Four of the eight candidates running for Georgetown University Student Association executive office have confirmed membership in secret societies, compared to two out of the 10 candidates involved in the groups last year.
Presidential candidate Ben Weiss (COL ’15) and his running mate Sam Greco (SFS ’15) are both members of the Second Society of Stewards, while vice presidential hopefuls Dan Silk- man (COL ’15) and Jimmy Ramirez (COL ’15) are members of the unre- lated Third Society of Stewards.
A fifth candidate, presidential hopeful Trevor Tezel (SFS ’15), was rumored to have been in the process of induction into the Second Society; however, correspondence with Steward leadership provided by Tezel indicates he declined an offer of membership Jan. 29.
Tezel and Omika Jikaria (SFS ’15) are the only ticket without at least one member of either secret society. Last year, three of the five teams claimed to be unaffiliated.
Tezel’s campaign sent a press release to student media early Wednes- day, outlining the trajectory of his conversations with the secret society. Tezel was interviewed by a panel of Stewards during the last GUSA executive election in February 2013, but the society declined to pursue him further at the time. He was approached again in October, at which time he submitted a letter to an unidentified Second Society leader delineating his ultimate decision to decline the organization’s offer of membership.
“My personal decision to decline consideration for the society stems not from its mission nor its potential effect on my candidacy for any office I may consider seeking next semester,” Tezel wrote in the letter, a redacted copy of which he sent to The Hoya. Tezel cited two concerns: the Stewards’ demands for secrecy, as well as the overall effect of their presence at Georgetown.
He has since been approached twice, according to the statement.
“According to Tezel, the existence of secret societies on campus can and has dissuaded non-members from involvement in campus life due to the dominance of leadership positions by members of secret societies, predominantly heterosexual, white, Christian men,” the statement, issued by Tezel and Omika Jikaria’s communication director, Emily Perkins (COL ’14), reads. “This imbalance in resources constitutes socio-structural prejudice and is an institutional barrier to equal opportunity and equal representation on a campus that purports to support social justice.”
The Second Society has held a place at Georgetown since its founding in 1982, when it split from the original Stewards society. While it initially operated almost exclusively in secret, in 1988 professor Fr. Joseph T. Durkin, S.J., exposed the organization in two letters to The hoya, after which leadership announced that the society would soon be dissolved.
However, the organization continued operating in secrecy until 2001, when Adam A. Carter (COL ’87, LAW ’91) published an article in the now defunct Georgetown Academy magazine, explaining the organization’s characteristics and objectives.
“The Second Stewards Society is a college fraternity of mostly alumni and students of Georgetown University,” he wrote. “Our right to serve Georgetown as we think best is no different than any other congregation of students, alumni, faculty, administrators or Jesuits.”
During last year’s GUSA executive election, the Stewards’ presence at Georgetown came to the forefront of public discussion when an anonymous Facebook account, “Steward Throat Hoya,” posted a correspondence that identified presidential candidate Jack Appelbaum (COL ’14) as a member of the Second Society. This year, a Twitter account with the handle @StewardsandGUSA and the display name “Edward Stewarden” attempted to bring the Stewards issue to the fore by tweeting a link to his blog at various Georgetown organizations and students, beginning Jan. 30, more than two weeks in advance of the election kickoff. The blog only featured one post,
which described the author’s distaste for the amount of power a secret organization could wield. The Twitter account, which had been inactive since Feb. 4, has since been suspended.
The Third Society of Stewards is the direct successor to the original Stewards, who renamed themselves thusly after the Second Society left, and remains more secretive than their erstwhile
“When you’re the president of GU Pride, you aren’t approached by too many secret societies.”
THOMAS LLOYD (SFS ’15) GUSA Presidential Candidate peers. During last year’s election, Adam Ramadan (SFS ’14) admitted to being a member of a private organization that was not the Second Society, but did not confirm his status in the Thirds.
Presidential candidate Zach Singer (SFS ’15), Silkman’s running mate, said that he has never been approached by a society, as did presidential candidate Thomas Lloyd (SFS ’15), Ramirez’s partner.
“When you’re the president of GU Pride, you aren’t approached by too many secret societies, certainly none on the more conservative end,” Lloyd said.
This year’s candidates who are confirmed members of either society maintain that their membership in no way affects their platforms.
“It has definitely been a fulfilling experience on campus for me, and I have learned a lot and grown a lot through this group,” Silkman said of his mem- bership in the Thirds. “But in no way, shape, or form does it have anything to do with my running for GUSA.”
Silkman emphasized that he will continue to be open about his involvement. “I plan to be very honest, so if I am ever asked, I will be honest in saying my affiliation,” he said. “But I don’t think it will have any impact.”
Weiss similarly noted that he did not expect his association with the Second Society to have any impact on his campaign.
“The society has absolutely nothing to do with GUSA elections,” Weiss said. “I think everybody involved last year saw how it turned the focus away from the issues and what campaigns should be about towards a second and entirely unrelated question of private organizations.”
Weiss reiterated the society does not factor into GUSA elections.
“I am absolutely not ashamed in any way to be a member of my society, but it has nothing to do with GUSA at all,” Weiss said.
Similarly, in an emailed statement to The hoya, Ramirez noted that his mem- bership in the Thirds has had no impact on his motivations as a student leader.
“My membership in this group has not interfered in my on-campus involvements in the past,” Ramirez wrote. “And I can assure that it will not interfere with my future on-campus involvements as well, including my role as GUSA vice president if I was to win.”