Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

VIEWPOINT: Speaking for the Second Stewards Society


On Feb. 21, The Hoya decided the Stewards were newsworthy. Yet the news article, “Anonymous Twitter Account Vows To Unmask Secret Society Members,” was curious and unusual. It was curious in relying on anonymous sources, who marketed an anonymous Twitter feed publishing calumny. It was unusual because it described the Stewards, but incorrectly.     

On behalf of the Second Stewards Society, I write to correct the falsehoods recently published and to introduce my fraternity to those who may need an introduction. The Hoya was right to describe us as “long-standing,” as is its coverage of us, averaging every 5.3 years. However, it gets the story wrong in two essential ways. First, ours is not a “secret society.” We are a private association, protected by the constitutional right of intimate association — see NAACP v. Alabama and Roberts v. Jaycees. We are no different than other private associations, such as Washington’s Sulgrave Club, a women’s society that, like most private clubs in the United States, also does not publish its members or its activities except to its members. Like these, we are lawfully organized and file taxes, and are therefore very public indeed. We tell our friends and our wives, and Georgetown University knows who to contact. In an adult world, we are everything but secret.   

We value our privacy, believing we all hold most dear the things we hold most private. Like every fraternity, we have aspects of our culture we hold closely. We are always glad, however, to speak about our society with anyone who meets us in good faith. If asked, Stewards are obliged to be truthful about their own membership. The Second Stewards Society operates with a demanding ethical code that sets us apart from our cousin societies at Georgetown. 

Our privacy is not just for privacy’s sake. We have labored on countless efforts to better Georgetown and enjoy taking no credit for these efforts. We are sometimes public, such as when we advocated for the university’s day care center. Typically, however, we delight in the Gospel message just heard on Ash Wednesday that good works are best seen by God when done in “secret,” and in the spirit of the tzedakah ladder of Jewish tradition, we aspire to anonymous service — and to the benefits of this wisdom in making us better men, husbands, fathers, sons and brothers.    

The Hoya also exposed the root of the irrational criticism launched against us. The Hoya writer said, “The group is believed to have a large graduate network.” This statement reflects an understandable myopia. My fraternity is not a student club. We tell our brothers early on that we are not a “student activity” and, my goodness, we certainly are nothing as insipidly preprofessional as a “network.” In fact, my fraternity is almost entirely an alumni association devoted to stewardship service and, more importantly, we are most like a family. We are an unusual family. We regularly open our family up to strangers who do not need to apply.  They select themselves by what they do or advocate in service. They are stewards when we find them. We only wish we had room at the table for more.   

If viewed as a student club, one could too easily jump into the shallow end and use words that  appeal to the self-absorbed — words often associated with student governments. Words like “power,” which appears several times in The Hoya’s news article, and which, in the context of student clubs, some may well consider amusing. We respect everyone’s earnest effort, but to be direct, like the overwhelming majority of students, we don’t give a fig about GUSA elections.  The other rumors about us are similarly ridiculous and untrue, such as that we are defined by race, faith or ideology. In fact, we expressly exclude politics from our conversation.  

Stewards respect the work done by all students, alumni, teachers and staff in their respective stewardship of Georgetown. We see Georgetown illuminated by the many lights that represent each community that shapes the Georgetown ethos of which we have long been a part. We are devoted not to the small things that come and go, but to Georgetown’s particularities that define and make it what it is. Every Hoya community, when acting in good faith and as members of the undying Georgetown family, has the right to serve our university. When Hoyas disagree, we should, even then, do so like a family does and afford each other the dignity all of us are due, and not by anonymous cyberstalking. 

If my fraternity is newsworthy, it is for serving a university far too often obsessed with self-serious conspiracies, like the recent trolling of us. Stewards will ignore the noise and continue to meet our university, and our Georgetown family, where and as they are, and always in good faith.  

Adam Augustine Carter graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences in 1987 and from the Law Center in 1991. 

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  • G

    Grace NoerMar 28, 2020 at 1:29 pm

    I think one thing that does appear concerning is that The Stewards exclude females from their membership and that makes it seem kind of un-inclusive and not very welcoming. If it was to benefit the school, how come females cannot take part?

    • V

      ValerieApr 11, 2020 at 1:34 pm


      Grace, I hope you are well. I think perhaps you missed a few aspects of this article.

      You missed when the Stewards tell you that they are a private, intimate association. That tells you two things. First, it tells you this is not your business. Not meaning to be impolite, this is quite literally so. It is like saying, this is my house, not your house. I get to decorate mine; you get to decorate yours. Second, they are telling us their reason by making reference to the two Supreme Court cases. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor answered your question when she noted that there are sodalities of great value to society whose purpose would be “undermined if they are not allowed to confine their membership to those of the same sex, race, religion, or ethnic background, or who share some other common bond.”

