehl received another message, this time from standards chairwoman Meredith Cotton. According to Diehl, the standards chairwoman checks to make sure sisters are not making the sorority look bad, and she would be responsible for asking sisters to remove drunk photos or inappropriate comments from Facebook.
"They make sure we're being classy when we exercise our First Amendment rights," Diehl said, laughing.
Cotton's message: Your election posts are unsisterly and inappropriate, especially towards the women that are up for election. While it is great to exercise your freedom of speech, it is also hurtful to have sigma kappa and sisterly posts on your facebook that put down these women and their efforts. Please exercise your freedom of speech in a classy and respectful way, as the women involved in SG have personally come to me saying that they feel hurt by your actions.
The messages upset Diehl, she said, especially because she was on her own Facebook page, and she said she wasn't putting down anyone in particular, just expressing an opinion.
"When I went into a sorority, I didn't expect they would try to take over your life and limit what you could say or do," she said. "I just said I support Students Party, I don't support the Unite Party, and here's why."
Diehl said coercion is a big part of the Greek community's way of supporting the Unite Party, and that almost every sorority and fraternity on campus has candidates running for office.
"They never explicitly tell you to vote Unite, but we have a Unite Party representative in every house," she said. "And then we have people running for Unite, we have posters that say Unite, and they say we support Unite. It's everywhere."
She said on election day a representative for Unite makes sure everyone is voting. Her house and many others have a way of ensuring this.
"We have a board," she said.
The sticker board has all the names of the sisters on it, and for the two days of elections, they get texts and calls reminding them to vote. When they do, they are to place an "I voted" sticker next to their name. Doing so gets them points, which are incentives that she said can be used for sorority events like socials.
"And they will literally call you," she said. "I even have a message from our message board that says having an exam is not an excuse tonight. You have to go out and vote."
The girls are pressured to fill the board the first day, Diehl said, and the more stickers, the better. The idea is that if the Unite Party rep sees a full sticker board, it'll be good for the house.
In addition to the board, Diehl said sisters are expected to pass out fliers and campaign for Unite, regardless of the knowledge they have of the issues.
"We never sit down and talk about the issues. It's literally shirt, flier," she said. "In the past I never recall someone coming up and explaining the issues. They're always just, ‘Remember, we support Unite.' It's obvious who they want you to vote for."
The thing that bothers Diehl the most is that she was chastised for stating her opinion.
"To receive such a response, I was kind of shocked and angered, and I don't really want to be affiliated with people that are going to do that to someone."
She said she didn't change her Facebook status, and she doesn't plan on doing it at all. She may be reprimanded again, but she's adamant about how she feels.
"It's my Facebook," she said, "I'm allowed to do that."