The firing of an opinion writer who was part of the University of Pittsburgh student newspaper staff has made recent headlines. Assistant opinion page editor Nick Stamatakis wasn’t dismissed because of poor writing skills or missing deadlines, but it was because he was a member of a politically connected secret society on campus. To make matters worse, the secret society was the focus of an expose that the Pitt News had written about, and the editor in chief believed that his firing was an appropriate move.
As editor in chief of The Pitt News, Amy Friedenberger, had a difficult decision to make when she fired assistant opinion page editor Nick Stamatakis because of his membership in a secret society on campus. Stamatakis belongs to the Druids ”“ an organization of students that the school newspaper recently investigated for its ties to student government.
Friedenberger wrote in a letter to reader that the decision to fire Stamatakis was a difficult one, but in the end, having a newspaper employee being a part of a secret society outweighed his devotion as an employee with the paper. It was a circumstance that neither she nor any of the past editors of the newspaper had ever encountered.
The Pitt News had published an expose on the Druids, and questioned their role in the student government. They explored the connection that some of the members of the secret society belonged to the student government. It is believed that six of the nine members of the Pitt student government board (as well as the student body president) is a Druid. The board is a powerful entity at the school, as it is responsible for allocating $2 million in student fees to organization across campus.
The student paper featured a two-part story on the organization titled “History, Leadership, Transformation Characterize Druids.” The naming of a handful of campus leaders as being Druids took place in the piece. The article leads one to believe that the secret society plays a role in the happenings of the student government.
So why did Stamatakis get the boot after all this time?
Apparently, he had written the paper’s endorsement of senior Gordon Louderback for student body president in November, and Louderback is thought to belong to the Druid as well.
Stamatakis denied that he committed any wrongdoing while writing for the newspaper and is quoted as saying that he was an impartial opinion writer and felt that he “tried to walk as ethical a line as I could.” He said that he enjoyed working at the newspaper, and said that he did not conduct himself in a manner that allowed his affiliation to affect his participation or work at the paper.
The Druids were founded in the 1920s to serve as a sophomore honorary society for men, and their history is dotted with most of the notions that characterize secret organizations ”“ hoods, robes, and the process of ‘tapping’ members. The group seemed to have faded in presence over recent years, but whispers have surfaced that the group wields a powerful hand in politics of the school.