The Collegian
Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Richmond Society resurfaces to mark Founders Day anniversary

<p>The Richmond Society's Founders Day letter. The society sent longer letters to specific members of the University of Richmond community.&nbsp;</p>

The Richmond Society's Founders Day letter. The society sent longer letters to specific members of the University of Richmond community. 

The Richmond Society, an all-male secret society at The University of Richmond that has existed since 1915, posted copies across campus Wednesday of a Founders Day letter in which it expressed repulsion to the racist acts that occurred in January

The letter was posted on the 180th anniversary of the creation of Richmond College, which at the time was a liberal arts school for men.

“As a society with members of communities directly impacted by the hateful incidents, as well as concerned students dedicated to improving this institution, we had the urge to respond,” RS wrote in an email to The Collegian on March 6. 

At the beginning and end of the Founders Day letter, RS wrote prose that referenced lyrics drawn directly from UR’s alma mater. 

The Richmond Society's Founders Day letter is taped to a wall in Freeman Hall. The society put up shorter versions of the letter in various buildings around campus. 

“In the last 180 years the college has changed, as has the world around it,” RS wrote in the letter. “In 1914 Westhampton College was established, leading to the eventual creation of the University as we know it. In 1968 the first full-time student of color called these grounds home. But ours is not a spotless past. 

“For many of us, when this University was chartered it was done so with the explicit understanding that we could never enjoy its offerings, be that because of our sex or the color of our skin...And while we should rightly rejoice at how far we’ve come, we should not lose sight of how far we still have to go.” 

RS wrote in the letter, in reference to the racist and xenophobic acts in January, that hate had not and should not have had a place at UR. RS reaffirms its commitment to serve and preserve the campus community, it wrote in the letter. 

RS also spray-painted its symbol on Boatwright Beach, the lawn beside Boatwright Library. 

The Richmond Society's spray-painted symbol on Boatwright Beach, the lawn beside Boatwright library.  

“As for our mark, we didn’t want to put any undue burden on the university staff or workers, so our symbol on Boatwright Beach was put there using marking spray paint,” RS wrote. “It will eventually wash off and fade, not leaving any lasting damage.” 

Assistant Chief of Police Beth Simonds wrote in an email on March 6 that URPD was not considering the spray-painted symbol as vandalism at this time.

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The Collegian first reported on RS in 1985, and subsequently in 2012 and 2017. Since then, the group had not been reported on by The Collegian.

“We don’t make a public statement on every issue facing the university, as the effectiveness of our work comes [from] what our members do behind the scenes,” RS wrote in its email to The Collegian. “But in the celebration of Founders Day we felt there was an urgent need to challenge the campus community to not squander the momentum we have seen on campus in the past few months. Apathy kills progress much quicker than opposition.” 

RS also gave its letter to specific members of the UR community, each in an envelope sealed in wax with a symbol of a rose. These letters were slightly longer with an additional paragraph and other sentences placed throughout the letter.

Letters were sent to the incoming editor-in-chief of The Collegian and both student government presidents, RS wrote. The presidents of the Interfraternity, Panhellenic and National Pan-Hellenic councils received letters as well, RS wrote. 

“It was really interesting having this letter delivered to my door. Someone clearly knew where I had lived,” said Lindsey Paul, president of the Westhampton College Student Government Association. “I think it’s cool that there is this group on campus drawing attention to the university history. I think it’s very much needed."

The letter made Paul think about the message RS was trying to send, she said.

“Recipients were chosen because of the unique roles their organizations play on campus when it comes to changing campus culture,” RS wrote in an email to The Collegian. “With that being said, the letter received by those students was only a slightly longer version of the letter we posted across campus on various buildings. Every student has the ability and duty to make this campus a better place, not any select few.” 

Little information is publicly known about the society. According to the article published in 2017, members of RS also refer to themselves as “Sub Rosa.”  

“According to Merriam-Webster, the Latin phrase, which translates to mean ‘under the rose,’ is used in English to signify secrecy or confidentiality, as the rose is itself a symbol of secrecy,” the article stated. 

“Sub rosa” is also a phrase that many UR community members referenced when talking about secretive plans, according to The Collegian archives.

RS wrote in its email to The Collegain that its members are selected solely on their adherence to the principles of excellence, leadership, honor, morality and, above all, love for UR. They are charged with self-sacrifice, a charge that is not complete when one’s time at UR has come to an end, it wrote.

“While we serve the entire campus community, we were founded on the principle of fraternal organization dedicated to service, and have thus historically drawn our members from Richmond College,” RS wrote.  

RS is dedicated to the anonymity of its members, it wrote. 

“Through secrecy and the collective influence of our members, we bring about opportunities for others to work alongside the Society in acts of compassion, and to come to the aid of their peers,” RS wrote. 

Contact international editor Olivia Diaz at olivia.diaz@richmond.edu. 

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