Tuesday, June 2, 2009
This topic is always interesting for the sheer amount of subjunctive statements it requires. Alright, let's just go ahead and say this part clearly: no, we don't know every secret society we have because (warning: immense shock coming) they're secretive. I should also highlight that these dates are highly speculative and could be slightly inaccurate, owing to the fact that secret societies rarely hold press conferences. Overall, we are fairly certain that five of these societies are over 100 years old, and I strongly encourage you to tour UVa and explore this curiosity that has decorated our history since its founding.
How We Guesstimate the Amount
Our current estimate is that we have between 120-130 secret societies. This calculation is based off how many societies have identified themselves plus a few more because it is highly unlikely that every single secret society has left markings. For example, we know the 21 Society exists because it leaves boxes of toys for students to play with on the Lawn or in the Quads. We know the Angel Society operates because they tape letters around Grounds.
The Main Secret Societies
As I said before, UVa has well over 100 secret societies, but they all have different scopes and missions. To give an idea of just how much they differ, I'll cover the three best know secret societies. Their markings can be seen all around Grounds on buildings, stairs, and even fraternity houses.
Originally around 1902, this group began as the Hot Feet. They were a rowdy bunch and were told to disband in 1908 due to their Easter Sunday prank where they broke into Brooks Hall (the old environmental sciences building), stole the taxidermy animals, and placed them in lewd and rather compromising positions. In 1913, they reformed into the IMP (Incarnate Memories Prevail). To this day, they still are a fun loving group and very strongly advocate for what the student body wants. They also give awards to professors and students alike, recognizing people who enrich the University. They are semi-secretive because they publicly tap new members.
Founded around 1892, they are more secretive than the IMP. Z society members reveal themselves on graduation by wearing a special ring. Honoring students and faculty who've actively contributed to UVa's student life and diversity is their main objective. They host a dinner for distinguished First Years, send letters of encouragement, and award professors. A bit of a personal note, as a First Year I actually received a letter in the mail from the Z's, and so I can assure that these letters do get sent to real people. Yay Z's!
While they refuse to look to any specific date, the 7's probably started around 1905. There are many stories as to where the name originates. Some people suggest that eight people were scheduled to show up to a poker game, but one didn't come. (hence seven people). I've also heard that the 7's used to erase the tail on the Z's markings. Seven is also just a very mysterious number and commonly used number in stories and legends (Seven Hills of Rome, Seven Dwarfs, Seven Kings of Rome, The Seven Seas--you get it). Now the 7 Society is our most secretive society. A member is not revealed until his or her death. On the casket, a wreath in the shape of a 7 will be laid, and the Chapel bell will ring, signifying a death of a 7. They are an immense influence in student life here, donating money to each entering class to kick start the account.