Letters to the Editor: Disorder of the Hippo

Disorder of the Hippo

Remain consistent

I was appalled to read about the Order of the Hippo in Monday’s Hatchet (“Hippo Hype,” May 2, p.1). As a leader in the Greek Community, I am well aware of the University Hazing Policy that applies to “all student groups and organizations of The George Washington University.” If the Order of the Hippo e-mail address, as seen on the invitation, is hippo@gwu.edu, it is clearly a group affiliated with the University. The University defines hazing as “Any action taken or situation created intentionally, with or without consent, whether on or off campus, to produce mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment, or ridicule.” The Hatchet reported “Several students at Friday’s gathering were seen on campus Thursday night being led around University Yard in blindfolds. The participants, some of whom had their faces painted, were also spotted making speeches in front of the hippo statue.” To me, this seems like a clear violation on the University’s hazing policy. As outlined in section two of the Hazing policy, “It is the responsibility of every member of the University community who has knowledge of a hazing incident to report it immediately to the Office of Student Judicial Services.” Thus I have reported this incident to Student Judicial Services and would like to know what action will be taken.

This group claims to be philanthropic in nature. Buying art, however, for a GW building is not philanthropic. Philanthropy is helping people in need, not decorating an academic building so that it is more appealing to prospective students. All Greek organizations on campus, even the unrecognized fraternities, have causes much more worthy than the E Street building.

SJS needs to be consistent with its policies. It cannot only be a hazing watchdog to Greek groups while there is hazing happening on outdoor University property by the Order of the Hippo. SJS needs to be impartial and investigate the Order of the Hippo regardless if they themselves, or their superiors, are members.

Had this been my sorority that was seen blindfolding members, painting members faces, or forcing members to make speeches – we would promptly be disciplined. I’m sure this discipline would involve our national organization and would result in the loss of our charter and townhouse, as well as personal judicial action against certain involved members. The 108th Congress passed HR 1207 that “withholds federal student financial assistance from students who have engaged in hazing.” Thus, my actions in hazing would result in my loss of Federal financial aid.

I look forward to seeing SJS take action on these alleged hazing incidents. In order to insure the safety and well being of all students here, the University needs to be consistent with its policies. The Order of the Hippo, and its hazing, needs to be viewed through the same lens as a hazing incident involving a Greek organization.

-Jillian Cooney, president, Alpha Phi sorority

Needless exclusion

Cheers to Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, Jill Kasle, Omar Woodard and whoever else may or may not be a member of a secret society on campus. I’m sure they’re “dedicated to the well being of GW and the people that live, work, eat and sleep here.” But c’mon folks, the “Order of the Hippo”?

SJT’s ramblings about those “majestic water creatures” are entertaining at C.I., but used as another ploy to somehow elevate GW to the old boys’ club of elite East Coast universities is just plain silly. Why, if they truly have benevolent interests at heart, do they conduct their business under the shadow of secrecy? Shouldn’t all members of the University community who wish to enhance our neighborhood be invited to join? If this truly is a secret society in the best Skull and Bones tradition, it is outrageous that it is University-sponsored. What is it about the $46,500 that the student-members of this organization pay GW that buys them the opportunity to meet with University officials, network with alumni and “share discourse on a wide variety of topics” that my tuition doesn’t entitle?

I’m sure it’s pretty nice having a cushy office in Rice Hall or being able to charge opulent dinners to the SA tab, but lets have a little respect for the “other half” and don’t fund your excuses to play dress-up on my back.

-Brian Gallo, freshman

Get over it

While I am not a member of GW’s “secret society,” the Order of the Hippo, I read with interest Brandon Butler’s article in the Hatchet on May 2 (“Hippo Hype,” p. 1). Unfortunately, the product appeared to be nothing more than an open opportunity for non-Order of the Hippo members to whine and complain about the existence of the Order. While the Order of the Hippo may be GW’s only secret society, its presence on campus and administrative support of an honorary group is not unique. The University provides funding and support to a variety of student organizations whose sole purposes are to recognize elite groups of students. Take, for example, the National Residence Hall Honorary, a student organization that accepts only the top 1 percent of leaders, both student and staff, active in campus residence halls. Additionally, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars chooses the academic elite to be included amongst its members. There are many student organizations at GW and college campuses across the country, not to mention in our public and private high schools (think National Honor Society), where membership is a selective process afforded only to elite groups of students more deserving of inclusion into those groups.

