By Stephanie Self
The first time I saw a Coffin and Keys newsletter was during my second semester at the University of Nevada, Reno. I walked into one of my classrooms and found several of them strewn about the large table in the center. I don’t remember exactly what it said, but I remember being confused about who wrote it and why. It was clever at times, obviously taking jabs at different figures on campus like whoever wrote it really had something to say.
However, it became clear to me that the group of young men who wrote it not only lacked maturity but also concern for anything except their own egos. The weird part about this, though, is that they are deliberately anonymous. It was at that point that I disregarded the newsletter altogether because, if I didn’t know who these people were, then why should I care what they have to say? It seems that their anonymity better served the members, not their intended audience, aka the UNR student body.
It wasn’t until much later (last semester) when I started working at The Nevada Sagebrush that I actually became re-aware of their presence. Maybe if that first newsletter had impressed me more, I wouldn’t have completely forgotten they even existed. It is at this point that I should say I don’t have a problem with Coffin and Keys, except that they exist and don’t serve the mission their previous members originally set out on. According to their website, this original goal is rather romantic and even egalitarian. They set forth with the intent of “promoting the common good” and the quest to create “a united whole” so that “all the component parts of our school may be represented around the council table.”
Here’s the thing: we already know that they’re made up of only men. I don’t want to be nitpicky, but UNR is actually 52.6 percent women. This is not to discredit The Five, who obviously formed to combat this type of misrepresentation in some way or another, but Coffin and Keys also represents another small and more public part of the university: the Associated Students of the University of Nevada and Greek life.
Oh, have I said too much? My bad. I always thought that the members’ identities were about as secret as the members of any other club on campus. Coffin and Keys doesn’t fulfill their originally intended purpose if it’s made up of various members of the Greek system and ASUN.
On top of that, upon hearing various pieces of gossip that happened to involve both members of ASUN and Coffin and Keys (political intrigue!), I couldn’t help but lose even more respect for a now not-so-secret society that seemed more interested in its own petty arguments than the interests of the student body.
Which brings me to my next point: if Coffin and Keys decided to become anonymous back in 1962 because “only in darkness can the truth flourish” and what they were printing in their newsletters was offensive and/or controversial enough to be punishable by expulsion, why does this newsletter just seem like a circle jerk of frat boys on a power trip?
Certainly, there is liberation in anonymity. We live in a day and age in which people can hide behind online usernames to say whatever they want and post it in a public forum. What Coffin and Keys appears to have gained more than anything else from anonymity is arrogance.
When your power and arrogance about simply being a part of the club begins to taint the mission of said club, you’ve got a problem. And the problem with Coffin and Keys is that all they are is a cool title and a newsletter filled with misspelled names and a 12-year-old boy’s sense of humor (Erections edition? Seriously? That reminds me of when I was in fifth grade and my friends and I couldn’t quit giggling over “vaginal secretions”).
Many people warned me prior to writing this column that I should be careful about what I say because the men of Coffin and Keys would certainly “come after” me, “attack” me, and/or tarnish my reputation in some horrendous way upon publication. But I must say, I am neither threatened nor impressed by a group of frat boys who make dick jokes and harbors a member with the pseudonym “Bobby Boucher Jr.”
More than that, maybe they should show that they can take what they dish out. That so many people told me to expect to be attacked says a lot about what students think of Coffin and Keys. Apparently what students think is that they constantly stay in attack mode instead of listening to criticism. They think they’re the voice of the students? Well, I can only speak for myself — despite being the opinion editor of the university newspaper, I don’t claim to speak for anyone else — but UNR’s wannabe Illuminati doesn’t represent anything I believe in, at least when I consider their actions and not their purpose.
Stephanie Self studies English. She can be reached at email@example.com.