Despite widespread support for the implementation of a choice to opt out of society tap, only 12 of over 1,300 juniors decided against participating in the process.
These 12 juniors were the only ones to respond to an email sent to the entire class of 2016 on Feb. 16 announcing the alternative to de facto participation in society tap. These students indicated that they wanted to opt out of consideration by senior societies, said Rachel Tobin ’15, co-secretary of the Senior Class Council.
“I think that the number accurately reflects my expectations,” said Junior Class Council President Emily Van Alst ’16, who sent the email presenting the option to juniors. Still, of six upperclassmen interviewed, five said they expected more people to opt out.
Of the six juniors and seniors interviewed immediately after the email was sent out, four said they were in support of the new measure. Though some upperclassmen expressed doubt that the option would impact a large number of students, most saw the initiative as beneficial for students who did not want to have any part in the tap process.
Though the opt-out email was only three sentences long and did not include any specific information such as a deadline by which students had to respond, Aaron Gertler ’16 said the option was presented clearly enough that those who were interested in opting out could easily do so. Van Alst added that she received all 12 responses within 24 hours of sending the email, which she said reflects how those who were eager to opt out did so right away.
“If [opting out] is something that you feel strongly about, [an email] is more than enough,” Gertler said.
However, Ethan Campbell-Taylor ’16, who opted out, said a follow-up email would have been a good idea and he thought it was odd that Van Alst’s email did not include a deadline.
Campbell-Taylor said he opted out because he did not want the time commitment of a society and he liked having more control over who he spends time with than being part of a society allows. Though he was surprised that so few people opted out, he said juniors may not want to do so because they could feel like they are missing out on an important Yale tradition.
Campbell-Taylor also said he did not realize that before this year, juniors did not have the option of opting out of society tap.
Van Alst said that because some societies had already sent letters to potential taps before the email was sent out, it was important that uninterested juniors responded as soon as possible. She said she immediately forwarded the names of people opting out to Tobin so that she could communicate them to the societies.
Ben Goldsmith ’15 said that though students tend not to respond to emails sent to large groups of people, he does not think that sending an additional reminder email would have encouraged many more people to opt out.
Gertler said that though he would not have guessed that the number would be so low, he understands that juniors might want to be able to weigh their options for senior societies. He also said it was possible that not all critics of secret societies would have actually ended up opting out.
“A lot of people criticize the dining halls, but we still eat there,” he said. “A lot of people criticize Yale’s extracurricular culture, but we still join clubs.”
Brad Ward ’15 said he expected the low number of responses, given that juniors are able to decline invitations or refuse to follow their instructions, effectively opting out of the process.
Gertler said that while he did not think that the tap process needed major reform, he thought the Junior Class Council handled the situation properly.
“It’s good that the option was there for those 12 people,” he said. “It seems like an email to the junior class is about as good as it’s going to get, especially for such a minor issue.”