The University is notable in U.S. history for being the first educational institution to offer academic programs in disciplines now common, such as astronomy and philosophy. Its School of Engineering and Applied Science was the first engineering school in the United States to be associated with a university. Officially, the University of Virginia is incorporated as The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia.
The University of Virginia stands on land purchased in 1788 by an American Revolutionary War veteran (and eventual fifth President of the United States), James Monroe. The farmland just outside Charlottesville was purchased from Monroe by the Board of Visitors of what was then Central College in 1817; Monroe was beginning the first of his own two terms in the White House. Guided by Jefferson, the school laid its first building's cornerstone later in 1817 and the Commonwealth of Virginia would charter the new university on January 25, 1819.
In the presence of James Madison, the Marquis de Lafayette toasted Jefferson as "father" of the University of Virginia at the school's inaugural banquet in 1824. The University's first classes met in March 1825. Other universities of the day allowed only three choices of specialization: Medicine, Law, and Religion, but under Jefferson's guidance, the University of Virginia became the first in the United States to allow specializations in such diverse fields as Astronomy, Architecture, Botany, Philosophy, and Political Science. Jefferson explained, "This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it."
An even more controversial direction was taken for the new university based on a daring vision that higher education should be completely separated from religious doctrine. One of the largest construction projects in North America up to that time, the new Grounds were centered upon a library (then housed in the Rotunda) rather than a church—further distinguishing it from peer universities of the United States, most of which were still primarily functioning as seminaries for one particular religion or another. Jefferson even went so far as to ban the teaching of Theology altogether. In a letter to Thomas Cooper in October 1814, Jefferson stated, "a professorship of theology should have no place in our institution" and, true to form, the University never had a Divinity school or department, and was established independent of any religious sect. Replacing the then-standard specialization in Religion, the University undertook groundbreaking specializations in scientific subjects such as Astronomy and Botany. (However, today the University does maintain one of the highest-rated Religious Studies departments in the U.S. and a non-denominational chapel, notably absent from Jefferson's original plans, was constructed in 1890 near the Rotunda.)
Jefferson was intimately involved in the University, hosting Sunday dinners at his Monticello home for faculty and students, until his death. So taken with the import of what he viewed the University's foundations and potential to be, and counting it amongst his greatest accomplishments, Jefferson insisted his grave mention only his status as author of the Declaration of Independence and Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and father of the University of Virginia. Thus, he eschewed mention of his Presidency and national accomplishments in favor of being remembered for the newly established university.
In 1826, the nation's fourth President James Madison became Rector of the University of Virginia, at the same time America's fifth President James Monroe made his home on the Grounds (at Monroe Hill) and was a member of the Board of Visitors. Both former Presidents stayed at the University until their deaths in the 1830s.
The School of Engineering and Applied Science opened in 1836, making it the oldest engineering school in the United States associated with a university.
At the onset of the American Civil War, the University of Virginia was the largest in the Southern United States and second nationwide only to Harvard University in its scope. Unlike many other colleges in the South, the University was kept open throughout the conflict, an especially remarkable feat with its state being the site of more battles than any other. In March 1865, Union General George Armstrong Custer marched troops into Charlottesville, whereupon faculty and community leaders convinced him to spare the University. Though Union troops camped on the Lawn and damaged many of the Pavilions, Custer's men left four days later without bloodshed and the University was able to return to its educational routines.
Jefferson, ever the skeptic of central authority and bureaucracy, had originally decided the University of Virginia would have no President. Rather, this power was to be shared by a Rector and a Board of Visitors. As the nineteenth century waned, it became obvious this arrangement was incapable of adequately handling the many administrative and fundraising tasks which had become regrettably but unavoidably necessary amid the inner-workings of the growing University.
In 1904, Edwin Alderman resigned as President of Tulane University to take the same position at the University of Virginia. As the University's first President, he embarked on a number of reforms for both the University and the state of Virginia's public educational systems in general. A reform specific to the University of Virginia was one of the first school-sponsored financial aid programs in all of higher learning and, though primitive by today's standards, it included a loan provision for those "needy young men" who were unable to pay. Initially controversial and opposed by many at what had become a very traditional school, Alderman's progressive ideas stood the test of time and he today remains the longest-serving President in the University's history, having served for nearly thirty years until his death in 1931. Alderman Library, a popular landmark among today's students, is his namesake.
Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winner William Faulkner became writer-in-residence at the University in 1957, keeping open office hours until his death in 1962. He was also a lecturer at the school, as well as taking the title "Consultant on American Literature to the Alderman Library". Faulkner had a large collection of his manuscripts and typesets given to and made available (the request reaffirmed by his wife and daughter) at the library upon his death.
