Seven Society Calls on University to Take Action; Reinforces Critical Message of Need To Be A More Caring Community

December 10, 2012

On Saturday, in a rare public statement, The Seven Society called on all members of the University of Virginia community to recommit to each other and to the institution to be a strong, caring community that does not tolerate injustice, but rather bands together to recognize what is wrong in our community and to work to right those wrongs. 

In the wake of recent incidents that have occurred since the fall semester began – a reported hate crime, a sexual assault, and the horrific death of a student – the society issued a reminder of the critical need for the University to be a strong and committed community of caring and trust, not only today, but for future generations.

The society selected a famous quotation from the English poet John Donne in which he talks about the importance of human beings being connected to each other, and caring for one another.

Just before sundown, seven large banners were raised on seven University buildings: Saunders Hall at the Darden School of Business, Clay Hall at the School of Law, the Old Medical School Building, the old faculty housing building at 203 Rugby Road, Alderman Library, Clark Hall and Pavilion VII in the Academical Village. Each banner contains Donne’s famous words:


"No man is an island,

Entire of itself. …

 …Each man's death diminishes me,

For I am involved in mankind.

Therefore, send not to know

For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee."

— John Donne (1572-1631)


Members of the society selected these buildings so that all academic precincts of the University might be represented. The society, one of the University’s oldest secret societies, is best known for its behind-the-scenes good works and financial gifts to University initiatives.

In an accompanying letter to the community, which is attached to a stand below each banner, the society writes: “From our earliest days, community has defined the University. … we, in all of our diversity, are brothers and sisters . . . This belief must be born of the bonds that we alone have the power to safeguard and to strengthen. In the trauma of a hate crime or sexual assault, and in the tragedy of the passing of one of our own, we have only each other. To tolerate injustice and descend into apathy is to dissolve these bonds that are the foundation of our community.”

The message of the Seven Society underscores President Teresa A. Sullivan’s recent e-mail to the community and her long-held commitment that the University become a caring community that aspires to treat every individual with kindness, dignity, and respect, regardless of position or status – and to take prompt action to report instances of misconduct.

In an email, members of the Seven Society wrote that students, staff, and faculty have a “profound responsibility” to care for one another, to steward the University, and to do justice to its legacy.

“We are the sons and daughters of the University; the hurt of any one of us is to hurt all of us,” they write,  

The banners will remain in place through the end of the semester as visible reminders of that “profound responsibility.”

(Full text of Seven Society letter at right.)

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