by Kathryn Willgus
Sewanee: a place where around 70% of the student body takes part in the social and familial, yet secret and exclusive practices of Greek life. Combine that with the number of drinking societies there are on campus and that percentage would jump even higher. From one hundred men in capes to a group of ten close friends, drinking societies are exclusive, yet prevalent, and almost everyone has their own circle.
There are many different types of drinking societies on campus. There are Highlanders and Wellingtons, who wear their kilts and capes respectively as openly as they wear their fraternity’s letters. Then there are societies whose sole secret is that they cannot talk about their initiation. There are societies that remain completely anonymous to protect the confidentiality of its members. Other societies remain fairly unknown because they prefer to stay small.
The question of whether or not these societies are detrimental to students or the community is deabatable. On one hand, these societies are fun and entertaining and provide an alternative to drinking in fraternities. These groups bring together students from every corner of campus and foster relationships that would not necessarily occur naturally. Some groups are tailored exactly to individual’s tastes and preferences, which make students feel more comfortable in a group.
Some drinking societies, however, can be detrimental. The exclusivity of some of these groups rivals that of Greek organizations, where students nervously await their bids and celebrate like it’s Shake Day once they are admitted. Some organizations make their new members drink excessive amount, to the point of vomiting, just like some Greek organizations. Some societies are harmful to the community because they parade their gatherings without regard for the community’s engagement. Men run around campus, beers held high, shouting at maximum strength, and letting their kilts blow in the breeze, revealing everything that’s uncovered underneath.
These drinking societies have their pros and cons, but one of the most important aspects of this culture is that many students believe it is a fundamental part of the Sewanee social experience. Many students believe that being exposed to excessive drinking and obnoxious, sometimes naked men is a worthy price to way in order to bridge gaps among organizations, meet new people, and create lasting, sustainable friendships.