Students, alumni and administrators donned gowns, tuxedos and gold hippo pins Friday night in celebration of a pseudo-secret society’s 12th annual induction dinner, which was held at the Law School.
Most of the 20 attendees who entered the Law School denied the Order of the Hippo’s existence but failed to provide an explanation for their presence at the induction ceremony for new members.
“I’m going to an event,” said Order founder and former University president Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, who was wearing a tuxedo. “It is some kind of alumni event.”
Other University administrators who entered the Law School in formal attire included Peter Konwerski, assistant vice president of Student and Academic Support Services, and Barbara Porter, University President Steven Knapp’s chief of staff. Knapp was not seen entering the Law School Friday night.
“Am I my brother’s keeper?” Trachtenberg said when asked about Knapp’s whereabouts.
Many of the students seen going into the Law School were 2007 graduates, including former Student Association Executive Vice President Josh Lasky, Justin Neidig and Jeff Goodman – all of whom have been previously linked to the Order.
“I will swear on my mother’s grave that I don’t know what is going on,” Neidig said.
“Some 180 venerables” were invited to this year’s dinner, according to an e-mail sent by the Order’s Sergeant-At-Arms Chris Brooks to members of the society and given to The Hatchet.
Members of the Order should “only let a dozen or so members of the junior class become aware that they will be members of it in their senior year,” Trachtenberg said in a speech at the society’s first initiation, according to a transcript.
Little else is known about the initiation ceremony and the society’s rules for membership.
In a 2007 interview, Neidig refused to discuss many of the details of the organization’s membership.
“Membership is secret,” he said. “(However), no individual is entitled to membership based upon arbitrary titles or campus involvement.”
He added that initiation is “done in accordance (with) University guidelines.”
In 2005, Student Judicial Services charged 12 Order members for violating the Student Code of Conduct and participating in hazing and underage drinking after Order members were seen on campus with blindfolds over their eyes and mud or face paint on their bodies.
The Code of Conduct 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.”
Attendees gathered outside the Law School said they did not know who would be admitted to the society this year.
In February, The Hatchet owas given an invitation for Friday’s ceremony that listed Brooks, the chairman of the College Republicans, as the contact-person for the event.
Brooks, who was not seen entering the Law School, would not disclose his association with the Order in a February interview with The Hatchet.
“If I was involved, I wouldn’t mention any involvement,” Brooks said. “I find it interesting that an anonymous source tipped (The Hatchet) off to something that may or may not be true.”