After a lengthy year of the Faculty Task Force investigating secret societies, announcing their report with allegations of bullying and students reporting fearfulness of secret societies, interviews with students did not find that fear. Many Witt students said that they are not uncomfortable with or threatened by the presence of secret societies on campus.
At a faculty meeting in April, The Task Force asked the administration to enact regulations that do not allow faculty and staff to participate in secret societies. The Task Force also recommended that secret societies have no ties to the university. Those topics are to be voted on the next meeting.
Out of the 10 unaffiliated people interviewed, each person said that they were relatively comfortable with secret societies on campus. When each student rated on a scale of one to ten how comfortable they are with secret societies on campus (1 being uncomfortable, 10 being comfortable), the answers ranged from five to nine, and averaged out to about a 7.
Many Wittenberg students not affiliated with any secret societies, said that they knew of five main secret societies: Shifters, Wizards, Gnomes, Jesters and Bells. However, in addition to those, there was mention of Pirates, Paladins, Keys, Crows, Knights, Five Fingers, The Night Owls, Aliens and “Weebers” (an “anti-secret-society-secret-society”).
Along with the people that wanted to remain anonymous, a sophomore refused to be interviewed because of concerns that it would interfere with his or her possible future membership in one. There were comments from some unaffiliated people that said that they thought secret societies were “only exclusive drinking groups” and that they did not see the point.
“I feel pretty comfortable with secret societies because I’ve been on campus for so long that I know some of their ‘secrets,’” Katie Andrulis, ‘18, said. “They become less intimidating the more you know about them.”
“I’m just kind of indifferent,” a source that was not affiliated with a secret society, but wanted to be anonymous, said. “They’re fine. I don’t feel very strongly about them either way.”
“I’m pretty alright with what they do. It’s not a hazard to people that I know,” Brandon Dlabik, ‘20, who rated how comfortable he is with secret societies on campus at a seven, said.
“I think, especially with certain societies, there is a sort of mythos to make people feel intimidated by them, which over time, I’ve come to not buy into,” a senior “Weeber” that wanted to remain anonymous, said. “Because they’re just an organization doing their thing, but at the same time, since they’re so highly organized, I’m cautious to not get on their collective bad side, just in case.”
“I feel fine with them. When you’re in one, you get it; you get each other,” a senior Wizard said. “They might be known differently, but we’re basically all the same.”
“I feel like some are different than others,” a junior member of the Bells said. “I’d support some, but not others.”
That same member of the Bells said that it is less like a secret society and equated the Bells to a support system, while saying that the secret societies that revolve mostly around drinking were the ones that he or she did not support.
There was an overwhelming number of non-affiliated students that said that it is inappropriate for faculty and staff to be secret society members, while only one non-affiliated student said that it was okay.
“That’s not appropriate at all. They should not be doing that,” Andrulis said.
One of the main points of the study done by the Faculty Task Force targets the membership of faculty and staff in secret societies. The study found that most students that responded to the survey sent out last year by Adam Barstow, ‘17, was that students were uncomfortable with faculty and staff being allowed in secret societies in fear of favoritism.
However, secret society members that were interviewed had opposing views on faculty and staff being involved to those that were not part of secret societies.
“I’m for the involvement under certain circumstances as long as staff is limited to what they’re involved in, but there is an acknowledgement of no special treatment,” a senior Shifter said.
“I’ve never been treated special other than a hi in the hallway,” a junior involved with both Shifters and Bells said.
“The more the merrier, I think,” a senior Wizard said. “No professor is a Wizard, though.”
“It doesn’t really bother me. I get the appearance of conflict of interest is a big thing, but I generally have faith in Wittenberg faculty to be impartial on things that matter,” a junior Gnome said.
Members from five different secret societies that were interviewed all said that students should not be afraid or intimidated by secret societies.
“The goal is to never make people uncomfortable and there is no danger,” a senior Shifter said.
“They’re honestly just like glorified drinking clubs. They’re all about just having fun so there is nothing to be intimidated about them,” a senior Wizard said.
“I think that a lot of that [fear] comes from an overactive imagination,” a junior Gnome said. “People are worried about retaliation for even talking about secret societies and that’s silly. What do people think we’re going to do to them? This isn’t the mafia.”
“I think they add to the identity. I don’t know if I’d say it enhances the campus,” a junior Jester said. “But it was one of the first things I heard during OA days, so I think it’s definitely a big part of Witt’s campus.”