Secrets do not exist at Yale, including the secrecy of societies. All it takes is for one person to see who walks in and out of the silly building on High Street for the membership of Yale’s most reputable society to be known. That information then becomes social currency for making or maintaining friendships on a campus that is, at times, too small for its own good. It does not take long to realize that everyone’s business is known, which can be a double-edged sword. So, you may be wondering how spaces like secret societies exist, especially with an air of mystery. The real answer is something can be private but not a secret. Everything that occurs in one of the most exclusive spaces on campus has been published online amid rumors and lies, and it becomes our job to decide which parts are true when privacy is maintained. One of the aspects of membership into the oldest and “most powerful” societies on Yale’s campus, which is widely known, is that the individuals selected are among the most notable on campus. I cannot speak for Skull & Bones, nor do I want to, but here is what I have gathered to explain what notability means here.


In high school the word was popular, but with fourteen different Yale bubbles, there are just as many popular circles. Most Yalies transcend those divides by getting involved on campus through athletics, extracurriculars, cultural houses, Greek life, jobs, and occasionally classes. The degrees of separation between any two Yalies is limited because of the vast overlap, and eventually, everyone at least knows of each other or knows someone who does. Yale’s popularity contest culminates in who is elected to leadership positions in any of the spaces mentioned, mainly to distinguish any one person from another. Leadership in larger organizations is held to a higher standard because the trust put in them is not only for how likable they are, but also their weight of maintaining the reputation of their organization. But, if done well, notability is almost guaranteed, which makes the eyes of a surprisingly meritocratic selection process turn in your direction.


So, how does one break into the ranks of leadership for college “popularity”? The answer is actually quite simple and sounds like the makings of a cliche Home Goods sign: be kind, be gracious, and share your story with others. The trick is, it’s always easier said than done. On your worst days, be kind to the person who messes up your favorite order at a restaurant or the dining hall worker or the person on the street. Understand that they are not trying to make your life harder, and their day may be going worse than yours. Even if they mess up, they at least tried, so be the first to say thank you, and then be generous with thank yous to come. Your moment of kindness may be the first time they’re hearing positivity that day, and remember the kindness you would’ve wanted to hear on your worst day. It’s easy to do on your good days, but it matters more on your bad ones. At the same time, share your story with others so they can be more compassionate to you on your bad days. The little moments are the times that set people off or trigger something from the past, so sharing your story means people at least know what your triggers are. Build a network that will at least be there to catch you when you fall so Yale doesn’t feel as lonely. In your little moments of hurt, you don’t expect an apology, but it’s always appreciated. Remember that when your actions lead to unintentional little moments for others, and always be generous with apologies. The ability to recognize when to apologize shows that you not only listened to words, but also heard the meaning behind them.


Apply the same in organizations you’re involved in, and be passionate about the work you’re doing. Everyone knows who the clout chasers are, and none of us like them. If you genuinely care about what you’re doing, no one can ever blame you for being “too passionate” about a cause. There is simply no such thing. Show your passion with your time and kindness, and stay involved because commitment matters when leadership opportunities come up. Those leadership opportunities alongside your character are all you will ever need to be notable at Yale. This never means that everyone will like you, but the expectation is they should at least be able to respect you for the kindness and graciousness you choose to extend, especially when you think no one is watching. And when the mysterious eyes of a not-so-secret society are watching, which they always are, maybe you will find an invitation to get into Skull & Bones.


YOUSRA OMER is a graduating senior in Davenport College. Contact her at