Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Traditional Convocation

Hi everyone, my name is Zoey Dorman!! I just made it through my first year at UVA and I'm planning to major in English and Cognitive Science. Technically, we’re all at UVA to go to classes, get degrees, and go off into the terrifying great unknown of the Real World after four years of preparation. Being in the middle of the college experience, though, they are a few factors besides academics that feel pretty important. Namely, traditions, which all starts with Convocation. Convocation is one of the first but also one of the most important days in any student’s UVA experience because it’s the ceremony that officially welcomes new students into the school. Here are my hall mates and I, dressed up all spiffy in our dorm before we headed out.
We definitely took the school tradition of “Girls in Pearls, Guys in Ties” seriously. Usually reserved for football means, it means everyone dresses up (preferably in UVA colors).
Once everyone parades over from their dorms, all of the new students sit on the Lawn, facing the Rotunda and thus looking into the education they are about to begin. Our Dean of Students, Allen Groves, and President Theresa Sullivan speak to the students about the importance of our honor system. 
(Here’s me with President Sullivan, post-speech, when we all hung out in her house after Convocation.)
UVA has the oldest student run honor system in the country, established in 1842. It means that all students pledge not to lie, cheat, or steal, plus they are responsible for upholding the ideals of the Honor System. Honor trials are run by students; decisions are made by student juries. I served on a jury last semester, and it made me respect the honor system even more than I already did. I had started to take living in the “Community of Trust” for granted, but having a frank conversation with other students, of different years and at different schools within the University, I realized all over again how important it is to go to a school where I can leave my laptop in the library, take an exam in my dorm room, and know that every other student respects the ideals of the honor system as much as I do. Listening to speakers discuss the importance of the Honor System made me sure once again that I had picked the right school.

Serving on a randomly selected jury, like the one pictured here, reminded me of that rush of school spirit I felt at Convocation when I first signed the pledge.
Those are not the only unique quirks that illustrated once again how special UVA is. One of our more exciting traditions is that of secret societies, one of which made an appearance at Convocation. When President Sullivan stood to give her speech, she paused before beginning to tell us that she had a message asking her to find the seventh student in the seventh row, who needed to look under his or her chair. There was automatically mass confusion, but finally the right student held up an envelope from under his seat. President Sullivan called him up in front everyone, and he served as a messenger from one of our most secret societies, the 7’s, who welcomed us to the school by promising our class a whopping $1,777.77 to use however we deemed fit. As he read the letter telling us this, we were all perched on the edges of our seats, absolutely enthralled. We could hardly believe we’d all just shared in a brush with the top secret society at our school. All of our secret societies exist to give back to the community in different ways, but the 7’s certainly have the most style in their philanthropic activities. They certainly succeeded in getting us even more excited about UVA with their mysterious message. At that point, I thought I could not be more proud to be a cavalier. That changed just a few minutes later, as the ceremony culminated in our school anthem.
This is a picture of one of our buildings, decorated with a banner from the 7 Society and a tag from the Z Society.
Our anthem is The Good Old Song, and we will sing it at a moment’s notice. Arguably the best part about going to UVA is that our school anthem is played to ring in every New Year. While other people are stumbling through the words of Auld Lang Syne, you can count on any UVA student or alum to be swaying arm in arm and belting out the lyrics that live so close to our hearts:

The Good Old Song of Wahoowa
We’ll sing it o’er and o’er
It cheers our hearts and warms our blood
To hear them shout and roar
We come from Old Virginia
Where all is bright and gay
Let’s all join hands and give a yell
For dear old UVA

I learned every word (including the intimidating chant at the end: Wahoowa, wahoowa, Univ-V Virginia, Hoorah-ray, Hoorah-ray, ray, ray, UVA!) before I moved in as a first year and it came in handy. We all stood on the lawn, threw our arms around each other, and swayed back and forth in dreamy school spirit as we belted out the song we were so proud to now be able to call our own. As I stood with the people who would become my best friends, at what I firmly believe to be one of the most beautiful places on earth, I was filled with so much cheesy school spirit that I can’t possibly express exactly how perfect the moment was. UVA’s traditions may not be most important aspect of the school, but I think they’re what bond all of together. They’re what remind me why I would not want to be anywhere else.

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