An interesting thing that’s been happening at the University of Pittsburgh these last few weeks is the unfolding revelation of the on-campus activities of the Druids, a secret society that’s been at Pitt some 90+ years.
Things kicked off with this pretty-excellent-for-a-college-newspaper expose in The Pitt News, revealing that a number of members of Student Government were Druids but had not disclosed that information. In a sidebar to the article, it was revealed that Nick Stamatakis, assistant opinion editor for the paper, was himself a Druid. The problems with this were that he had not disclosed this fact to the paper’s editor-in-chief, and had written the paper’s editorial endorsing their preferred candidate for student president—that candidate turning out, in fact, to be a Druid.
Stamatakis was spared for a few days but then was fired. The story has gotten picked up a few different places.
I work at Pitt, and it’s been fascinating to see Pitt News covers like this one on my way to work in the morning:
It’s also been enlightening to read about what the Druids do—not a whole lot, and absolutely nothing sinister*, so far as I can tell—and to contrast it with the stuff I used to read, circa 2000-2004, about George W. Bush and his involvement with Skull and Bones at Yale. Maybe it’s a certain nostalgia in former Skull and Bones members recounting their clandestine deeds, maybe people took these things a little more seriously in those days, maybe Ivy Leaguers just did the skullduggery thing with a little more panache. I’ve got a hunch, though, that it’s partly my being older than the secret society members in question, and tending to view them as being not that mysterious, and usually feeling I can understand their motivations, which is how I usually feel toward college students in general. (Let me be more precise, because I don’t mean that I know what today’s college student is thinking; I certainly don’t. I mean that I can remember what it was like to be between phases of life, to have an excess of freedom and not know what to do with it, to be overconfident, jaunty, and whimsical and to have all that predicated on not knowing what the hell was coming down the pike. Which is to say I look at these photos of the Druids in their cloaks and imagine the nerds inside the hoods, adrenaline pumping at how amazing they are being, when in fact, the Druids are really just a secret networking clique that taps high achievers.)
*Okay, this is pretty weird, I’ll grant you: