It is safe to say the name “secret society” is no longer an accurate descriptor for the groups of random seniors that get wasted and talk about themselves at length twice a week here at Yale. Maybe it is because the Pundits e-mail out the names of the newly tapped members of three societies every year. Or maybe it is because the Rumpus runs a comprehensive list of every last member of the past year’s societies. No Drunk Senior Girl, no Bloody Clown can escape the spotlight. For me, I think the absence of mystery hit home this week when Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry e-mailed out the date of this year’s tap night as well as a list of rules the Dean’s Office would expect robe-clad drunkards to follow on that date. When a college dean’s office takes on a greater regulatory role in the affairs of Skull and Bones than in Sig Ep, we must ask ourselves, where has the mystery gone?
Never fear, my friends, for truly concealed societies at Yale are alive and well. But steel yourself, because discovering their membership is not as simple as turning the pages of the Rumpus. Indeed an elite collection of undergraduate organizations have, perhaps unintentionally, kept their ranks hidden from plain view for years now — achieving an anonymity that the members of Skull and Bones could only dream of. I first learned of these truly secret societies one day at lunch this month when my good friend Isaac stood up from the table and tried to sneak away unseen.
“Isaac, wherever could you be going?” we asked. Sheepishly, he tried to avoid our questions. When pressed, however, he finally mumbled, “I have a jazz band concert.”
Jazz band? None of us even knew he played the trumpet! Somehow, though, he had managed to keep his membership in this underground organization hidden from us for years.
Sure there are student groups and teams that come to define us at Yale, consume us until we no longer even resemble someone you would want to hang out with. How many Facebook messages have you ignored from your fellow FOOTie, begging you to come to a sports game/comedy show/a cappella jam?
But then there are those other undergraduate groups. Think how many times someone has left the room, and a friend has leaned over and whispered breathlessly, “That girl is in Skull and Bones!” Now think how many times someone has NOT leaned over to you when someone left the room and said, “That girl is on Hillel Board!” Or, “She’s so cool. Did you know she does the Yale Antigravity Society?”
In fact, a visit to the Dean’s Office’s list of registered student organizations revealed to me the rampant culture of secret societies that truly exists on this campus. Have you EVER heard of someone in the “Jane Austen Society?” No? How about the “Noveling Club?” Still no? “Happy Hap Magazine?” “Mostly Waltz?” The “Chick Flick Society?” (Side note to the Chick Flick Society: Please tap me.)
At this point, I had to take a cold, hard look in the mirror and ask myself: “Eric, are you in a society so secret, that even you haven’t realized it?” Then the shocking reveal: I am probably in the secretest society of all. For while many of our friends, the people we commune with every day in the dining hall, are members of an organization we never knew existed — as with my friend Ian and his “Timothy Dwight College” — I am a member of an organization whose members are so rarely seen on campus, you’ve probably never met anyone who is active in it.
Each night, the lights shine brightly from my tomb on York Street, the one just next door to Wolf’s Head. (Oh, and Wolf’s Head, do you think no one is watching while you do your bizarre howling rituals this week? Or while you have topless snow wrestling matches in the yard as you did last winter? Seriously, what was that about?)
Wolf’s Head: you are, in fact, being observed from the second floor of a much more guarded tomb by members of a society you didn’t even know you turned down: That’s right. We are watching you from the offices of the Yale Daily News at 202 York Street, the secretest society of them all.