While it’s no secret that many universities around the country host famous secret societies, it turns out that the University of Utah has its very own Skull and Bones Society founded over 100 years ago.
According to the book, “The University of Utah: A History of Its First Hundred Years,” the Skull and Bones Secret Society is “composed of a limited number of juniors selected for the honor each year, [and] was launched in 1909 by the class of 1910 with the announced principal purpose ‘of uniting Junior fellows in a common spirit regardless of fraternity ties and sympathy.’”
To find out whether this Skull and Bones society is still active on our campus, I made contact with some members of the secret society who agreed to meet with me “on the condition of anonymity” in order to “provide information for students who may be tapped for membership in the future.”
Apparently, secrecy and anonymity help current members with the vetting process, prior to tapping potential future members. They seriously showed up to our meeting wearing masks and black robes.
The members, referred to as “Bonesmen,” confirmed that the U’s Skull and Bones Society is active and “was founded by a Skull and Bones Alumni from the Yale Chapter in 1909.”
Despite the masculine title “Bonesmen,” the members assured me that women have held membership in the Skulls and Bones’ Utah chapter since 1979, which is more than 10 years before the Yale Skull and Bones Society began accepting women.
“A goal for this upcoming year is to initiate members with diverse backgrounds, academic interests and involvements,” said one member. “This is a large campus, but we are all connected and want to make improvements. Monthly meetings give us the opportunity to hear from changemakers representing other areas on campus. We even support each other at campus events, like musical and art performances, service activities and also throughout college in general.”
Another perk of being a Bonesman is the alumni connections. One Bonesman said, “Getting to connect with alumni and see what they have done has helped me as I prepare for graduation and apply for jobs.”
Graduating senior members also receive recognition at commencement exercises.
So how does one become a member of Skull and Bones? The book states that membership is open to only Juniors and Seniors and involves an “annual initiation process” in which “all dignity, all mock pride, all restraint are cast aside.” When asked about what this means, the Bonesmen told me that their society taps rising juniors as a way to “improve leadership transfer in the Society,” adding, “Membership is extended by invitation only, and we seek to recognize students who have contributed outstanding scholastic achievement, leadership and service to the community.”
Tapping letters are sent out to several students each Spring semester, and up to 15 students are selected and initiated from those students who are tapped. As far as what the initiation process entails, they didn’t reveal much, but said that students who receive letters “have nothing to worry about and should recognize this as an honor.”