There’s a new book — with a whopping 800 pages — devoted to one of the things Yale is most noted for, besides being the mecca of the Ivy League Look. And that is the secret society, which flourished during the simultaneous heydays of the Ivy and the Cold War. Many a buttondowned Eli went from Skull & Bones to the Central Intelligence Agency.
But today such organizations are apparently about as popular as tweed sack jackets. The Washington Post, in a review of David Allen Richards’ “Skull And Keys: The Hidden History of Yale’s Secret Societies,” writes:
Richards’s microscopic view of his subject obscures the larger fact that Yale’s secret societies have long been in decline. They no longer have the cultural cachet they enjoyed in the days of John O’Hara and Dink Stover. Undergraduates walk past the brownstone tomb on High Street with no more interest than they walk past Yorkside Pizza. Membership is still sought after by the ambitious for networking purposes, but the secret societies have lost their glamor.
Harvard recently announced that it was considering barring students from joining fraternities, sororities and exclusive single-gender groups known as “final clubs.” Members of such clubs are already subject to penalties, including ineligibility for certain grants and fellowships. In July, the Committee on Unrecognized Single-Gender Social Organizations officially recommended a total ban.
Yale partisans may be tempted to take delight in the fact that their school has not taken such a humorless stand against a venerable form of undergraduate socializing. But the sad truth may be that, after a long slide into irrelevance, Yale secret societies are not important enough to be worth banning.
Head over here for the story. And stay tuned for a report tomorrow on Yale’s most famous clothier, J. Press. — CC