Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Voltaire Society rolls out welcome mat

You might think an honor’s club named after the cantankerous and highly intelligent French philosopher Voltaire might be, well, uh, a little stuffy. 

Not true, according to one of its own.

“Our society is not exclusive in any way,” says Laura Johnson (BA ’06), a literature studies master’s candidate and officer in the Voltaire Society — a campus organization that sponsors social, cultural and intellectual events. 

Johnson says she hopes people understand that although the society operates under the umbrella of DU’s Honors program, the organization encourages other students to participate as well. 

“We hope very much that people who have been intimidated by the Honors-only aura that appears to surround the Voltaire Society will realize that we have a broad membership and that we encourage non-Honors students to attend,” Johnson says. 

In fact, a slogan tossed around the society appears to be anything but stuffy: It states that the Voltaire Society is all about helping students “unleash their inner nerd.” 

“Unleashing your inner nerd [means] feeling free to indulge your curiosity on a variety of subjects — and you don’t need to be an Honors student to do that,” Johnson says.

There are no requirements to be in the society. So what goes on at the society? Insiders say they don’t just sit around discussing deep thoughts. 

“We do like to debate and converse, but it’s usually in the context of something less than intellectual,” Johnson says. 

On Valentine’s Day, for example, members watched The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and contemplated the history of cult film. 

Weekly meetings include faculty, student and guest lecturers and films. 

“Faculty members have spoken on everything from women’s rights to the history of pets,” Johnson says. 

Social events include “pub quizzes” held biweekly on Friday nights in Sidelines Pub where participants can win prizes.  

Todd Breyfogle, director of DU’s Honors program, says the society even fields intramural teams. 

“The Voltaire Society, like Honors Program students generally, take ideas seriously, but don’t take themselves too seriously. Ideas matter, and flourish in a variety of contexts,” Breyfogle says.

“Of course, no matter how much fun we’re having, all of our events are intellectual,” Johnson says.

For information, visit the Voltaire Society online.

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