New group opens membership to fight elitism

Michelle Ma

Tired of student groups with leaders seeking even more power, Howard W. Buffett III created the Northwestern Senior Honorary Society over the weekend for everyone at Northwestern.

The Communication junior, who resigned from the Associated Student Government Executive Vice President race during the debates three weeks ago, is trying to strengthen community by reaching all students, whether or not they are involved in a student group.

Buffett said he thinks NU cannot create community through small, elitist leadership groups, so he instead chose instead to create an organization open to everyone. Despite the name, students from any year can join.

“If you want to strengthen community on campus, you have to do so with the involvement of everybody,” Buffett said. “You can’t have a secret group of individuals attempt to do a public thing.”

Buffett’s idea for the Northwestern Senior Honorary Society started when he received an invitation to join the first round of DERU recruitment events this month. DERU is an secret society for seniors at NU.

A member of DERU, who requested to remain anonymous because of DERU rules, said the group maintains secrecy so their members can participate without expecting peer recognition or attention for their work. The stealth student group welcomes students who are already leaders in other groups.

Buffett called DERU “elitist,” and said he wants his new organization, NSHS, to extend membership to all.

NSHS also carries a sardonic note by poking fun at the use of selective organizations to strengthen community the university as a whole, Buffett said.

All students and student groups can become members of NSHS by agreeing to the The Honor Code, which asks members to work toward strengthening community at NU. Buffett e-mailed student group leaders Monday to pass along information about the new organization to members of their student group. TONIK Tap and Campus Kitchens have already joined NSHS, according to its Web site,

groups.northwestern.edu/nshs.

Buffett said he compiled a list of student group leaders to start spreading the word about the new organization.

TONIK Tap leader and Communications senior Leo Lamontagne was the first to accept membership to the group. Members of TONIK Tap received an e-mail congratulating them for induction to the society, said TONIK Tap member Megan Kunzweiler, a Weinberg junior. Kunzweiler chose to join as an individual, although she said she doesn’t yet know the details of the organization.

“I’m interested to see what other groups become members,” she said.

But despite his use of student group leaders for initial publicity, Buffett emphasized that the goal of NSHS is to avoid using certain groups and prominent positions to build community at NU. Buffett’s decision to leave ASG also contributed to his desire to create a group devoid of titles and positions. He criticized ASG, saying the organization is closed to most students.

“ASG attempts to be open and welcoming to all, but they’re not,” Buffett said. “The point of this is it puts everyone on an equal playing field.”

Buffett discussed the new organization with friend and NSHS Honor Code Co-Chair and Communication junior Jack Vrett on Friday. They built a Web site on Sunday. The new site lists all student groups and individuals who have become members and was updated multiple times Monday.

Vrett, who said he is still learning about the responsibilities of his position, said the new organization is a positive one because it is unlike other community building groups.

“The only way you have a community is just by being one,” Vrett said.

Reach Michelle Ma at [email protected]