Student Leadership at Furman is a Shadow of What it Should Be
As a result of slack leadership in federal and state politics, confusion over COVID-19 regulations has run rampant among the general population. The same faulty leadership in government has also reared its ugly head at universities, including Furman. Peer leadership at Furman was once a real platform for motivated students to improve campus life. It has evolved over time and if the COVID-19 crisis has revealed anything about Furman’s campus culture, it is that Furman’s “student leaders” lack accountability, are failing the student body, and not representative of Furman’s best and brightest.
Student Body President Griffin Mills embodies many of the problems with student leadership at Furman. During his first weekend back at school, Mills received a Paladin Promise violation for attending a party with roughly 15 of his friends in a North Village apartment.
Mills addressed his violation in a post from the Furman Student Government Association Instagram page. Since Mills shared the post, he has defended himself against calls for his resignation, citing that he made an honest mistake without “malicious intent.”
While Mills’ response has been timely and direct, his mistake is no less glaring. What is better than an apology is the lack of a need for one. However, Mills’ predicament and questions over his resignation should not overshadow the more important issue at stake: a lack of student leadership on campus. It is, in fact, counterproductive and distracting to hyper-focus on one individual when countless other campus “leaders” are also acting contrary to their commitments.
In addition to SGA, for example, fraternities and sororities are traditional sources of student “leadership,” yet their presidents display equally concerning immaturity and disregard for the well-being of their community. Kappa Alpha (KA) has been suspended for Paladin Promise violations after hosting gatherings at what is considered by the university to be the “former” KA house, although it’s evidently still owned, occupied, and used for hosting events by the fraternity’s brothers.
Kappa Delta (KD) has shown similar shortcomings in leadership. A controversial and potentially racist video was released early in the spring of 2019 involving one of their members. However, the sorority did not publicly address the matter until July 1st, 2020 after the video was referenced by the Black at Furman Instagram. Kappa Delta then posted on Instagram, saying, “It is with heavy hearts that the sisters of Zeta Pi chapter of Kappa Delta acknowledge that one such incident involved a Zeta Pi member.” Yet the fact that this admission came over a year after the incident makes it seem like it was spurred by social pressure rather than true reflection. This behavior speaks volumes to the quality of student leadership within Furman’s Greek life system.
There needs to be change within these organizations, and that change must start with holding student leaders accountable. Based on their shambolic response to public criticism, today it seems that many student leaders work under the assumption that their job comes without conditions or responsibilities. Some student leaders cannot withstand valid criticism, and that reflects the way they view their roles. This should not come as a surprise. Furman’s social structure incentivizes irresponsible leadership that cannot stand up to public scrutiny. Consequently, it has created leaders who cannot cope in a crisis and instinctively think in terms of protecting their own image rather than leading by example.
At this point, it is evident that the integrity of student leadership positions has been largely compromised and many now exist only as hollow shells of what they once were. We need to reset, reevaluate and re-imagine student leadership on our campus. It is my opinion that it would serve Mills well to resign. The problem with Furman leadership doesn’t end with Mills—but it does start with him.