As a new student entering the Longwood University community, you may have been surprised or even concerned to first hear a fellow student exclaim with extreme happiness and excitement, "I found a dropping!" You may have also wondered why you see students taking extra care to not walk on the blue rotundas painted on sidewalks throughout the campus, or likewise seeing students walk a little extra distance to step on a black crown.
In fact, these are some of Longwood's oldest and most respected traditions, each created through the presence of the university's two secret societies, CHI and Princeps. If they are secrets, why can we know about them? The answer is simple: the ideals each holds are known and ever-present throughout the Longwood community. It's the members of each who are kept secret.
According to Ellen Masters, former member and current advisor of both organizations, "The secrecy is part of what keeps them going and what makes Longwood students embrace the traditions each year. The organizations are about the work they accomplish and not who is in them." Each secret society has different ways of interacting with the students of Longwood while still keeping the secrecy of the members in tact. Though both organizations are similar in that they are secret societies, the two actually have distinctly different goals.
CHI was founded on Oct. 15, 1900, and is therefore, the oldest continuous service organization at Longwood. CHI's purpose is to promote and maintain the spirit of cooperation through every stage of college life. One of CHI's activities around campus is leaving droppings, "originally called CHI-kerchiefs," according to Masters.
Through these droppings, CHI shows its presence and hopes to promote the spirit of Longwood. Masters stated, "The more students who have them will pass them down to friends before leaving, and the idea is that this will continue to build and spread the spirit of Longwood." CHI Walks are another famous tradition that the organization uses to show its presence and interact with the campus.
These walks are a much-esteemed aspect of the 111-year-old Longwood tradition. Longwood students respectfully line the walkway and wait silently as the completely hidden members walk and chant through the path, spreading the spirit of CHI. The most recent CHI Walk, Oct. 14 at midnight on Brock Commons, celebrated the organization's 111th Birthday, and members sported birthday hats during their usual promenade.
According to Masters, "CHI also sends letters of recognition to students who support the campus and Longwood community in good ways, has the CHI clown at Oktoberfest, and has the CHI Burning at the end of each school year." The CHI Burning is another Longwood tradition in which the senior members of CHI are revealed and CHI recognizes students, organizations, and faculty members who have performed good deeds throughout the year.
CHI's symbol is the Greek letter chi, X, and their presence on the campus is also seen in the blue rotundas painted on the sidewalks. Out of respect for the organization and the spirit of Longwood, Longwood students do not walk on the rotundas. It is also said that stepping on a rotunda is bad luck. CHI's motto is aptly, "Service to the whole without seeking honor for the self."
Princeps was founded in 1992, and its main goal, according to Masters, is, "promoting leadership and service in Longwood students and the college community." Masters also commented that Princeps was originally thought to be replacing CHI, but this sentiment was false; the two promote different goals. Princeps' members also remain secret but interact with Longwood students to promote leadership as a form of service. Princeps also participates in the dropping tradition at Longwood, and just as with CHI droppings, Princeps droppings are seen as a form of good luck and show the presence of Princeps on campus.
The Princeps' symbol is a crown with seven points and the number seven, symbolizing the seven key principles of leadership. The black crowns painted around campus show the Princeps' presence, and it is thought that stepping on the black crown is good luck. Another way Princeps interacts with students is the paper sevens placed on students' doors who have received the honor of President's List and Dean's List for academic achievement. Larger wooden sevens are also given by the Princeps to certain students for special recognition of leadership skills through their involvement in the Longwood community. According to Masters, "One would attain the wooden seven through a riddle given to the student through his or her mailbox that would lead to a faculty member with the large wooden seven. The faculty member is given a smaller wooden seven to keep as well."
Princeps also hosts the annual Freshmen Leadership Dinner, to recognize freshmen students who have shown good leadership qualities in their short time at Longwood. Masters stated, "Princeps also recognizes seven student leaders in The Rotundaeach semester for their leadership skills and involvement, and gives out ribbons at the annual Mountain Lake Leadership Conference which Longwood students may attend." The Princeps motto, also very appropriately, is "To lead is to serve."
Princeps recognizes, according to Masters, "Through leadership, individuals can effectively develop skills that will enhance the progress of civilization."
Both societies remain secretive and interact with the students of Longwood in ways to support and recognize both Longwood spirit and leadership, respectively. Each is respected in the Longwood community, and the success of each depends on the acceptance of them by Longwood students.
Masters concluded by stating, "The main purpose of each is to recognize others for their leadership, service and spirit; in this way, everyone is a member, and everyone has a role in the continuation of these respected and longstanding traditions."