​Cozart discusses the origins and workings of University secret societies

IMP member speaks on society purpose

In conjunction with the University Guide Service and the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society, the Miller Center hosted the sixth annual “Secrets and Traditions” event Friday. Wayne Cozart, vice president of development of the Alumni Association, led the presentation and examined the history of the secret societies at the University.

Because he lives in a Pavilion with his wife Patricia Lampkin, vice president of student affairs, Cozart said he has had many opportunities for “interaction and observation” of numerous traditions and secret society rituals.

Cozart said that while some secret societies allow public recognition of membership, all secret societies operate under various levels of secrecy within their actions. Additionally, Cozart said, secret societies function in a similar way as fraternities and sororities, with “an oath of secrecy, a badge, a code of laws, an elaborate form of initiation, and a seal.”

Cozart said people often ask or accuse individuals who they think may be in a secret society.

“I can promise you that Zs have been brought up on honor charges because they did not say whether they were Zs, which is definitely extreme but has occurred over time,” Cozart said.

Secret societies were nonexistent at the University until the formation of the Z Society, which was established in 1892, Cozart said.

“The Z within the society is very important because Z in Greek stands for ‘he lives,’ which at the University translates to Thomas Jefferson,” Cozart said. “This operates primarily to preserve the words and persona of Jefferson.”

Cozart said the IMP Society was created as the rival to the Z Society.

“If you walk along on Grounds you’ll [see] Zs — which are painted on different buildings — chalked with drawings of devil horns and tails,” Cozart said. “The Zs are earnest and committed and the IMPs represent anything but that.”

Fourth-year College student Meg Gould, a member of the IMPs, said the IMP society was formed as a successor to the Hot Foot Society, which served as group at the University for “students to drink with each other and enjoy their company.”

“The Society operates in order to preserve the identity of its predecessor with the notion that incarnate memories will prevail, which translates to IMP,” Gould said.

Cozart said that in addition to the IMP Society and the Z Society, the University has the Seven Society, the Purple Shadows, the Sons and Daughters of Liberty, and the P.U.M.P.K.I.N. Society, among others.

“The Seven Society is one of the most prominent and confidential groups on Grounds and reserve[s] from revealing its members until they die,” Cozart said.

Cozart said the presence of societies at universities throughout the nation originated during the Revolutionary War, when these societies used secrecy to achieve freedom.

The University is also home to the second oldest secret society in the nation: the Jefferson Society. The Jefferson Society continues its significant presence on Grounds not as a secret society, but as a debating society.

“[The Jefferson Society] didn’t last very long as a secret society — however, after it was formed a competition became at play between the Washington Society who formed and met on the East Range,” Cozart said.

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