I was recently invited to join Order of Angell. This came as a shock, because the organization traditionally includes athletic leaders and those in charge of large organizations like Dance Marathon, The Michigan Daily and the Michigan Student Assembly. I have not felt that my influence or skills as a student leader surpass those of others. However, this offer was extended nonetheless. Faced with this decision, I have chosen not to be a part of Order of Angell.
Order of Angell, formerly known as Michigamua, has a history of exclusivity, racist rituals and sexist policies, among other things. Recently, structural changes – including disclosure of its members after they are initiated and a name change – have addressed some elements of the group’s contentious past. Further, out of a class of 23, there are currently women, some members of color, some members of the LGBT community and others who bring perspectives from other underrepresented populations.
Supported by an influential alumni base, these students “make positive change” through undisclosed activities and “without the need for recognition,” as the Order’s constitution explains.
Why then would I refuse the potential influence I could have on other leaders, the administration and University policy, especially now that the organization has a less homogeneous membership?
I fundamentally disagree with the idea of secretly selecting students who will decide the agenda for the campus. An unknown process decides the new members without input from the student body. Yet, initiation to the Order guarantees access to a plethora of resources, University officials and an alumni network that can help members accomplish goals they think are important. This elevation of private goals above other common ones is contrary to the University spirit in which we are all the “Leaders and Best.”
Through this selection and operation process, the Order becomes a dominating elitist voice influencing the direction of campus initiatives. One of the troubling results of this is how these intentions can never be part of the campus dialogue before they are enacted. The structure of this organization mirrors larger structures in our society that keep power from being equally distributed.
Empowering communities who face inequality is only possible when elite organizations – like our own Order of Angell – are understood to be part of this problem.
We should not have to join organizations
like the Order to be able to shape the direction of the University. I envision a University where evenly distributed power ensures more democratic processes for every student’s opinions. Acceptance of in the Order would legitimize an organization that creates a campus agenda through secret and non-democratic processes without the consent or input of students. If the Order truly wishes to act in the “best interest of Michigan” it should include all of us, not just a few of the students who make up our University.
This brings us to the Daily’s Editor in Chief Andrew Grossman’s possible decision to join Order of Angell, as Public Editor Paul Johnson explained in his column Tuesday (To join or not to join?, 03/18/2008). Of all the organizations that have a responsibility to resist elitism, be impartial and accurately convey information to the student body, the Daily has the most serious burden. Anyone from the Daily joining Order of Angell undermines the efficacy of the paper. It is in the best interest of the University for the Daily’s staff to at least pursue a vote regarding his continued involvement.
I aspire to share power through community involvement rather than consolidate it through exclusion. While Order of Angell does claim to want to create “campus synergy” by including approximately 25 organization representatives, we must question institutions that fail to make space for everyone affected by their activities, especially when those activities are secret. Rather, let us defy the status quo in which very few have power in the world and misuse of that power is rampant. As students, we could be forming alternative systems, not just giving tradition a facelift.
Aria Everts is an LSA junior and the president of Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality.