First years develop new method of communication

Humor Columnist Casey Breneman breaks down the new development in first year communication


I thank my lucky stars that I am now a successful ethnographic anthropologist and have the opportunity to live among students in university environments and conduct observational research.

Nick Zugris | Cavalier Daily

They have been living on Grounds for less than a semester, and the Class of 2022 is already surpassing all expectations at the University of Virginia. With a record-breaking number of applicants, ever increasing diversity and one of the largest incoming classes to date, the University is bound to see something amazing occur.

One development that has scholars stunned is the unique, highly complex long-distance communication system being created as we speak in first-year dorms. 

When I was a student at the University I studied English and Spanish, so languages and communication are my areas of expertise. I thank my lucky stars that I am now a successful ethnographic anthropologist and have the opportunity to live among students in university environments and conduct observational research. I’m just pretending to be an RA. It has given me the opportunity to document this birth of communication firsthand, and The Cavalier Daily practically begged me to shed some light on this new development.

For those of you who have not had the pleasure to observe this phenomenon like I have, let me provide you with some context. Approximately two months ago signs began appearing on the large glass windows of the Alderman Road dormitories, more colloquially known as “new dorms.” These messages are composed of temporary but surprisingly effective sticky notes. They are stuck to the insides of the windows and organized in such a way as to be read from the outside.

A combination of colors, words and symbols make up this new directional mode of communication. Though it is visible from both sides of the window, it is only intended to be read one-way: from the outside looking in. The various colors of the sticky notes used provide emotional context to what is being shared. Phrases such as “we <3 Shan” are in pinks and yellows, “F*** Tech” is orange and red, and a rather desperate “SOS” composed of blue and green sticky notes is given deep psychological meaning, improving the act of reading into a more visually and emotionally stimulating experience.

First years have not only been writing in conventional English. Some have taken it upon themselves to conserve their sticky notes by using a new model of shorthand. It utilizes both horizontal and vertical space, as well as natural breaks provided by the window itself to establish segments of meaning. 


___S Z N___” 


Both of these are examples of this new shorthand, but it is still unclear what exactly is trying to be conveyed. 

Renowned scholars have flown in from across the globe to observe this new phenomenon, and I had the chance to speak with several of them about the occurrence. Water Wordsworth, professor of English language and literature at Oxford (made famous thanks to his groundbreaking contributions to the scholarly magazine Pointless Literature: What are Words Worth?), joined me in the poorly lit, inadequately ventilated halls of Cauthen to talk about the phenomenon.

When I asked him about the creation of this new communication system and the plausibility of this happening at other colleges, he replied, “It is a wonder. Really, it is. We all know only the best of the best attend the University of Virginia, but the clarity of conveyance, the ingenuity of application, hell, the duality of patterning is just extraordinary. There is no way we would see this level of control over language at any other institution.” 

Linguistic anthropologists Dave Velopin and Dr. Caley (Cal) Ture also joined us. “The fact that students can even write words backwards is amazing,” Ture said. “It’s hard enough to get them to write coherent sentences forwards! These first years are made of some special stuff.”

We snapped some photos and ate chicken tenders from Crossroads (more colloquially known as “croads”), so they could truly immerse themselves in the first-year cultural-linguistic experience. “It’s the new morse code,” Velopin assured me as he energetically dipped a tender in honey mustard. “It’s high end. Avant garde. It’s so impractical that soon everyone will be doing it! Texting is sure to become obsolete in a matter of years.”

If only they could see the things they write on the white boards outside of each other’s doors.

Casey Breneman is a Humor columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at

related stories