Several Michigamua members have gone public this semester in hopes of improving the secret society’s tarnished reputation among student groups. Although the organization points to the diversity of its membership as an indicator that it is no longer the racist institution it one was, the group’s unwillingness to fully address its legacy and its persistent lack of transparency have rendered it largely ineffective. A new lawsuit brought forth by former student Christopher Bell is the latest addition to the long list of charges against the organization. Bell claims that in the mid-1990s, Michigamua violated a 1989 agreement in which it renounced all references to Native American culture. Regardless of the merits of the lawsuit, Bell’s case highlights the difficulties Michigamua faces and will continue to face so long as what goes on in the organization remains unknown.
Michigamua’s secretive practices have long left it unaccountable to the student body and the University. Bell’s lawsuit may finally shine real light on the organization by forcing it to explain its actions openly in court. While Michigamua members have called to let bygones let bygones, the group’s poor relations with many student groups has led some of its members to be expelled from progressive campus groups.
The lawsuit is a perfect example of why Michigamua must abandon its secrecy. So long as its practices remain hidden, even a sincere attempt to reform will ultimately be thwarted by a lack of trust in the community. It will take full transparency – and a name change – to even start building legitimacy. It is not only in the interest of students, but also of Michigamua itself, that the group finally show itself to the University community.