RICHARDS: The wildcats or the aristocrats?

Amy Richards

The Villanova Aristocracy. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Probably, you haven’t.

It was coined by an old friend of mine, an active Villanova alumni. When I would inquire about his plans for the night, he would respond, “Oh, you know, meeting up with the aristocrats,”‘ or “I’ll be around actually, the aristocracy has been summoned to a secret meeting of some sort at school.” At the time, I brushed off the idea that some type of aristocracy actually existed and decided that my friend was just poking fun at a select group of overly involved students.

It turned out, however, that he was speaking about a phenomenon that is fundamental to Villanova society. That is, there is one group of students that has been selected, predisposed perhaps, to lead Villanova students to and even after graduation day. He calls this the aristocracy.

Where does the aristocracy come from? How are the students selected, and when do they ascend to their positions of power on campus? Think back to that first interview you had on campus for Blue Key or Ambassadors. You fared well in the first two rounds, on paper you had a long list of heartwarming high school service activities and involvement and in person, you were perfectly personable. But, when you went to pick up your letter after your second interview, you were met with rejection. With a lifetime of leadership behind you, how could they have skipped over your abilities?

You move on from the defeat and apply to be an Orientation counselor, to lead a retreat or a day of service, all to little avail. Later, an upperclassman lets you in on a school secret: You really have to know someone, or you just have to be the Blue Key/Orientation/retreat-leading type.

These aristocrats are said to have a powerful presence at the bar, maing loud entrances at meetings and setting off running hugs in front of the Oreo. Most of us have an idea of the individuals who make up the aristocracy, based on their clean-cut look, khakis, button-ups and colorfully highlighted, crowded schedule books. In case you have not yet taken notice of this group or are unsure whether you are in fact a part of it, red flags include these students’ ability to come up with icebreakers in seconds, their capacity for reciting the university mission or pointing out important Villanova landmarks on campus, their pride at never having missed a basketball game because they could somehow always get tickets, or just the fact that they spend all their time with other people who have these exact tendencies.

After a year or so, you notice the same individuals cross over, fulfilling leadership roles in each of these programs. Some have inside jokes with Fr. Peter, and others seem to be chosen daily from a default list of students to represent the school on Candidates’ Day, to talk with parents, to smile for school pamphlets, to serve on a feedback committee or, eventually, to speak at graduation.

When it comes down to numbers, these student leaders, who overlap involvement in almost every desirable group on campus, make up a tiny portion of the student body. The result is a group of leaders, or aristocracy, that has a great deal of say in how certain campus activities are created, in the way Villanova portrays itself to the general public and in whom the most popular Villanova groups choose to exclude.

Why not let the high-achieving, social people run all the social-achieving groups on campus?

As it turns out, this body of student representatives is virtually uniform in character, while other students with diverse interests or less public personalities are rarely ever selected to report on their Villanova experience with others.

Regrettably, there is a large body of students with unique talents and expertise that lacks the opportunity to contribute to a more vibrant, self-critical Villanova. Instead, the University relies on a disproportionately small group of students who affirm everything about their college experience to everyone they meet.

Why is it so difficult for new voices to move into these positions to provide leadership or to act as representatives? This would require breaking down a system that has been in place for years, one of praise for set student groups and of steady recognition for their leaders and the yes-men who follow university mission effectiveness like it were scripture.


Amy Richards is a senior honors, Spanish and global interdisciplinary studies major from Kings Park, N.Y. She can be reached at [email protected].