Secret Societies: They Are Not Just at Yale - They Are Running a University Near YouBy Artevia Wilborn
Dec. 21, 2006
The world over has heard of Skull and Bones of Yale University. This elite secret society holds within its membership at least four U.S. Presidents. George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry are both members of Skull and Bones. This made the 2004 presidential election the first known election where two secret society members ran against each other. However, names like the Order of the Bull's Blood, Mystical Seven Society, The Order of Gimghoul , Burning Spear, and Machine are less familiar. Make no mistake these too are powerful societies. The clear pronounceable difference between these organizations and Skull and Bones is that these secret societies were founded and continue to wield power at universities where ivy does not grow.
At the University of Virginia the number 7 mysteriously pops up on campus buildings and other campus fixtures and checks in the amount of 1,777 or 7,777 are sent to the university. For nearly 100 years candidates picked by the most secretive society have virtually always won the University of Alabama's student government elections. How is it that a group that claims only 13 years of existence on Florida State University's 156-year-old campus became the natural choice to sponsor FSU Homecoming? On the campus of Baylor University the school fountains turn pink, announcements declare Homecoming canceled, and figures are seen parading around campus adorning wigs and fake noses.
If the average college freshman is expecting to step on a campus where he or she leaves behind the stereotypical high school cliques then most will be given a false sense of freedom. Most college students are unknowingly under the yoke of the definite yet predominantly silent hold university secret societies possess on what is popularly called college life.
There are many aspects of college life. One could argue that there are so many diverse parts of campus life that it would be impossible for secret societies to control all of them. The mistake is thinking that these societies need to physically control all of these parts. In all fairness there are some aspects of college life these societies wouldn't want to touch with a ten-foot pole. But what societies like Spades aim to do is build an ever growing web of influence; and like a bunch of spiders they position themselves in key places on their web so that their slightest touch affects the entire college web. So what parts of the college web do these secret societies position themselves upon and how does this affect college life? The physical landscapes and traditions of the school, student government and student leadership, and social events are where these societies seem to assert their control.
Secret societies put university politics into play like a well-oiled machine. In fact, it is well documented that Machine, University of Alabama's secret society, has used all manner of illegal tricks and threats to both win university elections and discourage opponents from running against them. One year on their order groups of students boycotted a popular pizzeria to the point of running it out of business. Why? Well the son of the pizzeria owners ran against a Machine student government candidate. No one knows the exact membership, their leadership is especially secretive, but Machine's representatives inform potential election candidates what student positions Machine will allow them to pursue. Burning Spear is comprised of the most elite of the student senate and student government association, incidentally most currently belong to Insight Party, the FSU political party that has been sweeping university elections, under one name or another, for several years.
The reason these societies fight so earnestly to control the political makeup of their universities is simple, the pursuit of ever more power. What is most alarming is that many universities pay student government officers, thus compensating these secret society members for exerting their control in everyday student life. They control student organizations' budgets and place students on the student judicial board. They write legislation that affects the student body and hold representatives in every college or school on their university's campus. They allocate funds for student festivities and events and safeguard the interests of groups like fraternities and sororities, of which many secret society members also hold membership.
Just how these societies impact the physical landscapes and traditions of school are probably the easiest thing to observe about them. For instance, The Seven Society writes 7s on school property at the University of Virginia. Members of Burning Spear begin the beating of a large drum in the FSU's Student Union when the university plays a rival like UM or UF. The Noze has painted school bridges pink , dyed the water in school fountains pink, and made false announcements declaring Homecoming canceled. Michigamu, unlike any other group on campus, is given a free office space on campus.
Some may see these acts as mysterious or cool, foolish or petty vandalism, or simply harmless but they have been mistakenly viewed as part of these Universities' distinctions and traditions. These organizations are physically making a clear statement: This university and everything you think is yours belongs to us. They are given the power to take up space and "decorate" the university as they see fit without question, without revealing their motives or membership, and without campus reprisal and without being subjected to following standard university rules .
Homecoming, and Alumni Weekend, and concerts oh my. Oh these are just a few of the events these society members host. Oh how they like the limelight (so long as you don't focus too much attention on their membership in said societies) and being the life of the party. A university's time honored events and most awaited social spotlights are under the command of these organizations. After only 13 years of proclaimed existence Burning Spear unquestionably is given the honor of sponsoring FSU's homecoming. Florida Blue Key also sponsors colossal events such as University of Florida's Homecoming and Gator Growl. Students who secretly hold membership in these groups get to represent themselves as everyday students while they gain and build professional, social, and alumni connections. What is ironic is that the university funds the parties these societies sponsor under the guise of school spirit. It is however, the sprit of their own society and influence over these events that they are most interested in maintaining.
With the power of government, influence over tradition, and determination to plan the goings on at your local university know that elite secret societies participate in all these activities with only one goal - their ever advancing power. The aforementioned colleges and universities don't immediately endear visions of prestige that one thinks of when Harvard or Yale is mentioned. However, like the members of Skull and Bones these secret societies members on public university campuses go on to powerful positions in local, state, and federal government, they become successful business men, and continue the ever connecting web of power.
Kevin Phillips, author of American Theocracy, puts the best case of why these societies succeed. Phillips states, "People have wondered why these secret societies have been hotbeds of future success. Rather than competing with fraternities and student organizations, these 'secret societies' augment or leverage other organizations. What makes them unique and singularly successful is that they stress goal-oriented vision among a limited and distinguished group. Often they assist each other, secretly, in gaining prominent campus positions as practice for what they want to do in the real world. As opposed to larger organizations they maintain the strength of their ties post graduation."