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.