Daniel Nesbitt ’22
In last week’s edition of the Tripod, editor-in-chief Gillian Reinhard ’20 detailed her brief dive into the realm of Elm and Key, one of Trinity’s very own secret societies. Her detailed account traced an initiation process that seemed relatively mundane, though peculiar, including letters with biblical quotations and anachronistic language. Despite this relatively benign front, something more disconcerting could very well lie beneath.
Elm and Key lacks something integral to all secret societies: secrecy. It is a well-known tradition that all graduating members of the organization wear large key necklaces at graduation each year, rendering useless any prior attempts to conceal members’ identities.
Having garnered a reputation for recruiting student leaders, Elm and Key seems to be attempting to unite student leaders to accomplish its mission, however nefarious that may be. After being kicked out of the Greenberg Center, Gillian writes that, “members berated me for undermining the important work the group does to make Trinity a better place.”
That these students believe they have to dress up and meet in secret to accomplish their goals is extremely disconcerting for a whole host of reasons. For starters, the anonymity raises concerns about the goals of the students of Elm and Key. If community leaders cannot publicly advocate for their goals and instead sequester into the shadows, then the value of these goals is called into question. If their work is truly good and in the best interest of Trinity, why can it not be done in the public sphere?
As Elm and Key is now known to consist of Trinity community leaders, it is very likely that members of the Student Government Association (SGA) are involved in the organization. If our duly elected SGA representatives seek to enact change through secret means rather than through the democratic means for which they were specifically chosen, then they can claim no proper respect for the office and should immediately resign or be recalled. There is still another troubling aspect to SGA members’ role in Elm and Key. The secret society actively sought to recruit the editor-in-chief of the Tripod, the free and independent student press. This Putin-esque, authoritarian tactic of controlling the press and meaningful channels of dissent reeks of malfeasance, and those involved should be publicly remanded for their actions.
Following the controversy of the Churchill Club last spring, the SGA has actively sought to reform their policies regarding registered student organizations at Trinity. Among other things, one key issue was about the use of SGA funds. As there are almost certainly members of SGA within Elm and Key, are they also attempting to use student funds from SGA’s discretionary fund to fund their activities? Doing so would show a complete disregard for SGA’s policy’s, though that hasn’t stopped them before. In addition, there could be no way for students to ensure that Elm and Key is not using student funds without permission as the very people who control student funds could also be in the organization itself.
There are myriad dangers posed by the Elm and Key society to our free student body and the integrity of the SGA. As such, I implore all student leaders and SGA members to denounce the Elm and Key Society.