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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Senior societies offer taps to potential new members

Recognized senior societies also contacted off-campus students to indicate their intention to tap them in the spring, marking a departure from previous years.


On Feb. 14 at 6 p.m., recognized senior societies started recruiting — or “tapping” — potential new members, assistant director of the Office of Greek Life Josh Gamse wrote in an email statement. Potential members had until Feb. 19 to respond to their taps and choose which senior society they wanted to belong to, he added. Gamse declined to disclose the number of students who were tapped in this process.

According to the Office of Greek Life’s website, the College has 14 recognized senior societies — Abaris, Andromeda, Atlas, Casque & Gauntlet, Chimera, Cobra, Dragon, Fire and Skoal, Griffin, Olympus, Phoenix, Pyxis, Sphinx and The Order of the Sirens. Gamse said that the 14 senior societies that are recognized by the College fall under the supervision of the Office of Greek Life and must adhere to certain bylaws.

Before tapping begins each year, the recognized societies must send a list of potential tappees to the Office of Greek Life, according to the president of a recognized senior society who requested anonymity. In contrast, unrecognized senior societies — those that have formed on their own and are not bound by the rules of the Office of Greek Life — have their own tapping processes and are not required to submit a list of potential tappees, he said.

The president added that once each recognized society has submitted their list, the Office of Greek Life indicates which individuals are “single taps,” meaning they are only being tapped by one recognized senior society, and which are multi-taps — those who are being recruited by multiple senior societies. 

After submitting the list, the senior societies will narrow down their submitted list to determine which students will be officially tapped, according to the president, who then discussed the tapping procedures within his society. 

“Typically, how it works when you’re narrowing it down is each general member will get one tap, so it’s like you’re picking a replacement for yourself,” he said. “The president and some of the other executive members can have multiple taps.”

According to the tap chair of a different recognized secret society, knowing which potential members are multi-taps helps to narrow down the list of potential tappees, as it provides a “good sense of what other places are looking at the people on your list and how likely you are to get them.” 

“Most societies aim for 20 to 30 [new members],” he said. “You want to try to figure out how to hit that number based on how many people on your list might go to other places.” 

In order to maintain the secrecy of senior societies during the tapping process, the tap chair said that societies aim to make their communication “cryptic.” For instance, recognized societies are officially only allowed to reveal the names of up to three current members before a person chooses whether to accept their tap, though he noted that many societies do not always follow the three-member rule. He added that societies can choose how much they want to reveal — or not reveal — about their organization throughout the tapping process.

“Some in their first email will say ‘this is from ‘x’ society’ and some won’t tell you until [the end of the tapping period],” the tap chair said. 

According to the president, this year’s tapping process was different due to changes in College guidelines about who could be tapped. In the past, there had been “confusion” and “controversy” regarding whether or not someone could be tapped if they were on a leave term or study abroad program.  

In the past, if someone was not physically on campus, recognized senior societies could not approach potential tappees until that person was back on campus, the president said. However, he added that a problem arose because unrecognized societies — who do not have to adhere to College guidelines — were able to “poach” individuals whom recognized societies were considering. 

“This year, we were allowed to tell those people that we have an intention to go after them when they return to campus,” he said. “That’s just a way to mitigate people getting poached when they don’t know all their options.”

The president added that some senior societies select members in accordance with their original founding missions, such as creating change within the Dartmouth community or discussing current global issues. However, not all senior societies necessarily follow those original missions, and instead, many tend to function more as “social clubs.” 

“What they do in terms of a social scene is … provide something fun to do senior year where you’re meeting new people outside of your already formed friend groups,” he said. “Once people are affiliated, they stick within their Greek organization. [Senior societies] help people branch out.”

The tap chair noted the difficulties in passing down the traditions of senior societies, acknowledging the short time overlap between current members and new members — only about a term and a half. 

“Things can change in societies pretty significantly year to year in what their meetings look like, how they’re operated, what their leadership structure looks like [and] what their traditions are,” he said.

However, the president cited the importance of maintaining a sense of tradition. 

“I think it’s really important to share that tradition as much as possible with the new tappees,” he said. “We lost touch with some of our [traditions] post-COVID. We’re talking to older alums and trying to figure out how to recenter ourselves, and how to have a good mix of doing what we want to do as a group, but also maintaining important traditions.”