In 2004, resulting from a stark decrease in state support, the University of Virginia became the first public university in the United States to receive more of its funding from private sources than from the state with which it is associated. Thanks to a Charter initiative that passed the Virginia General Assembly and was signed into law by then-Governor Mark Warner in 2005, the University—and any other public universities in the state that choose to do so (currently Virginia Tech and William & Mary)—will have greater autonomy over its own affairs.
Also in 2004, the 100th anniversary of Alderman becoming President, the University announced the AccessUVa financial aid program. This program guarantees the University will meet 100% of a student's demonstrated need. It also provides low-income students (up to 200% of the poverty line – as of 2006, about $40,000 for a family of four) with full grants to cover all of their educational needs, and it caps the level of need-based loans for all other students. This program is the first to guarantee full grants to students of low-income families at any public university in the United States.
Though all-white until 1950 and generally all-male until 1970 (women had for many years prior been admitted to the education and nursing schools), the University of Virginia is now more diverse. The makeup of the Class of 2008 was 10% African American, 14% Asian American, 5% Hispanic, 5% Other and 5% International. Fewer than two-thirds identified themselves as being white. Eighty-five percent of the University's entering Class of 2009 were ranked in the top 10% of their graduating high school class and 56% are female.
Today, minority students are particularly successful at the University of Virginia. According to the Fall 2005 issue of Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, the University "has the highest black student graduation rate of the Public Ivies at 86 percent." The journal goes on to state that "by far the most impressive is the University of Virginia with its high black student graduation rate and its small racial difference in graduation rates."
The University of Virginia joined with Harvard University and Princeton University as the three universities announced the end of their Early Decision and Early Action programs in September 2006, stating that such policies limit low-income and middle class students from competing on an equal footing with applicants from wealthy families. For its part, U.Va. noted that of 947 Early Decision acceptances for the Class of 2010, fewer than 20 of those students had applied for financial aid.
Throughout its history, the University of Virginia has won praise for its unique Jeffersonian architecture. In January 1895, less than a year before the Great Rotunda Fire, The New York Times said that the design of the University of Virginia "was incomparably the most ambitious and monumental architectural project that had or has yet been conceived in this century". In the United States Bicentennial issue of their AIA Journal, the American Institute of Architects called it "the proudest achievement of American architecture in the past 200 years". Today, the University of Virginia remains an architectural landmark and popular tourist destination.
The University, together with Jefferson's home at Monticello, is a World Heritage Site, one of only three modern sites so listed in the 50 states, the others being the Statue of Liberty and Independence Hall. It was the first collegiate campus worldwide to be awarded the designation.
Jefferson's original architectural design revolves around the "Academical Village", and that name remains in use today to describe both the specific area of The Lawn, a grand, terraced green space surrounded by residential and academic buildings, the gardens, The Range, and the larger University surrounding it. The principal building of the design, The Rotunda (RotundaCam), stands at the north end of the Lawn, and is the most recognizable symbol of the University. It is half the height of the Pantheon in Rome, which was the primary inspiration for the building. The Lawn and the Rotunda were the model for many similar designs of "centralized green areas" at universities across the country (most notably those at Duke University in 1892, Johns Hopkins University in 1902, Rice University in 1910, Peabody College of Vanderbilt University in 1915, the Green at the University of Delaware in 1916, and Killian Court at MIT in 1916 — the last of which was coincidentally founded by William Barton Rogers, who immediately prior to founding MIT was a Natural Philosophy professor at the University of Virginia for 19 years). Frank E. Grizzard, Jr., a former scholar at the University, has written the definitive book on the original academic buildings at the University.
Flanking both sides of the Rotunda and extending down the length of the Lawn are 10 Pavilions interspersed with student rooms. Each has its own classical architectural style, as well as its own walled garden separated by Jeffersonian Serpentine walls. These walls are called "serpentine" because they run a sinusoidal course, one that lends strength to the wall and allows for the wall to be only one brick thick, one of many innovations by which Jefferson attempted to combine aesthetics with utility.
On October 27, 1895, the Rotunda burned to a shell because of an electrical fire that started in the Rotunda Annex, a long multi-story structure built in 1853 to house additional classrooms. The electrical fire was no doubt assisted by the unfortunate help of overzealous faculty member William "Reddy" Echols, who attempted to save it by throwing roughly 100 pounds (45 kg) of dynamite into the main fire in the hopes that the blast would separate the burning Annex from Mr. Jefferson's own Rotunda. His last-ditch effort ultimately failed. (Perhaps ironically, one of the University's main honors student programs is named for him.) University officials swiftly approached celebrity architect Stanford White to rebuild the Rotunda. White took the charge further, disregarding Mr. Jefferson's design and redesigning the Rotunda interior — making it two floors instead of three, adding three buildings to the foot of the Lawn, and designing a President's House. He did omit rebuilding the Rotunda Annex, the remnants of which were used as fill and to create part of the modern-day Rotunda's northern-facing plaza. The classes formerly occupying the Annex were now moved to the South Lawn in White's new buildings.
