BNOCs and Secret Societies

I LOVE William and Mary, so don’t get me wrong when I say this, but if there is one thing about this College I won’t miss, it is all the talk about secret societies and all the “who’s in and who’s not” hearsay.

What happened to just hanging out and being friends? Why does it sometimes seem like people are so obsessed with being “popular” and being well known on campus? With this obsession comes the term “BNOC” (Big Name on Campus) and with the term BNOC comes endless amounts of frustration.

It’s sad to think that in some ways being involved on campus can have negative connotations, where the involved person’s name will be muddled with secret society rumors and BNOC-talk. It begs me to ask the question: why does anyone care?

Secret societies are supposed to spread school spirit throughout the campus and add to the incredible history of our college. Yet somehow, it seems that anything involved with one of these groups is often met by scorn or sarcasm. And quite frankly, I can understand where people are coming from.

Last year (and perhaps this is a skewed perspective based only on people who I found myself around) it seemed like having “BNOC status” became way more important than ever before. Whether it meant schmoozing with certain professors (think “Slug Club” from Harry Potter), forming clique-like email chains that were exclusive to a certain group of friends, or self-promoting whether it was by simply bragging about yourself or by revealing (before graduation) your own membership in a secret society, being a “BNOC” just took on a whole different meaning.

In my opinion, that kind of attitude kind of ruined it for the rest of us. After being pretty uninvolved my freshman year, I got involved in Orientation as a sophomore after being selected to the position of Orientation Area Director. Through this role I started meeting people from all different corners of campus and met an administrator who has literally turned into my mentor and one of my closest friends. Through these other area directors, I got to meet other people, and little by little my scope of campus really widened and I started discovering all the reasons why this College is incredible.

However, being involved on campus may now give you a sense of notoriety; knowing the right people may not always be best for you socially; being well-known for things you’ve accomplished may force the “BNOC” label on you. And what happens after that? Well some people will then just start making assumptions and associating you with things before they even get to know a thing about you. Even those who do know you well may be threatened if you start meeting new people because of your activities.

So were you just watching a movie with your girlfriend until real late? No, you were probably sneaking around in a dark cloak, being sleek and secretive. Were you just tired from a tough week and felt like avoiding the delis for a night? No, you were off with popular, involved, BNOC-types, social-climbing your way to the top.

Sometimes it can be easy to assume the worst about someone. What I’ve loved about W&M the most is how open-minded people are on the whole and how accepting they can be. I have also loved my activities here and have met some of the most amazing people and lifelong friends through them. However, I never expected my campus involvement would lead to people talking behind my back (or confronting me straight to my face) about my own personal membership in a secret group. Last semester I went pretty MIA, and I’ll be the first one to admit that, but just because I’m taking more time for myself and frequenting the delis much less does not mean I’m out and about mingling with anyone who can get me into a secret society.

People can be incredibly open-minded here, but it’s unfortunate when those who aren’t start making assumptions that anyone who is involved or rolls in a certain crowd is a name-dropping, self-promoting, secret society member only looking out for themselves. Where’s that class spirit we all had during freshman orientation? I miss that.

Categories: Campus Life, Student Blogs

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