      You missed also when the Stewards tell you their purpose: to make better men. Perhaps you think that the culture of hooking up, quasi sexual assault, and sexual assault is good. I do not. I think we have grotesquely failed men and women by creating a campus culture that only punishes men when they fail to be gentlemen, rather than encouraging environments where they learn to be gentlemen. We think we do enough with banners of Latin mottos and appeals to Jesuit values. Here is a Latin word: pablum. Perhaps you think that something that calls itself the “Women’s Center” seems inclusive and welcoming. I wonder if it is time to question ourselves about our stale, old ideas, and how perhaps they have misled us.

      Perhaps you missed when the Stewards tell us that they fought for the University Day Canter. It was a woman professor that asked them to get involved. Few things have empowered women more at Georgetown than that, and yet it was birthed after a 10 year-long controversial effort. That battle ended soon after the Stewards got involved. Perhaps, instead of making demands based on our intolerance or lack of imagination, we should just say thank you for such help. The Stewards do not need us as members, they need us as friends.

      Of course, I was always very supportive of the Stewards in part because I would not be the woman I became were it not for the nurturing environment of my all-women’s, so-called “secret society” at the University of Texas. I first learned of the Stewards when one day, soon after learning that I had a debilitating decease, I returned to my office after a class to find a bottle wine and a note of appreciation from the Stewards. They had me at “Dear Professor.”

      And when they invited me to a black-tie dinner they asked me to join them in their toasts. In my long gown, I rose from my wheelchair and stood to everyone’s surprise. I toasted the Stewards as an example of Georgetown’s fineness. I did not feel one bit unwelcome or excluded when they all stood like gentlemen to applaud my effort and my words.

      Don’t be concerned Grace. Be concerned that we be losing such grace.


      • M

        MarkOct 18, 2020 at 11:14 pm

        Valerie, your reply to Grace was an inane attempt to avoid the very valid issue Grace raised. I was a member of a secret social all-male fraternity in college. Grace’s comment didn’t question the right of people of one sex to gather together in social groups for their own self-improvement. But when a group of men take it upon themselves to press for their agenda in the running of a university men and women outside that group attend and thus are stakeholders in, their activities cease to be merely a matter of their “private business” and absolutely become Grace’s business and the business of anyone who attends that university. It doesn’t matter if you can cherry pick good deeds here and there that the Stewards have done for women by assenting to get involved when asked by women, the point is that it is a group of all men who decide when it suits them whether or not to wield their considerable power to help women’s issues. That’s still problematic, even though you fail to understand why.

        Then you create this straw man for Grace, saying that she may “think that the culture of hooking up […] and sexual assault is good,” even though she never said anything remotely indicating that she felt that way, which is a really weak and dishonest rhetorical device. Beyond that, you advance the argument that men need cloistered all-male environments in order to learn to be gentlemen. This is like saying someone needs to move away from the coast and live in the middle of the desert in order to learn to be a better mariner. I cherish my memories and enduring relationships from my time in an all-male fraternity in college, but I dare say even though we treated women better than most fraternities do, I learned nothing of treating women as equals by being part of an organization that excluded them. Homosocial groups like fraternities, sororities, and sports teams actually serve to perpetuate sexist ideas and separation between sexes, as well as each sex seeing the other as only romantic/sexual partners. My education in seeing women as intellectual equals with whom I could have close platonic friendships happened on my high school debate team, where we competed side by side, not apart. The men of the Stewards would be better served in their development as gentlemen if they worked side by side with women Stewards, and so too would Georgetown be better served by an influential organization like the Stewards having both male and female perspectives within it.

      • S

        StudentNov 8, 2020 at 2:36 am


        You are well-spoken and bring up admirable points. I very much agree that there is significant value in these private associations, based on the merit of their actions rather than composition of race, gender, sex, or otherwise. I was quite impressed with your comment which led me to do a bit of digging. I found records of Georgetown’s Professor Valerie Earle, who previously attended the University of Texas, had a debilitating disease, and was confined a wheelchair, all things you reference having experienced in your comment. You were an outstanding woman of many firsts and led innovation on Georgetown’s campus.

        However, I was surprised to find that you (Professor Valerie Earle) passed away in 2004. Seeing that your comment was posted in 2020, I was simply curious as to who you really are? I mean no aggression towards you, I am just intrigued with the utmost curiosity.

