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"Secret societies add mystery to campus"
John Lohr
Daily Nebraskan
October 19, 2005


TNE (Theta Nu Epsilon), sSs (Senior Scroll Society) and Rho Delt: They are all University of Nebraska-Lincoln secret societies. TNE and sSs (rivals, both supposedly all men) and Rho Delta (all women) are made up of the campus leaders in the greek system. They include house presidents, lower officers and common members. Some groups are active on campus and even nationwide, and famous American politicians have been members.

Secret societies have even been rumored to affect campus politics. The 1979-1980 Association of Students of the University of Nebraska and Interfraternity Council presidents were accused of being TNE members after a membership list was allegedly discovered on the floor of a fraternity study room.

Every now and then sSs and TNE members spray paint their insignias on campus buildings and certain fraternities and sororities. A red sSs or a TNE skull on a fraternity front porch is supposedly a visible sign that a member of that fraternity is in the organization.

During Homecoming week, members of TNE and sSs supposedly rent limos and drive around campus usually handing out certain products with their insignias attached.

Another tradition that always gets the fraternities and sororities in a tizzy was the annual TNE and sSs newsletters. These letters that circulate around finals time to all the fraternities and sororities are crass and offensive but also funny. Their humor could be compared to a Stuff Magazine article with no limits. Obscenities, nudity, dirty jokes, personal insults, the works. They pull out all the stops and make fun of anyone they felt like.

If you were a prominent greek leader on campus, or a girl who tended to get around a little too much, you were definitely targeted. They also included "roll calls" in which the organization let every greek member knows what was wrong with each greek house on campus.

Aside from simple graffiti and underground publications, these groups remain in the dark. At other universities, however, secret societies do more than just graffiti sidewalks and write newspapers: They run the campus.

TNE at the University of Alabama is more often referred to as "The Machine" and they are very noticeable. The Machine, the local chapter of Theta Nu Epsilon at Alabama, is comprised of a select coalition of traditionally white fraternities and sororities designed to influence campus politics.

The Machine controls much of student life at the University of Alabama and has gone so far as to install members in local government to exercise its power against the City of Tuscaloosa, Alabama and local businesses.

In the Machine's long existence, only seven students have beaten the candidates put forth by the Machine to become the student government president. In 2002 a TNE flyer was circulated at the University of Alabama claiming, "Theta Nu Epsilon has elected an SGA (student government) president 68 times in the 75 years of the SGA's existence. This is because the SGA is ours. Our brethren formed it in 1914."

The organizational group TNE is also a national group. They even have a nifty Web site www.theamericanminerva.com/thetanuepsilon that will tell a reader everything about the organization, its founding, membership, symbols, everything -- well, almost everything. Some aspects must still remain secret.

As for sSs, there is very little published information on the "Scrollers" as students dub them, mainly because the group is a strictly UNL group.

Officials at the university are also very aware of such groups. Some organizations such as the Interfraternity Council even require a pledge of non-affiliation before a student can become an IFC officer. "...that I have never been, am not now, and will never become associated with any sub-rosa organization; and that I will constantly strive to the best of my ability..." The statement rings a little false, since many past IFC officers have supposedly been members of such organizations.

I do not endorse the idea of one group running the student government. As a past student government senator, I realize how important the job is and that it's an excellent teaching tool that should be open to all students at the university.

However do I salivate at the idea of one student group actually having such a noticeable power, you better believe it.

There is something about powerful secret societies that adds an element of the enigmatic to a university atmosphere. They rekindle our interest in the unknown. The recent interest in secret societies can be seen in the trends surrounding the literary and motion picture world.

Books such as "The Da Vinci Code" and movies as "National Treasure" are full of secret societies, rituals and treasures. Face it: Although we may think the idea of an ultra-elitist society is wrong, we are enticed by it.

However, there has been a definite gap in the Secret society presence. Last Spring no TNE or sSs newsletter was to be seen, and at this year's Homecoming, Frisbees and stickers replaced the traditional tampons and cigarettes. Weak. Secret societies at UNL need to increase their efforts to make their presence known.

Am I encouraging prohibited acts? Possibly. But let's see some waves caused, anything to convince the student body (not just the greeks) that there are secret societies on campus. It falls to the sSs and TNE and Rho Delts to keep our interests and fears alive, and if they die so will our curiosity.

Secret societies at this university are a necessary evil and let's hope they make their presence better known in the future. I would hate for students to grow up in a world without sSs or TNE.