UVa Secret Societies

By: Elizabeth Donatelli
By: Elizabeth Donatelli

February 13, 2006

Members of secret societies are said to be responsible for leaving secret notes under chairs, making speeches in disguise, and running through parties in costume--but how much do we really know about them?

If you drive by the University of Virginia you've seen them. Markings on the buildings that represent mysteries for over a century. So how do you get access to these exclusive clubs?

"Since they're secret, I don't know how you get in," said Jack Syer, president of the Alumni Association.

You don't sign-up or interview for this job--the organization contacts you.

"People are asked. Typically that means their performance over a range of areas--academically, good citizenship, will qualify them to be asked," said Syer.

But he does know about the IMPs.

"I am an IMP," said Syer.

The IMPs are one of the most well-known groups. They wear a ring to signify membership, but the process is still a secret. It is something that fellow students can't help but guess about.

"I've heard about nights such as initiation for the IMPs where everybody gets dressed-up in devil costumes and runs around in masks," said 1st year student Marissa Mosk.

Some are rumors--but the truth is that these societies give back to the community.

"The 7 Society recently announced a gift to the John Paul Jones Arena Project," said Syer. "They support major capital projects at the University. They support the students and the faculty."

They may also be the most secretive. Membership isn't known until death when the chapel bell rings in multiples of seven. But some students still try to figure it out.

"Logic follows that Casteen's going to be one, but then again he said at Convocation that he doesn't know any 7 Society members, but that would be breaking the honor code if he was in the 7s and said that, but I think Casteen's in the 7," said 1st Year UVa student Cameron Jones.

How about the Purple Shadows? They don't leave marks and are always disguised.

"There was an event in the Rotunda that was recognizing certain students and mid-way through the proceedings the purple shadows entered, read a proclamation and left," said Syer.

Next time you walk around grounds take a look because the person next to you could be a member.

"I could not tell you," said Mosk.

"No, but if I was in one I couldn't tell you because they are secret," said Drew Reid 3rd Year UVa student.

And secret they've stayed for over 100 years.

These groups are unique to UVa and most if not all of these societies have philanthropic responsibility.

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