With the spring semester comes the beginning of an annual process both infamous and mysterious: secret society tapping.
The approach of the next round of taps has brought with it differing opinions on whether the system needs to be amended.
Among the ideas suggested by students to reform the tap process have been providing the option for students to either opt in or out of consideration by societies and shortening the period that societies are given to contact juniors. One vehicle for potential reform could be the Society Assembly, a University-sanctioned body whose duties include setting a start date for the tap process.
“Being in a secret society is optional, but going through the tap process is not optional,” said Viveca Morris ’15, a staff columnist for the News. “It’s relatively easy to defend societies, but I’ve never heard anyone give a good defense of the tap process.”
According to Morris, students should have to opt in if they wish to be considered for membership in secret societies. She added that, as a junior, she did not want to participate in the tap process because of its exclusionary nature.
But Aaron Gertler ’16, who is not in a society, said giving students the opportunity to opt out of consideration — being eligible for selection unless they specify otherwise — would be a better system to prevent any cases in which an interested junior might forget to opt in before a deadline. He added that creating an opt-out system would be easily implemented by contacting the entire class, something the University already has the capacity to do.
“The things that make [society] fun can also make it exclude people,” he said.
Laura Miyares ’16 agreed with Gertler that students should be able to opt out of the tap process, though she granted that someone who is tapped always has the option to turn down the offer.
One member of a “Big Three” society — Skull and Bones, Scroll and Key or Wolf’s Head — who asked to remain anonymous because he did not want to violate the trust of the other members of his society, said the tap process is in need of reform and that there have been conversations within his society about improving it. Because so many seniors ultimately join societies, there should be debate both within the groups and across campus on how to improve the tap process, he added.
Still, he said does not believe there is a formal movement in place to change the process. He also said secret societies cause students added stress by contacting them earlier than is necessary, and that there should be less time allotted for societies to vet their potential taps.
Gertler, however, disagreed, saying that societies should be allowed to take their time with their selections since choosing the next class is an important decision, given the amount of time that the incoming class will spend together during their senior year.
Looking back on the experience, seniors interviewed expressed differing views on extent to which societies caused anxiety for juniors going through the tap process.
While Madeleine Witt ’15 said that she knows people “who are still traumatized from not being tapped,” Gertler and Christofer Rodelo ’15 said that, in their social circles, conversations surrounding secret societies were not that common.
Founded in 1832, Skull and Bones is Yale’s oldest secret society.