In which I request your views

My university likes honor societies. In college I was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and I joined it, to the amusement of those who felt a true aristocrat and rebel would turn it down. I did not intend to join further societies, however.

Here I was first invited to join Phi Beta Delta, and felt I could not turn it down because I was too new. Then I had to join Sigma Delta Pi because it is practically a requirement in my department. Now I have been asked to join Phi Kappa Phi.

Last year I begged off saying I was too poor, and promised to join this year. I thought the $77 was for a life membership but it is only for a year’s membership and it is not technically tax deductible (although I will take it off on a 2106 form if I join, make no mistake).

This feels like just blowing $77 on nothing much, though. It also obligates one to attending a ceremony on a Sunday when I would rather be elsewhere. Would you join to be polite, or are there reasons to do this I am unaware of, or would you just say no?




Filed under Questions

8 responses to “In which I request your views

  1. Since I am not American, those organizations make no sense to me. I never joined a single one (actually, maybe the Portuguese one, because my prof wanted to increased the number of members). However, I know that when I forgot to attend the “initiation” ceremony of the students of one of this Greek letter organization, it was the worst faux pas I have ever committed at my institution.

    • Z

      Phi Beta Kappa is mega-prestige, and all of them have scholarships. I got funding for some travel in graduate school from this honor society, so it did me good, and they are good for students for those kinds of reasons. The problem with this one is not just the cost, it is that they are clearly hoping I will become an organizer for it — not my kind of service.

  2. Jonathan Mayhew

    You could probably skip those organizations, unless your department really insists.

    • Z

      I am being told I really deserve the honor for all my years of teaching and service, and should therefore pay up. Not by the department, though.

  3. My husband, daughter and her ex-boyfriend were all elected to Phi Beta Kappa, but they are not interested in it.

    Said ex-boyfriend was only one of seven Reed College graduates ever to graduate with a perfect 4. average. My daughter got one B and the rest As, which was still an awesome achievement.

    The only person I know who was really avid about being Phi Beta Kappa was my neighbor. She proudly showed off the little golden key around her neck. It was her proudest accomplishment to have been PBK at Berkeley. She never worked outside the home except as a volunteer and had four children. She was a classic Republican woman of the old style.

    I was not PBK at Berkeley. I flunked out!!! Along with most of my friends. We were very ill prepared, came from confused families and had a lot of social catching up to do. Top priority was losing our virginity. We were like Lena Dunham and her gang, but without the privileges.

    And only later on did I return to higher education, where I did very well indeed. As did they. We all got second chances.

    No conclusions here, just observations.

    • Z

      Phi Beta Kappa, yes I understand it is conservative, but I did join it — after all, they find you, you don’t find them. I didn’t buy the key but I respect your neighbor; what she did is really not easy academically and it does mean she had skillz.

      I am not a fan of honor societies though and I do not relate to the students and faculty here, who are. I consider honor societies lowbrow and this is elitist of me — I don’t need them.

      I had ancestors graduate from Penn in the 18th century and get PhDs from the Sorbonne in the 19th, I have an elite education, honor societies are utterly superfluous to me.

      Other people do not have the same situation and one must respect this. Of course I am also justifying the fact that I am about to cede to pressure and join because I feel guilty, which makes me angry, but I reiterate: these things are really important to our students and I cannot really criticize this.

  4. I really have given no thought to the class implications of Phi Beta Kappa. Which is funny, considering how class conscious I am.

    • Z

      Phi Beta Kappa is so elite that most schools do not even have it. We do not. If you can be elected to it and not care, it means you don’t need the credential, have other money, something like that, I feel. I wouldn’t wear a key and so on, but I did not turn them down.

      My students feel the same way about the honor societies I feel I do not need because I have elite degrees and so on.

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