A Secret Society On Wall Street Has Tremendous Influence Over Colleges Nationwide

Some of the people setting tuition rates and making decisions about who gets to be president or chancellor of college and universities nationwide are members of a secret society of elite financiers called Kappa Beta Phi.

The underground fraternity was recently brought to light by Kevin Roose, author of "Young Money," a book about recent college graduates working on Wall Street. In the book, Roose describes his infiltration of Kappa Beta Phi party, where he witnessed men dressed in drag and leaders of the organization joking about the Wall Street bailout in 2008.

Roose also released the full list of the society's members, which the Chronicle of Higher Education analyzed to figure out one-in-five had served at some point on a governing board of colleges and universities. In addition, 42 of the 423 Kappa Beta Phi members are currently on the governing boards, and many others serve as advisors in some capacity or on foundation boards at higher education institutions.

One society member and trustee of the University of Richmond, Paul Queally, was captured in audio making disparaging remarks about Hillary Clinton and homophobic jokes at openly gay ex-Congressman Barney Frank:

In the aftermath, Queally offered an apology but remains on the board.

Faculty have criticized influence from the financial services industry on college governing boards over spending and staffing decisions at universities in recent years.

Yet, the society has its defenders.

"Making villains out of people who are doing their job on Wall Street seems to miss the point," Steven A. Cohen, executive director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, told the Chronicle. "Corporations are about making money. Universities are about building knowledge and teaching knowledge. I hope there’s some overlap between teaching and research and making money, but it’s certainly not 100 percent."

Another society member, Wilbur L. Ross Jr., who serves on the Yale School of Management’s Board of Advisors, asked the Chronicle, "Is there anybody on any faculty who has never told an off-color joke?" Ross, the Chronicle noted, is also a big donor, pledging $10 million to his school recently for a library.

Head over to the Chronicle of Higher Education for the full list of Kappa Beta Phi members that are or have served on college governing boards.

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