        Troubled in Texas

  • C

    Col. John J. Jessup (U.S. Army Ret.)Mar 9, 2020 at 11:45 am

    Good article, it is this first comment that I find troubling. Perhaps it takes a few years from the campus to rid yourself of an overdeveloped sense of entitlement. If Georgetown is a success, and its students are the beneficiaries of that, it is because alumni, parents and others take the time to give endlessly of their time and energy. Joseph wants to vote on that. And he justifies that on the basis that alumni don’t live on campus. It is an agist and tempocentric opinion that disenfranchises those of us who do not see alma mater as a four-year flophouse or a mere provider of goods and services. It is also naive in the extreme. Joe picked a Catholic school, a Jesuit school, and a non-public school. Three-times over decisions are made for us all. And then there is the true unchecked decider, the corporate turf building administrator who has never met a center he cannot find some dupe Director to fund.

    But here is what troubles me the most. Joe’s is a dangerously politicizing perspective. In Adam Carter’s Viewpoint above, the Stewards welcome everyone to the table to serve the school in good faith. That accepts that there may be opposing views. But what Joe is suggesting is that philanthropy should be be the subject of debate and approval. But really he is telling us that he thinks that students are suspect of a role for those who do not agree with them. No surprise. I suspect that a majority of alumni, staff, teachers, and parents might agree with that idea of approval of some of the expensive and ideological ideas we read about in The Hoya, except perhaps for giving students a say. Oh wait, that latter part is already the case. Except that parents and alumni in most part are also excluded. It would appear, if one reads carefully, that Stewards are the most democratic on this question, since they include all the key estates. If they honor tradition, they give a voice even to the dead. The University’s course is decided by administrators and large donors. The Board of Directors is just for show, as are the others. The Jesuits, who once cared, have run their order into the ground and now are just a vestige. Thanks to Jack.

    If you find yourself worrying about one well-meaning fraternity….you are a fool. I was a member of three Georgetown fraternities. I enjoyed them all, all reached out to its alumni, but only one invited me to give something back in a meaningful way and was to me and my wife, as Adam Carter says, like a family.

  • J

    Joseph LaposataMar 6, 2020 at 2:45 pm

    Students aren’t suspicious of the Stewards because they think that they’re a student group. In my time as both an undergraduate and graduate student at Georgetown, the ire I’ve seen directed towards the Stewards is precisely because they’re a majority-alumni group. Unlike a student group, you have money, influence with the administration, and most of all you don’t have to live on campus with any of the changes you might cause. So while you absolutely have the right to your privacy, please understand that said privacy makes students suspect that you seek it because you expect backlash should you publicly proclaim your views.

    • R

      Richard Alan GordonMar 6, 2020 at 5:13 pm

      Dear Joseph,

      Thank you for your thoughtful note. I am a Steward. When I was an undergraduate I led the student body to call for desegregation. The Jesuit fathers were quite upset with me. Would that have been any less an effort if it was discovered that this was imagined in a conversation among Stewards. It wasn’t. It was imagined in a debate among Philodemicians, of which I was the president. The point, Joseph, is that like men who, as Aristotle taught, are to be judged by what they say and do, so too ideas must be judged not by who conceives or articulates them, but on their merits.

      When I was at Georgetown, they taught Logic and Rhetoric and Ethics as required courses. Now they teach Diversity. I believe your degree and your abilities are less valuable for it. Had you been with me in Logic we would have have agreed that we judge ideas by the application of principles and reason, and not by cynicism or prejudices over things that are not in evidence.

      I agree with your sentiment in part. None of us have control over Georgetown. Georgetown parents should fret each time the Board of Directors meet. Or when administrators foist yet another expensive staff position or center on us to satisfy some new victimology, and thereby raise the cost of an education to the middle class family. How accountable are they? Not at all. “Who will oversee the overseers, ” John Adams asked of Harvard’s new governing board.

      How accountable is the Hoya’s Editorial Board when they write a ridiculous editorial. You know who they are, but can you attend their meetings? No. You can, however, judge their editorials on the basis of their merits; like them or not.

      Do Stewards have “views.” Like the editorial board, we have as many views as we have members. But our views are not what matters. It is our service that matters. And its recipients can accept it or not, without any regard to the hand that gives it. Logically. With the application of reason, and not petulance or entitlement or cynicism or bigotry or appetite or ideology. Recipients can accept the service or not. And they do. most know who gives it, but most do not care. some ask us for it. They know the rock from whence it is hewn.

      It is not my personal views that matter but the service I give that is received with the same good faith with which it is given. It is a way of life, and you can appreciate it or not.