If you’ve ever visited UVA, I’m sure you’ve noticed the big white block letters painted everywhere shouting about the presence of two of UVA’s three main secret societies, the IMPs and the Zs.
Now, I’m personally of the opinion that societies aren’t really all that secret if everyone knows they exist, but they do a lot of good things for our school, so I guess they can stay “secret” if they want to. You’ll hear your first week of grounds that the IMPs are the least secretive, as they wear rings declaring their status and anyone can accidentally interrupt an IMP initiation…not that I’ve done it or anything, I’m just saying (I totally have, but probably shouldn’t admit to that on the internet. Sorry IMPs!)
The Zs are the next most secret, and though they don’t wear rings, you’ll find out who is in the Z society when they graduate. They’re a little more exclusive, but they still like to paint Zs everywhere, especially on steps. The most popular Z is probably the one painted on the steps between McCormick Road Dorms and Newcomb Hall, though there are also Zs painted on the Rotunda steps, the steps down to the Amphitheater in front of Garrett Hall, and a teeny tiny one on one side of Scott Stadium (if you look closely).
That being said, the 7 Society is definitely the most secretive, but that also means they’re the best at making a statement. At the beginning of each year, they usually make a donation to the incoming class that’s some multiple of 7 (for my class, the class of 2015, I believe it was $7,077, but don’t hold me to that one). Most recently, they hung 7 banners around Grounds at Darden, the Law School, the Old Med School building, the old faculty housing building on Rugby Road, Alderman Library, Clark Hall, and Pav VII on the Lawn. The 7 Society doesn’t usually make statements as public as this, but they felt the school really needed to come together and be a community. (For more about those banners, see here.)
That being said, the IMPs, the Zs, and the 7s aren’t the only secret societies we have: the most recent estimate says we have about 120 of them! There are lesser known ones, like the Purple Shadows, who march along the lawn at dawn (or sunrise, as they did last year) on Thomas Jefferson’s birthday (April 13) and place a wreath at the base of his statue. (Last year, my roommate and I pulled an all-nighter to see this, and take pictures with our favorite President)
The Sons and Daughters of Liberty, a newer secret society, also takes a stand on TJ’s birthday, when they post lists of Rebels and Tyrants and run around Grounds in standard colonial garb. They’re not huge fans of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society, who is always listed as a Tyrant. JeffSoc is known as the original secret society, founded in 1825, and is now the opposite of secret (I get Facebook invites to their interviews every semester). They meet at 7:29 on Friday nights to start their meetings before the rival Patrick Henry Society, which meets at 7:30 (because we all knew that TJ and Patrick Henry were rivals, right?). And of course everyone forgets my favorite, the Yellow Journal, who’s members run around at the end of each semester in yellow bandanas delivering a satirical newspaper…basically a version of the Onion for UVA. You never know when you could get tapped for a secret society…