To the editorial staff of The Eye,
We are writing in response to a number of issues in Thursday's story by Kaitlin Phillips titled "The Not-So Secret Society."
Ms. Phillips approached us to talk about “the relationship b/w St. A’s and ADP... off the record, if you prefer." As we have already communicated to numerous editors, we interviewed for the piece on the condition that we would remain anonymous. When the piece went up with our names attached on Thursday, we reached out to several editors, and though most expressed sympathy, all claimed that it was not their responsibility to remove our names or change the piece. When we followed up with Ms. Phillips, she explained that after our interview we were uncertain about whether or not we wanted to be on or off the record, and because we did not follow up with a clear statement indicating otherwise, we were still "technically" on the record.
The lack of veritable sources willing to attach their names to the article should have already been a red flag for the editors, but to compromise our identities for the sake of a convenient - and fictitious - rivalry between the two co-ed literary societies on campus is wholly unethical.
From the hour-long interview, Ms. Phillips chose quotes that colored ourselves and our society in a very negative light. While we contend that several of our quotes were taken greatly out of context resulting in a grave misconstrual of tone, we do understand it is within the author’s right to editorialize. It is not, however, in her right to include statements, purportedly from us, which are blatantly incorrect. For example:
St. A’s dads are always “generic banking types,” Stavis tells me, “just like our [his and my] parents are ‘generic lawyer types,’” he added.
We do not know the occupation of Ms. Phillips’ parents, but neither of our fathers are lawyers. The dads of St A.'s members are certainly not "always" generic banking types - the article itself contradicts this point by mentioning a notable author whose son was involved with the society.
The article also states: “The ADP contingent laughs when I bring up the courts, and Adekoya flips through her iPhone to show me photos she has from parties on the roof.”
Sewa has never attended a party on the roof of St. A’s. She also did not “flip through her iPhone” to show “photos she has” - Sewa showed a single photo, from someone else’s facebook. Our laughter was at the absurdity of the squash-court-on-the-roof allegation - the rooftop of 434 is visible from Barnard’s 616 W116th St. dorm.
In addition, the article claims: “Adekoya confirmed a rumor that St. A’s has recently been poaching pledges from them.”
When Ms. Phillips asked if St. A’s were stealing ADP’s pledges, we replied that a few current ADP members were tapped to rush both societies, but we did not in any way refer to “stealing” or “poaching.” There is a vast difference between being tapped to rush a society, rushing a society, and then pledging a society. Within ADP, “pledges” refers to former rushes who have accepted a bid of pledgeship to the society and have begun the pledge process. No pledge in institutional memory has left ADP pledgeship because they were approached by St. A’s, as the article states. There is certainly crossover between those who are tapped and those who rush both societies, but to suggest St. A’s is “poaching” ADP “pledges” is ridiculous, and something Sewa would never have said.
Regardless of the "technical" error Ms. Phillips claims we made in not clarifying that we wanted to be off the record, we would also like to remind the editors that there is a clear difference between the "technicalities" of journalism and ethical decision-making when it comes to stories written about members of Columbia’s community. It's one thing to write an exposé on the history and practices of a vaguely Columbia-affiliated secret society, but it is quite another to publicly attack individual members of St. A's who were not consulted before the article’s publication.
The Alpha Delta Phi Society is committed to fostering relationships not just between its own members but with the wider Columbia community as a whole. When Ms. Phillips approached us asking to talk about “the relationship b/w St. A’s and ADP” we saw it as an opportunity to discuss the similarities and differences between ADP and St. A’s, and to clarify speculations for someone who is not a member of either society. Like many other members of ADP, we both have friends in St. A’s, and are extremely disappointed in the way our anonymous contributions were juxtaposed with libelous personal attacks on individuals we consider our friends.
We are extremely upset at Ms. Phillips’ decision to portray us and our entire Society as gossipy ‘rivals’ of St. A’s. We wish to express our sincere apologies to the membership of St. A’s, as well as to the membership of ADP, for deciding to participate in the piece. We hope members of both organizations can look beyond this unfortunate article and continue to contribute positively to their memberships and Columbia’s community as a whole.
Sewa Adekoya and Jake Stavis