Ra Ra Brunonia: Secret Societies

One of the wonderful perks about attending a university as old as Brown is the sheer amount of tradition we’ve got here. Say what you will about the academics at a place like Stanford – apparently they’re not half bad – but a school founded fewer than two hundred years ago isn’t exactly going to be steeped in the historically rich customs we follow up here on the Hill. Brown’s got the Van Wickle Gates, Professor Carberry, Spring Weekend, the Pembroke Seal, and a hundred other little practices that many aspiring Brunonians have proudly observed in their time here (albeit with Bob Dylan on the Main Green instead of the Glitch Mob). And yet there’s one custom, common to many universities of Brown’s age and stature, that we lack almost entirely: secret societies.

Secret societies have become so common in the American zeitgeist’s portrayal of the Ivy League – typified in the mystique surrounding Yale’s Skull and Bones – that their presence might seem almost a prerequisite for entry. On the contrary, Brown’s unique status as the most open, inclusive school in the Ivy League – if not the nation – means that our conspicuous lack of traditionally elitist, “WASP-y” secret societies doesn’t necessarily seem out of place. We have no colleges, nor houses, nor finals clubs to separate our classes as they progress through Brown as undergraduates. Those societies we do have – fraternities, sororities, athletic houses, program houses – are, compared to similar societies at peer universities, notoriously friendly and accepting. By that logic, the absence of mystery-shrouded societies on College Hill is just par for the course, right?

Maybe today. But (spoiler alert!) that wasn’t always the case. Continue Reading