Emily Abel, c/o 2013
A quick disclaimer—while I am open to (privately) answering questions regarding the feelings that I experienced in connection with secret societies, I will not be sharing details about the societies themselves or giving out any information about (or names of) their current or former members. I do this in respect for the people who have genuinely tried and are genuinely trying to use secret societies to improve this campus and this community.
Hello Salem College! I’d rather not be the rain cloud casting its gloomy shadow over this “stop hate” parade, but I have some issues with this campaign that I would like to address.
In case all the flyers have gone missing from the Refectory, here is the campaign’s mission statement: “The mission of the STOP HATE campaign is to raise awareness, promote equality and combat all hate within our community through the use of visual art, collaboration, and sponsorship.”
Wow. All hate, huh? That’s a pretty lofty goal. So, what does “hate” mean, anyway? Well, according to Webster, hate is defined as “intense dislike, extreme aversion or hostility.” So, is this a campaign that combats, say, my extreme aversion to doing my homework on time? Or my housemates’ intense dislike of late-night whistling in the shower? I’m guessing that these are not what this campaign is actually seeking to combat. I’m guessing that by the dramatic, large letters on the poster in the front of the Refectory and the political-esque slogans tacked into the mission statement, this campaign is targeting hate crimes and general negative feelings people have toward each other on this campus. But then again, it’s pretty vague, so I can’t be sure—and neither can you, unless you’re a member of the Order.
While we’re on the topic of hate, here’s something that I hate: hypocrisy – and that’s what this campaign reeks of. The very nature of secret societies on campus promotes secrecy, exclusivity, and division of the student body. The majority of the student body is not part of the Order of the Scorpions, so even though we may have an idea of who the members are, we have no idea what they are actually doing – besides leaving eggs and donuts and pumpkins around campus at certain times of year. The only clues we get are the description of the society given to us on page 77 of our handbook and those things they themselves choose to tell us, which may or may not be true. The rest we can only guess and gossip about. They cannot be held accountable by their fellow students until graduation day, when they reveal their identities, and by that point, virtually no one thinks to ask.
Now, if this were a secret society that was truly made of students, for students, I could perhaps be more open to its existence – but it’s not. It was created to “foster the true spirit and ideals of the College” (which are?) and work to “serve the College with no desire of recognition.” The College? What part of the College? The students? Administration? Faculty? Staff? Well, the fact that the Scorpions are written into the handbook gives me the impression that they have the favor of administrative forces – which, to me, defeats the purpose of eliminating the red tape that all other clubs and organizations have to go through to make things happen on this campus AND means that the Scorpions can act as yet another outlet of power for our already-empowered campus administrators, who, while good people, often tend to disregard student opinions and interest when creating and enforcing campus policies.
In short, the Order of the Scorpions has the potential to act as an invisible policing force on this campus that appeases students with candy and donuts and justifies its existence through its presence in the handbook. Furthermore, to the campus in general, it is an Unknown, and more often than not, the unknown breeds fear, and what does fear breed? Hate. I can tell you from personal experience that inSalem’s past there has been a lot of anxiety, fear, and division on campus due to the existence of multiple secret societies, many of them wanting to do good things forSalem’s campus and its students, but the existence of only one FAVORED society.
Equality? I think not. Awareness? Of what? Racism? Sexism? Homophobia? Transphobia? We have clubs and student leaders raising awareness of global, campus, and community issues every day, and they’re willing to put their names and faces on the line for it. If you want to use visual art to make a difference, how about being the PR representative for one of the various organizations on campus that NEED people to advertise their events and causes, or joining the art society and starting a socially conscious incentive there? If you want to collaborate, call your fellow students together to talk or organize, either under the structure of an already-made club or just for the sake of having a conversation. And sponsorship? Who, exactly, is sponsoring the Order of the Scorpions? How do they raise funds? How much of our money is appropriated to them, if any?
It is my belief that we should not have secret societies on our campus at all. As a former member of such a society, I experienced serious social repercussions of joining and leaving the society, many of which still affect me today. There was a period of time when I felt extremely alienated and isolated on this campus, and at times intensely disliked and avoided, and much of that was due to a letter sent out by the Order of the Scorpions last year which I can only guess was approved by administration. I don’t and can’t know for sure how many others have felt this way or how many problems secret societies have caused on this campus in the present and the past, in part due to the general secrecy and silence surrounding the topic of secret societies on campus, but it’s something that needs to be talked about.
I am proposing that rather than blindly following an anonymous society in their advocacy of “anti-hate,” we have a discussion of this issue – we being faculty, staff, students, anyone on Salem’s campus who wants to contribute. Let’s talk about it. When? Where? It’s up to us. And it’s up to all of us to stop hate on this campus, with our dialogue, our words, and our actions. Stopping hate? It starts with you and me as individuals. Not with a secret society.