A society bid for any student in New Haven would be a dream come true. But last spring for one eager tap, the captain of the championship crew team and a brilliant, humble dining hall worker, a Skulls tap was the opportunity of a lifetime.
His story echoes familiar, like carillon chimes in Harkness Tower, through the ivy-covered walls and courtyards of Connecticut’s big Y University. It is the all-too-common plight of overachieving juniors: a harmless invitation and an opportunity to pay for law school ends up unearthing a hidden world of power, corruption and gunplay.
It is a saga that begins with Tap Night — at least it might.
Tonight on Cross Campus, in cars and tombs, and in cloaks and masks, arguably the best and brightest of Yalie personalities will be tapped into its secret societies. Beyond the shocking insights from Joshua Jackson’s escapades in last spring’s movie “The Skulls,” Yale’s societies are shrouded in mystery and hype.
Throughout this past week, Yalies making their way home from Cross Campus Library in the wee hours of the night have been privy to pre-tap rituals. Conducted by cloaked seniors, these events have seen the prospective society members dancing on the Women’s Table and belting songs from Cross Campus.
But as society-fever sweeps the campus, the juniors giving the issue the most serious thought are the ones actually being tapped.
“To be honest, I really don’t care one way or the other,” said Daniel Balek, an untapped junior, “I didn’t even see ‘The Skulls.'”
In fact, the movie is the only connection a lot of third-year students have to the goings-on of societies.
“I don’t know a whole lot about what goes on,” said Puffer Jones ’02, “but I’m sure it’s not as big of a deal as the movies make it out to be.”
“I guess it’s a gateway for people to get together and meet people, so it could be a big deal for some of the people here,” he said.
Emotions surrounding the Tap Night extravaganza seem to not run particularly deep. Though over their years as underclassmen, students walk to classes, activities and athletics through the shadows cast by society tombs, some rising seniors said they are not particularly concerned with the process.
“I’m pretty indifferent to them,” Ann Liu ’02 said. “I know they’re there, but the only time I really think about them is when I see [society members] all running around.”
But while many students say they are indifferent about societies, opinion differs about their effects. Some tapped students said that societies divide the class, but untapped ones did not agree.
“I think they’re divisive but also totally new and exciting,” said a tapped junior who would not give his name.
“Junior year in general has been somewhat of the same thing, so throwing in this total curveball has certainly been exciting, but it was definitely tempered by the divisive nature of it all,” he said.
“Some of my best friends didn’t get in who should have,” added the unnamed junior, “and the process is negative because it makes you examine your judgement of the people around you even though my friends are my friends for good reason.”
Asked why he was joining a society if he felt they split the class, the tap said, “my personally not doing it won’t stop its divisiveness, and those who weren’t tapped wouldn’t have felt any gratitude toward me.”
But another student did not echo the feelings of this prospective society member.
“I don’t think it fractures the senior class,” said the untapped Alison Austin ’02. “Some people would appreciate doing it more than others, so for those people, it’s fine.”
Some of those not waiting for Scroll and Key to bang down their door tonight expressed relief that they and their friends had avoided the process.
One junior’s high hopes of a tap this evening fell like romance and leaves with the fall.
“I went out with this girl, and I though she was going to tap me for a society, but she didn’t even think of it,” said the junior, who wished to remain anonymous. “Though I guess we did sort of break up well before this whole thing. It just kind of bothered me.”
“All my friends that got tapped aren’t doing it because they don’t really want to give up Thursdays and Sundays,” said the junior. “I’m glad they didn’t want to because I know I wouldn’t get to see them as much, and I was kind of jealous, of course, but no big deal.”
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