Early this morning, in his article “George Tepe: A Modest Endorsement,” Chris Friend wrote in support of George Tepe’s presidential run and directed many criticisms against Will Savino. Friend’s chief concern with Will, it seems, is that he is a member of Mr. Gad’s and that sometimes his commitments to improv comedy could require him to leave AAS meetings early — it is, according to Friend, “all you need to know” when deciding who to vote for. There is no way to evaluate the meaning of Will’s statements out of the context Friend fails to provide, so I will not attempt to do so here; as it turns out, Will has a response that anyone who is interested can find on his campaign’s Facebook page. Notwithstanding, if we are going to talk about conflicts of interest that presidential candidates bring to the table by virtue of their extracurricular activities, it would be a major oversight to leave out the fact that George Tepe is in Chi Psi, an underground fraternity.
I’ve known Tepe personally since my freshman year, and he has always seemed like a perfectly nice guy. Moreover, I’m probably more apathetic about fraternities than your average Amherst student. I have many friends at Amherst who are in frats, and while I didn’t want to join one, I do not believe there is anything inherently wrong with such organizations. I don’t often give a damn about who is in a frat or what they do there, and it wouldn’t usually even bother me if a candidate for AAS president were in one. But I think there are specific concerns regarding Chi Psi, Tepe’s campaign, and the issues that student government will be facing in the coming year that make Tepe’s involvement in underground fraternity life exceptionally troublesome for the student body should he be elected.
I have never been concerned in the past about the intersection between fraternities and student government because I found it hard to believe that an Amherst student would use his fraternity as a political machine. And yet that is precisely what Tepe has been doing with his campaign. Tepe’s campaign has been driven by Chi Psi: the Chi Psi brothers who were enlisted to send form emails out to the listservs of their other campus organizations (“George bleeds purple”), the Chi Psi membership that litters his videos and endorsements, and even the Chi Psi brother who used his authority as an upperclassman RC to get his residents to open their doors for Tepe when he was campaigning in the dorms.
But the problem isn’t just that Tepe is using the manpower and influence of his fraternity brothers to advertise his campaign. The problem is also that a candidate as tied to a fraternity as Tepe’s campaign strategy has proven him to be to Chi Psi will not be able to genuinely represent the student body at all times.
Consider one crucial issue that will undoubtedly arise next year: the issue of fraternities itself. Much has come to light over the past year about troubling goings-on with Amherst frats, and the administration is already considering what changes will need to be made to the college’s policy regarding them. The student body deserves a president who will be impartial on this issue, who can represent the opinions of the student body and develop his own without any preexisting bias. Even if you might normally trust an AAS president to put aside his personal commitments for the sake of the position, Tepe’s campaigning suggests that Chi Psi is a significant part of his political life on this campus. Tepe will not be able to give impartial consideration to policy changes that might negatively affect fraternities given that he is a member of one that has so publicly thrown its whole support behind him. If Tepe could not publicly acknowledge his fraternity involvement when answering questions at the speech and debate nights regarding how he would address fraternity policy, we cannot expect him to be able to be forthright as president.
The problem here is one that is central to any issue involving fraternities at Amherst: We just don’t know. We have no way to know what conversations Tepe is having with his brothers behind closed doors. Amherst fraternities are antithetical to the notion of transparency. In some contexts, that may not worry us, but it certainly must when it comes to picking a representative of the student body. We will never know, when Tepe needs to make a difficult decision as president, whether it is a decision made from a place of impartial reflection on the demands of the student body or a decision heavily influenced by fraternity commitments we know nothing about. Because we know nothing about what Tepe does with Chi Psi, we will always be left guessing about his sincerity.
We deserve a president we can trust completely. That president is Will Savino. Will is the most honest and open person I know at Amherst. He has nothing to hide — he’s the kind of guy who lays all his cards on the table right when you meet him. Some people are concerned about his relative lack of AAS experience. One person who’s not concerned about that is current AAS President Tania Dias, whose endorsement of Will you can also read on the Facebook page for Will’s campaign. No one knows better what qualifications are necessary to exercise the office of president than the president, and she endorses Will Savino.
In the words of Chris Friend, if you are deciding who to vote for, I think that is all you need to know.
Correction: This article originally referred to an RC as a first-year. This error has been corrected.