I knew I was out of the running for becoming a member of The Order of the Hippo when April of last year rolled around. My junior year was nearing completion and I figured I wouldn’t get to wear or hide the shiny golden hippo-shaped pin. I held out a little hope that maybe I’d be tagged as a senior and that The Order would find me valuable enough to incorporate into their mysterious clan. My hope stemmed from the fact that an organization that doesn’t exist couldn’t possibly have rules for members that may or may not be a part of this non-existent organization.
My dream was busted when I saw the invitation The Hatchet published earlier in the week and realized I wasn’t partaking in the April gala. I thought I was qualified, as the only apparent theme tying the publicized members seems to be a role as a student leader. At the risk of overestimating my own importance and emulating Ralph Nader, I feel that I fit the description of an involved leader on campus.
I can’t answer why I’m not allowed in this exclusive club with any amount of journalistic integrity. Plus, I don’t think I want to answer that question by making up reasons either (See: I don’t want to list the possible flaws in my personality).
I can’t answer why I’d want to be in the organization either, because after burying my initial interest in joining the organization, I turned to address the larger question of the purpose of this organization and found no real answer. Theories have ranged from feeding former University president Stephen Joel Trachtenberg and the collective University’s ego by creating an Ivy League-like secret society here at GW. Others speculate that the organization creatively garners philanthropic support, which may explain the organization’s existence, but not its secrecy.
One thing seems fairly obvious, though. This group of people possesses some amount of prestige as well as a tangible connection to Trachtenberg and, therefore, the inside of this University.
Now, uncovering who is involved or what the ritual dinners consist of may be newsworthy for our community. However, as long as the group is committing no harm, and, in fact, could possibly be benefiting the University, why should we try to claw at its walls? Just as I’ve resigned-myself to the fact that I won’t be included in the organization, I’ve also come to the conclusion that with the backing of Trachtenberg, the Order isn’t going to be disappearing anytime soon. Thus, we should look to use the information we have about the group for the betterment of GW. They are, after all, an organization that exists philanthropically (Yes, we don’t know why it exists, but because it apparently doesn’t, according to Trachtenberg, I can speculate the reason, see above).
The Order of the Hippo could be an outlet for student frustration. If the Order wants to make positive change for GW, they could start with vital student concerns. I’m not telling anyone to go heckle alleged members. I’m telling those “members” to remember that they are students first and Hippomen second, despite whatever rituals they went through. As Hippomen, they can serve the students in unique and new ways. They were student leaders before entering the organization and after induction they just enhanced that role.
The more we push back against the Order, the bigger the us/them divide grows. If they want to seem important, the mission has already been accomplished. If they want to be important, we should start looking at them as a campus organization designed to help the University and its community members, and they should start showing us that they’re making positive change.
Of course, I could be completely off the mark here on what The Order of the Hippo has set out to do. After all, the most famous current secret society graduate doesn’t have the best track record helping people (see: FEMA).
The writer, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.