The University of Virginia is a special place, with a language and many long-standing traditions that are unique to Mr. Jefferson’s University. Some of these are described below.
From the beginning, rituals, routines, clubs and societies became a lasting part of life on Grounds. Some traditions, like the Jefferson Society founded in 1825, and the Honor System established in 1842, survive to the present. Other traditions were succeeded by new ones over time. The original school colors of cardinal and gray became today's orange and blue, more visible on a muddy athletic field. Through all the continuities and changes, one theme remains: abiding affection for the University—its Lawn, its traditions, its students and professors—continuing unbroken for over 190 years.
Despite numerous inconveniences, students annually vie for the honor of a room on the University's Lawn. Originally only Virginians were eligible to reside in the coveted Lawn and Range rooms, but this changed in 1949 when it was announced that the rooms would be assigned to student leaders—geography notwithstanding. Today, a panel of students selects those peers whose academic performance and service to the University merits a coveted Lawn room, while a panel of current Range residents selects those graduate students who merit a residence on the Range. Academic deans, accomplished professors, and the Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer reside in the ten Pavilions on the Lawn.
The Honor System
On November 12, 1840, Professor John A. G. Davis was shot to death in an attempt to quiet a disturbance on the Lawn. This incident resulted in the adoption of the Honor Code in 1842.
The University of Virginia's Honor System is one of the school's most venerated traditions. Administered solely by students, the Honor System requires that an individual act honorably in all relations and phases of student life. More specifically, the system rests on the premise that lying, cheating, and stealing are breaches of the spirit of honor and mutual trust and are not to be tolerated within the University community. Students found guilty by a jury of their peers are permanently dismissed from the University. Although a subject of regular discussion among students, expulsion is, and has been, the only sanction for an honor violation.
One of UVA's most enduring traditions and strengths is the entrustment of much decision-making to students. The University Judiciary Committee, Honor Committee, Student Council, Lawn Selection Committee, and many others are staffed and governed solely by students.
Certain societies at UVA exist to honor academic success and service to the University. The oldest and most notable of these include the Raven Society (1904) and Phi Beta Kappa (1907).
Many secret ribbon and ring societies have been established at the University of Virginia, including the Seven Society, IMPs, Zs, 21, Thirteen, P.U.M.P.K.I.N., T.I.L.K.A., Rotunda Burning, Purple Shadows, and Eli Banana. Members are selected or “tapped” based on the preference of current members of each society.
The Jefferson Literary and Debating Society
The Jefferson Literary and Debating Society was founded on July 14, 1825, by 16 disgruntled members of the now-defunct Patrick Henry Society in Room Seven, West Lawn. For over 181 years, the Society has distinguished itself as the oldest continuously existing collegiate debating society in North America.
The Good Old Song
“The Good Old Song” is the school anthem of the University of Virginia. The lyrics were written by Edward A. Craighill in 1895.At football games it has become tradition for students, faculty and alumni to link arms and sway while singing "The Good Old Song" after each UVA score and at the conclusion of the game.
Corks and Curls
“Corks and Curls” is the name of UVA's former student yearbook. Published from 1888–2008, the title is taken straight from the vernacular of the late 19th century: “The student who flagrantly failed to reply correctly to the questions of his professor in the classroom was said to have been ‘corked’ … if he answered with a grand flourish of pertinent information, he was said to have ‘curled.’”
The Lighting of the Lawn
A tradition of more recent vintage, the Lighting of the Lawn brings together both UVA students and faculty and our Charlottesville neighbors for a festive December evening of acappella music and good cheer-culminating in the brilliant display of light.
The UVA Ring and Ring Ceremony
Held in conjunction with Family Weekend and the awarding of Intermediate Honors, the Ring Ceremony brings together Third Year students and their families for a program celebrating their time at the University. At the conclusion of the event, participating Third Year students put on their UVA class rings. Another UVA tradition involves placement of the ring. While a student, one wears the ring with Minerva facing inward; upon conclusion of Final Exercises, the ring is worn with Minerva facing outward to the world.