Three new senior societies — Lunaris, Tolomeo and Zinnia — inducted their inaugural tap classes last Thursday, after Yale Society Initiative, an organization founded in 2015 to make senior society recruitment more inclusive and transparent, created the new societies this year to meet rising demand among juniors.
The initiative, which features representatives from five affiliated societies, received about 150 applications this year, roughly the same number as last year. Applicants were sorted into the three new societies, as well as two existing YSI-affiliated societies that also took members from the pool of applicants. The YSI placed almost all juniors who applied into a society this year, according to YSI representatives.
“For juniors who want to be in a society and who haven’t necessarily gotten tapped through the most traditional means, our societies have pledged to either create new ones for them or take a few members into our own,” said Shreyas Tirumala ’18, a staff columnist for the News and a YSI representative who helped sort applicants into societies this year.
Unlike the traditional society process, which relies heavily on recommendations and personal interviews, applicants to the YSI fill out a Google form with questions about their interests. Many juniors, however, chose to apply through the YSI and also participate in the traditional tap process, according to YSI representatives.
“This is something that we should encourage all juniors to do,” Tirumala said. “You don’t necessarily know when you’re interviewing for a society whether you’ll actually get into it, so it’s in your best interest regardless to fill out the form.”
The YSI created seven new societies when it was founded in 2015 and added two societies last year. Five societies remain affiliated with the initiative, as some of the societies created by the YSI have either disbanded or stopped participating in the YSI tap process, YSI said in a statement.
Three of the five affiliated societies helped support the creation of Lunaris, Tolomeo and Zinnia. The societies provided guidance on how to run a society, helped organize the new societies’ pretap and tap nights and connected them with their existing alumni networks. YSI representatives declined to specify which societies are still affiliated with the initiative this year.
Members of YSI-affiliated societies also emphasized the need for additional societies in the future in order to accommodate Yale’s growing undergraduate population. With the opening of the new residential colleges, the class of 2021 is more than 200 students larger than previous classes.
Rodrigo Huyke ’18, another YSI representative, said that around 13 new societies would need to form to accommodate the larger first-year class. In general, senior societies accept around 15 students a year.
Huyke added that he felt he had “nothing to lose” last year by applying through the YSI’s form in addition to participating in traditional tap processes for other societies.
Julia Ding ’19, a student in Branford College, said that while she chose not to apply to the YSI herself, she values the initiative’s mission. Ding said she contacted Yale College Dean Marvin Chun earlier this year because she was worried about whether YSI would continue operating. While it seems the initiative is “going great this year,” Ding added, the University could do more to support YSI, as it depends on dedicated seniors to continue organizing the application process each year.
Ding said she appreciates that the initiative gives juniors the power to decide for themselves whether they want to join a society, even if they do not know the right people and are not selected for one. Still, she added, many students do not view YSI societies as “on par” with other societies due to its broad inclusivity and relative lack of resources.
“There are many reasons people join societies — curiosity, affirmation through selective inclusion, large endowments from alumni networks, meeting new people — and YSI only fulfills the last of these,” Ding said. “I would argue that that is the most important reason to join a society.”
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