Against the wishes of the descendants of former University President James B. Angell, members of campus’s most controversial honor society announced yesterday that it has renamed itself The Order of Angell.
Late last month, two of the society’s alumni visited the home of Angell’s great grandson, James K. Angell, in Bethesda, Md., to ask his permission to use the family’s name.
They asked Angell to sign a document granting the group permission to use the name “now and forever.” Angell did not sign the document.
“Everybody seemed to be against it in the family,” Angell said. “Nobody was very happy with the idea.”
In honor of James B. Angell, the group’s founder, the society adopted the name anyway.
The society hasn’t heard any objections from the family, Order of Angell spokesman Andrew Yakhind said.
“The Angell family has been notified and we’ve been in communication with them,” said Order of Angell President Sirene Abou-Chakra at a press conference in the Michigan Union yesterday. “They know of our intent to use their name, and we’re moving forward.”
After hearing that the society would use his great-grandfather’s name, Angell expressed disappointment that the Order would go against the family’s request.
“To come (ask for permission) and not go along with our wishes is sort of surprising,” he said.
Abou-Chakra said the group wasn’t asking for permission.
“(The alumni who went to Angell’s house) just wanted to make sure that the family knew,” she said.
However, the document the society asked James K. Angell to sign seems to contradict this claim.
At the press conference yesterday, the Order also announced three other reforms, including plans to seek designation as an official University student group.
It also released the names of two Honorary Angells – Jim Toy of the University’s Office of Institutional Equity and Michigan Difference Capital Chair Richard Rogel – and mandated the public release of the all the names of each new class. Previously, each class had the option of keeping the names private.
The group announced that it had stopped calling itself Michigamua last April. The society had been repeatedly attacked for appropriating Native American artifacts in its rituals – a practice it has since ended. It didn’t admit women until 2000, the same year its offices in the Michigan Union were occupied for 37 days by the Students of Color Coalition. The society later cut ties with the University and vacated its space in the Union.
Any stigmas on campus that may have existed concerning Michigamua are long gone, Abou-Chakra said.
The society has been decried for its secrecy for years. The society still will not provide details of what goes on at meetings, citing a tradition of “humble service” to the University.
Abou-Chakra says that although the group engages in community service and hosted vigils for the passing of Gerald Ford and Bo Schembechler, its main function is to bring together student leaders from across campus.
“The value of this group is to promote understanding between student groups and to see what we can do for the community in intangible and tangible ways,” Abou-Chakra said.
Yahkind and Abou-Chakra emphasized that the Order of Angell will act in accordance with all University policies.
“We’re putting ourselves out there,” Abou-Chakra said. “This is who we are, this is what we intend to do, and I don’t think we’re leaving any questions unanswered.”