Hazing News

Trachtenberg — Hippo update

Society will intiate new members
Officials linked to Order of the Hippo deny its upcoming ceremony
by Andrew Ramonas
Campus News Editor
Issue date: 3/10/08 Section: News

GW’s pseudo-secret society, The Order of the Hippo, will reconvene for its 12th Annual Initiation Dinner in April at the Law School, according to documents provided to The Hatchet.

The black-tie, $75-per-person event will welcome new members to the organization, according to an invitation given to The Hatchet. The Order was founded by former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg and includes top GW administrators and student leaders.

“We hope you are able to join us for this momentous event!” the invitation read. “Please help us celebrate the induction of the Hippo Class of 2008 and continue our traditions with old friends and new at our Twelfth Annual Initiation Dinner.”

The dinner will be held at the Michael K. Young Faculty Conference Center in the Law School at 7 p.m. on April 11. Jennifer Hilleary, director of development events booked the events, according to Law School Conference Coordinator Natalie Fields. Hilleary could not be reached for comment.

Senior Chris Brooks, chairman of the College Republicans, is listed as the sergeant-of-arms of the Order and the contact person for the dinner. He declined involvement with the organization and the upcoming dinner.

“If I was involved, I wouldn’t mention any involvement,” Brooks said.

He added, “I find it interesting that an anonymous source tipped (The Hatchet) off to something that may or may not be true.”

In 2007, The Hatchet uncovered a speech by Trachtenberg, a roster and other documents, which chronicled the Order’s early years. The organization, which was founded in 1997, meets at least two times a year and participates in service activities.

The current membership of the Order and the group’s initiation rituals are secret. Justin Neidig, who was “closely associated” with the Order, said in 2007 that any initiation is “done in accordance (with) University guidelines.”

In 2005, Student Judicial Services charged 12 members of the Order for violations in the Student Code of Conduct for participating in hazing and underage drinking after several members of the organization were seen on campus with blindfolds on their eyes and mud or face paint on their bodies. The Code of Conduct defines hazing as “any action taken or situation created intentionally, with or without consent, whether on or off campus, to produce mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment or ridicule.”

Trachtenberg has repeatedly denied that the Order exists and said he was not aware of the upcoming gathering in April.

“I haven’t heard anything about anything,” Trachtenberg said. “I’m just a poor retired pensioner.”

He added, “I never had a comment on this when I was president and I don’t have one now.”

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. In April of 2024, the Alaska Press Club awarded him first place in the Best Columnist division and Best Humorist, second place.

He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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