The opinions shared in this article do not reflect the overall position of The Herald, but rather offer insight from the author.
This piece is not intended as a critique of anyone who is in an honors society. It is solely a critique of the Hobart honors society selection process.
Druid, Chimera, and Orange Key. The three Hobart honors societies, each representing the values of character, loyalty, and leadership. They have been the pinnacle of overall success at Hobart College for more than 100 years, but they are deeply flawed. Instead of representing their values, the honors societies have become popularity contests where who you know matters more than what you have accomplished. While everyone in an honors society deserves to be there, the nature of the selection process means that students who are extremely talented but do not know current members are inherently disadvantaged.
To be selected for a Hobart honors society, you must first be nominated to apply. Then your application is voted on by current members of the society for which you are applying, and it must be a unanimous decision. The flaws in the selection process come with this second part and is what, in my opinion, needs to change. As someone who has taken part in the selection process, I have seen what happens. People choose to push their friends through or refuse to vote in favor of people they do not like. It makes sense that this happens, and if the honors societies were not as important on campus as they are, it would not be as big a problem. But objectivity is necessary when members of the societies are given privileges denied to other students.
There are so many obvious solutions to this process, and I cannot be the first person to raise this issue. So why steps have not been taken to remedy the problem baffles me. Something as simple as removing names from the applications being voted on would remedy most cases where bias occurs. Another would be to simply remove the entire voting process and leave the selection process to the deans. For a college that prides itself on tradition, it seems wrong for some of the most prestigious groups at the school to be decided by the whims of the least invested. Students are only here for a few years, but the awards endowed on them will stay on their resumés and in their memory for decades if not lifetimes. We need to do better in ensuring that the ones receiving these awards are the most deserving, not the most popular.
If the Hobart honors societies want to keep the prestige and respect of the community, there needs to be a change. Honors societies should exist to celebrate students and not be treated like fraternity parties where who you know determines whether or not you get in. As an institution that is preparing students to “lead a life of consequence,” Hobart College needs to start rewarding those students who are already leading that life on campus.