For the past few weeks, I have been eating, breathing and sleeping the society tap process. No, I’m not a junior — I’m a Tap Chair.
With Tap Night fast approaching, society tap has become everyone’s favorite twisted fascination at Yale. As with all things, I’ve had to take the good with the bad. Throughout the tap process, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many wonderful, talented and unique juniors. Throughout the past two weeks, however, I’ve also had the misery of dealing with the crazy, hectic and flat-out stressful tap matching process. Although I cannot speak for every society out there, I can say this: As a senior in a society, I am truly sorry for what society tap has largely become.
At first glance, it can seem like there is a significant power imbalance in the process, but it sucks for the seniors in societies, too. We hate it. We hate the elements of arbitrariness inherent in the interviews, the stress that it creates for the junior class. We hate not being able to extend taps to all of the individuals we loved due to space constraints or trying to avoid established friendships. Receiving or not receiving a tap is by no means a judgment of character or value, regardless of how much juniors may believe it to be so in the midst of the hurricane tap process.
Juniors need to take societies off of the artificial pedestal that they’ve created in their minds. The tap process is not a substitute for validation in other arenas of life. What is commonly overlooked is the fact that tap is a two-way matching process — juniors have a say in which society they want to be a part of as well. It is easy to get caught up in wanting to be in a society for the sake of the “Yale experience,” but that initial incandescent desire will quickly fade come senior year if one chooses a society that is a poor fit.
Every year, there are rising seniors who join societies that are not a good fit for them. Their expectations, values or personalities are at odds with the rest of the group’s. Being in a society can be a great experience, but being in one is also not a guarantee of … well, anything.
Committing two nights of your week to the wrong group of people, just for the sake of being in a society, takes away from time that could be spent engaging in activities that you already do and will continue to care about: your thesis, extracurricular activities, time with friends or a Yale bucket list crusade. It is very possible that joining a society that is not necessarily right could detract from the wonderful senior year experience that you would have had otherwise, sans society. Don’t just drink the society Kool-Aid.
That being said, the interviews and deliberations involved in the tap process are far from mere exercises of power and vanity. Why do seniors put in so much effort during the tap process when they could more easily pick people randomly via Yale Facebook to fill a class? Clearly, there is something more at play here. Clearly, the seniors care about the group that they are trying to create. Clearly, the seniors have gotten something positive out of the society experience that they wish to pass on to the future class.
Friendships can’t be preordained, but the circumstances under which friendships flourish can be encouraged. Through bios, late-night discussions and discovering surprising connections with people whom you otherwise would never have met, the society experience is not a completely broken model. Imperfect and flawed at times, yes — but not completely broken.
Tonight, bevies of costumed juniors will wander around campus in search of their tap class, and masked and hooded seniors watch closely the culmination of weeks of labor. The fanfare surrounding societies makes it easy to forget the true value of society in the first place — to form lasting and meaningful friendships during one’s last year at Yale, which can occur with or without society.
Cecillia Xie is a senior in Trumbull College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .