Update, 4:05 pm: In an email statement to Vox, GUSA vice presidential candidate Adam Ramadan (SFS’ 14) admitted to being a member of an undisclosed secret society at Georgetown that is unaffiliated with the Second Society of Stewards but denied it affected his work in GUSA or the campaign. “I … freely confirm my membership in a group that is unaffiliated with the Second Society of Stewards that has been in the news today,” Ramadan wrote. “Like any Georgetown student, I have private affiliations with groups on campus. Besides making me more passionate about representing Georgetown, these affiliations have had nothing to do with my involvement in the campaign for the Georgetown University Student Association.”
Ramadan additionally apologized for his statements to The Hoya earlier today, where he implied that Sticka and Appelbaum may have colluded or received inappropriate institutional support. “As a side note, I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to Jack Appelbaum and Jake Sticka for my comments in a recent interview with The Hoya,” he said. “As I have tried to make clear, I do not believe that Jack’s—or anyone else’s—involvement in a private organization affects his ability to lead GUSA.”Read the full statement at the end of the post.
Update, 12:17 pm: The undergraduate leader of the Stewards Society Sam Schneider (COL ’13) has released a statement which he said qualifies as an official response to the Stewards news. It reads, in part: “My society is a private association and a fraternity like many others at Georgetown. While the Society applauds Jack Appelbaum’s service to GUSA, the privilege belongs entirely to him. We are not interested in king-making.” Read the full statement at the end of the post.
Update, 12:05 pm: A member of the Second Society of Stewards told Vox that GUSA vice presidential candidate Adam Ramadan is allegedly a member of the Third Society of Stewards. Ramadan hasn’t yet responded to Vox‘s request for comment and the distinction is between the “Second” and the “Third” Society is still unclear. Ramadan did not previously volunteer that he is a Steward, even after news of Appelbaum’s membership in the society was revealed this morning. The possible political intentions of each tipster remain unclear. (Update: Vox has received information about the distinction between the two societies and will have that for you soon.)
Original Post: Late yesterday evening, an anonymous tipster styling himself “Steward Throat” published a group of documents pointing to several student leaders’ membership in the Second Society of Stewards, a secret society rumored to still exist at Georgetown. Steward Throat posted the articles to an eponymous Facebook page which linked to a blogspot account.
He also specifically sent the documents to the editors of Vox and the Voice. Most notably, they reveal that GUSA presidential candidate Jack Appelbaum (COL ’14) is an active member of the society. GUSA Chief of Staff Jake Sticka (COL ’13) also confirmed to Vox that he is an active member of the society.
The documents contain some screenshots of a Google group entitled “N.S.S.V.-XXX” where members of the Stewards purportedly exchanged messages relating to their involvement with the society. Several messages organized group meetups among the members. In the most recent conversation listed, dated Dec. 4, 2012, Sticka attempted to “do something as a watch” during study days. The “watch” functions somewhat similarly to a fraternity’s pledge line.
Another email was posted by Eric Wind (SFS ’09) requesting watch members to apply for an internship at the prestigious consulting firm Endeavor Group, where he worked. Another thread organized what combination of ties and cufflinks that members of the society would sport.
Steward Throat additionally posted the most recent Return of Private Foundation 990 form for the IRS attributed to the Stewards Charitable Trust. IRS disclosure forms for the group are available for the period going back to fiscal year 2005, when the foundation’s total assets were listed at $40,091. By the most recent year available, the fiscal period ending on Apr. 30, 2012, the group’s assets had swelled to $147,966. According to Sam Schneider, funding for the society comes from member and alumni donations and are used exclusively for charitable purposes.
While Vox can confirm the authenticity of the IRS disclosure form, we cannot, at this time, say whether all the email screenshots are accurate and not tampered with.
Applebaum has told Vox that he is a member of the Stewards but insists that there is absolutely no connection between his campaign and the Stewards.
Asked why he didn’t say he was a Steward before, Appelbaum said that his membership is a private matter and all campaigns aren’t obligated to reveal all personal information: “Because it is a private matter, I chose not to disclose it, but immediately and honestly addressed questions about it when asked as I have always done,” he said.
Appelbaum/Cleary supporters have jumped to the aid of their candidate and say that he has done nothing wrong.
For his part, Sticka says that his involvement in Appelbaum’s campaign hasn’t been influenced by the Stewards. “I have been involved in campus politics throughout my time at Georgetown and my involvement with the Society has not affected it,” Sticka wrote in an email to Vox.
“Through … my time co-authoring the Student Life Report with Jack, to my time serving in Clara and Vail’s executive with Jack, I have found him to be a great leader and was immensely pleased when he decided to run for the GUSA executive. In short, our shared membership is not a significant factor in my support of his candidacy.”
Appelbaum’s pick for vice president Maggie Cleary (COL ’14) says that their campaign has not been affected at all by Appelbaum’s membership in the Stewards. “I’m not going to lie: I don’t like the Stewards—for a variety of reasons—but Jack’s association with them was not and has never been presented to me as something that was significant enough to effect anything in the election,” Cleary said.”I hope that these events do not affect anyone’s opinion of Jack and I, or decision making when the ballot comes out tonight.”
A supporter of Appelbaum, sitting GUSA president Clara Gustafson (SFS ’12) would not withdraw her endorsement of Appelbaum and Cleary in light of the news. “The idea, raised by some other candidates, that Jack’s hard work and dedication to improving life on the Hilltop is any less commendable or valid because of the recent news is absurd and insulting to me,” she said in a press release. “Jack is one of the most honest, hardworking, and caring people I know.”
Other tickets were more shocked to learn of Applebaum’s—and now several tickets’—involvement in secret societies. Shavonnia Corbin-Johnson (SFS ’14) released a statement to Vox at 3:22 p.m. today saying that, while she isn’t instructing her supporters to not list Appelbaum/Cleary second, she is saddened to know secret societies are apparently so pervasive.
“We were shocked at the list of people who were in the Stewards in and out of GUSA. … Any group of people that attempts to effect change should do so in the public sphere, with established goals and honest reporting on the state of their finances, their membership and their objectives,” she wrote. “Therefore, we are encouraging our supporters to make their own decisions tomorrow while ranking the candidates in order of preference.”
Cannon Waren (SFS ’14) released a statement saying the he considers Applebaum’s involvement with the Stewards to be right so long as the voters know. “Heyo, I think its fine for jack to be in the Stewards as long as the people electing him know that. Which I thought they did, so now it’s their choice,” he wrote in an email to Vox. “I am not particularly a big fan of the Stewards but I still think Jack is a good guy and a good candidate.”
Spencer Walsh (MSB ’14) and Rob Silverstein (SFS ’14) say they have no comment: “Rob and I are not involved in any secret societies. Our focus is on the election.”
Before Vox learned of Ramadan’s possible involvement in a different strand of the Stewards, he released this statement: “In the wake of the Hoya article we don’t want to comment in a way that will push this controversy forward—let’s get back to the real issues under consideration in this campaign. Jack is a qualified candidate and I think he should be analyzed and critiqued for his platform.”
Vox still hasn’t heard from Nate Tisa (SFS ’14) or from Adam Ramadan since Vox reported on his alleged involvement in the Third Society of Stewards at 12:05 p.m.
This last minute bombshell will doubtlessly affect the race for GUSA president, voting for which is expected to begin later today.
Here’s the full statement from Adam Ramadan:
I write to address the Georgetown Voice’s post this afternoon regarding my membership in The Stewards Society and freely confirm my membership in a group that is unaffiliated with the Second Society of Stewards that has been in the news today. Like any Georgetown student, I have private affiliations with groups on campus. Besides making me more passionate about representing Georgetown, these affiliations have had nothing to do with my involvement in the campaign for the Georgetown University Student Association. My participation in this group has been a personal choice, and my extracurricular commitments have not influenced my decision to be involved in GUSA or any other cause at Georgetown. Making clear the distinction between my personal involvement in this group and my deep commitment to the campaign and those involved in my campaign, the focus of the campaign should to return to just that: free speech, sexual assault, and student space.
As a side note, I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to Jack Appelbaum and Jake Sticka for my comments in a recent interview with The Hoya. As I have tried to make clear, I do not believe that Jack’s — or anyone else’s — involvement in a private organization affects his ability to lead GUSA. Likewise, I regret questioning Jake’s motives for supporting Jack’s campaign; both have proven themselves able leaders at Georgetown and, like all Georgetown students, are entitled to their own opinions, not least of all during this GUSA campaign season. I hope that all campaigns will truly focus on the issues at hand just as they deserve to be critiqued on their respective stances on these issues.
Here’s the full statement from Sam Schneider:
Every year there is rumoring about my Society in relation to a GUSA election, and every year it all usually teeters out with little to-do. As the Chief Steward and undergraduate leader of the Society, however, I take serious issue with the characterization made of it in the recent Hoya article, where it is said that we are a secret, unaccountable, and untransparent organization. On the contrary, we communicate openly with the university administration when necessary and I am available to answer any questions at any time, as I have now communicated to both The Hoya and the Voice. My society is a private association and a fraternity like many others at Georgetown. While the Society applauds Jack Appelbaum’s service to GUSA, the privilege belongs entirely to him. We are not interested in king-making. We encourage our brothers to be honest. Jack disclosed his membership, an aspect of his private life, at the very moment he was asked. His record of public service should be all that matters to any thoughtful person weighing the merits of his candidacy.
Here’s the full statement from Shavonnia Corbin-Johnson:
We are saddened and surprised with the recent online news that multiple tickets in the GUSA executive election comprise of members of secret organizations.We were shocked at the list of people who were in the Stewards in and out of GUSA. The ideals of our platform are to work with the students and the administration to better the lives of everyone in the Georgetown community. In reality we do not know the specific intent of the Stewards, or any other secret organization. Any group of people that attempts to effect change should do so in the public sphere, with established goals and honest reporting on the state of their finances, their membership and their objectives. We aim to promote change by working with students and we are not sure if these groups share those same values.
We believe that the best way to improve Georgetown is to work towards increased diversity in student groups and greater openness from all elected students. Secret organizations go against our values and are in no way a part of our movement. Our movement is the students and we do not want to hold any thing from them.
Therefore, we are encouraging our supporters to make their own decisions tomorrow while ranking the candidates in order of preference. We know our values and we try to stay true to them. We are grateful for the endorsement of Otto Porter, who chose to align himself with our movement. We also thank our volunteers for their efforts on our behalf and their continued belief in our Movement. We want to focus on our platform, the movement and finishing this campaign. Beyond that it is up to the discretion of the students of Georgetown to chose who they think will be a smart vote. As always, we wish our fellow candidates the best of luck in the election.
Appelbaum Photo: Miles Gavin Meng/Georgetown Voice
Sticka photo courtesy Jake Sticka
Additional reporting by Isabel Echarte and Keaton Hoffman