As a matter of fact, if one were to check GW’s Student Activities Center list of student organizations that fall under the category of honorary, they would find no less than 11 such registered groups. Is Mr. Traverse suggesting the University withdraw its funding and support from all of these groups and forbid its staff and faculty from membership so everyone can feel equal and included? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Mr. Traverse, but this is not second grade, and we can’t expect the teacher to make sure everyone in the class gets invited to the cool kid’s party. Get over it.

-Caitlin Mulligan, senior

Continue the coverage

It was with much interest that I recently read in The Hatchet about the GW cycling team’s outstanding success (“Cycling has sweet start,” April 21, p.16). According to an article that appeared about two weeks ago, the team could qualify for a place at the national trials. However, there has been no follow-up to that article. The cycling team has, in fact, already qualified by placing third in their division. That information should be worth the attention of all GW students interested in sports and of the university community at large. It is really a tremendous feat for this first-year university sports club and deserves better coverage in The Hatchet.

-Will Pore, doctoral candidate

Just plain trashy

I am writing on the conditions which I find perpetually present in our new dining area at Ivory Towers – it’s a mess. We leave wrappers, napkins both used and unused, half-read newspapers, crumbs, and partially eaten pieces of food on the chairs, tables, and floor – pretty much everywhere but the garbage can.

It is not simply a matter of respect to University property. Rather, it is an issue of our most basic humanity; it is an issue of self respect and respect for each other as peers and as fellow citizens of the GWU community.

We should, for our mutual enjoyment, ensure that our new dining facilities stay as nice as possible for as long as possible and not look entirely messy. Instead of leaving your trash about, make an effort to see that it makes it into a garbage can. The building management can help us in this effort and reduce their workload by placing garbage cans near the stairs as to enable students to drop their garbage in the proper receptacles on their way out instead leaving them painfully out of the way on sides of the room.

Although most of us are here for a short four years, we are part of a community that was handed down to us with care. We should make the appropriate efforts to ensure we hand it down with the same care. We should contribute to it so that we might leave it better than when we found it.

-Jason Steblay, freshman

Nuke the filibuster

In response to David Rosenbaum’s article (“Save the Filibuster,” May 2, p. 4), it’s simply a non sequitur to say that the filibuster is rational or indispensable to American democracy. Whenever one attempts to point out the seemingly common sense notion that a majority should pass a judicial nominee, the Democrats try to steer the discussion toward the filibuster’s history. It’s a mistake to enter such a boring and impertinent topic, but if the Democrats really want to talk about history, then let’s.

Former Klansman Senator Byrd liked to compare the “nuclear option” to Hitler’s coup in 1932. The Senator, of course, has a long, unpleasant history with the filibuster that I’m sure he wishes would go away. In the early 1960s, Southern Democrats managed to filibuster the Civil Rights Act for years. Foremost among those freedom-fighters was Senator Byrd. Byrd spent fourteen hours and thirteen minutes stalling the act. It wasn’t until the terminally ill Clair Engle courageously cast his vote that the filibuster ended and history was made. That really sheds a new light on the term “minority rights,” doesn’t it?

More importantly, if three-fifths ought to be required to pass judicial nominees, then why isn’t it written in the Constitution? Treaties require two-thirds. In fact, Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Paper 76 that the power to appoint nominees “ought either to be vested in a single man, or in a select assembly of a moderate number; or in a single man, with the concurrence of such an assembly. The exercise of it by the people at large will be readily admitted to be impracticable; as waiving every other consideration, it would leave them little time to do anything else.” Bear in mind that the Founders had no qualms with using their majority power to warp the judiciary. When the Democratic-Republicans came into power in 1801, they immediately began impeaching Adams’ court nominees. Amazingly enough, America didn’t turn into Nazi Germany afterwards.

Minority rights aren’t an integral part of American democracy, but the Democrats seem to believe otherwise. The principle behind the filibuster is that the loser shouldn’t lose. How far does this extend? In 17th and 18th century Poland, the Liberum Veto required unanimous consent of all members. This essentially spun the nation into anarchy and dissolution. Why don’t we do that?

That the Republicans might want this when they’re in the minority is irrelevant.

A republic cannot endlessly pander to the fragile sensibilities of a rabid minority, be it a Republican or Democratic. If the Democrats don’t like Bush’s nominees, then they should use democratic means to stop them. In the meantime, nuke the filibuster.

-Greg Fick, freshman

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