Although undoubtedly useful to the University in providing additional classroom space, and not unattractive, if pedestrian in comparison to the Jeffersonian Pavilions, the White buildings have the effect of closing off the sweeping perspective, as originally conceived by Jefferson, down the Lawn across open countryside toward the distant mountains. The White buildings at the foot of the Lawn effectively create a huge "quadrangle", albeit one far grander than any traditional college quadrangle at the University of Cambridge or University of Oxford.
In concert with the United States Bicentennial in 1976, Stanford White's changes to the Rotunda were removed and the building was returned to Jefferson's original design. Renovated according to original sketches and historical photographs, a three-story Rotunda opened on Jefferson's birthday, April 13, 1976.
Though student enrollment has grown well beyond the original Lawn facilities, the University further distinguishes itself by extending the original Academical Village ideal with two exclusively First-Year (freshman) living areas: The Old Dorms (Bonnycastle, Dabney, Echols, Emmet, Hancock, Humphreys, Kent, Lefevre, Metcalf, Page), located on McCormick Road, and The New Dorms (Balz, Cauthen, Courtenay, Dobie, Dunglison, Dunnington, Fitzhugh, Kellogg, Lile, Maupin, Tuttle, Watson, Webb, Woody), adjacent to Scott Stadium, both situated wholly on Grounds and considered integral to establishing peer discourse. The common bonding experience proves such a fixture to the University experience, students often identify themselves by individual "Old" or "New" dormitory. First-Year living areas also include Hereford Residential College, International Residence College, and Brown College at Monroe Hill.
In 2001, John Kluge donated 7,378 acres (30 km²) of additional lands to the University. Kluge desired the core of the land to be developed by the University, and the surrounding land to be sold to fund an endowment supporting the core. A large part of the gift was soon sold to musician Dave Matthews, of the Dave Matthews Band, to be utilized in an organic farming project. It is unknown what the University will do with its "core" portion of the land.
Nearly two decades later, in 1958, Senator John F. Kennedy visited and spoke in the same space with brothers Robert Kennedy and Ted Kennedy, the latter of whom was managing JFK's 1958 Senatorial re-election campaign from his dormitory at the University of Virginia.
Through the 2006-2007 admissions cycle, 30% of each class at the University was made up of Early Decision applicants. Financially, their families were far wealthier than those of other students at the University. In the most recent year, only 1 student received a full financial aid package under the AccessUVa program out of 947 students who were accepted under Early Decision. Less than 2% of Early Decision candidates applied for any financial aid at all.
During the 2008 admissions cycle, there was no early round at the University for the first time since the 1960s and all undergraduate applications were due on one date. The University again received a record number of applications despite eliminating the Early Decision admissions round.
Another new record for applications was established for the Class of 2012, with 18,776 applications for 3,170 spots. Applications rose for each of the four undergraduate schools that accept first-year students into their programs: Architecture, Arts & Sciences, Engineering, and Nursing.
The University of Virginia places #1 among state-supported universities in the United States in the production of Rhodes Scholars. Its most recent winners were two awarded in 2004, bringing it to a cumulative total of 45.
Tuition is lower for both in-state and out-of-state students than at most other top universities. The student composition of the University is such that it was described in the 2006 America's Best Colleges edition of U.S. News and World Report as being "chock full of academic stars who turn down private schools like Duke, Princeton, and Cornell for, they say, a better value.
In the popular U.S. News and World Report rankings, the University of Virginia consistently ranks in the top handful of public universities nationwide. In the 2007 edition, the undergraduate program at U.Va. ranked #2 out of roughly 200 public universities in the United States and #22 overall (including privates). In the 20-year history of the rankings, U.Va. has never dropped out of the Top 25 listing, and in the ten years since U.S. News began ranking public universities as a separate category, U.Va. has ranked either #1 or #2. In every published edition of the report going back to 1983, the University of Virginia has retained its position as the highest ranking doctoral-research university, public or private, in its home state. It is one of the original eight Public Ivys.
The University of Virginia also has many highly regarded graduate programs. Programs ranked in their respective fields' top 10 by U.S. News and World Report include Law, Tax Law, International Law, 18th through 20th Century British Literature, African-American Literature, American Literature, American Literature Before 1865, U.S. Colonial History, Political Theory, Developmental Psychology, Adult/Medical-Surgical Nursing, Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing, Management, Elementary Teacher Education, Secondary Teacher Education, and Special Education.
The Jefferson Scholars Foundation offers four year full-tuition scholarships based on regional, international, and at-large competitions. Students are nominated by their high schools, interviewed, then invited to weekend-long series of tests of character, aptitude, and general suitability. Approximately 3% of those nominated are successful.
Echols Scholars (College of Arts and Sciences) and Rodman Scholars (School of Engineering and Applied Sciences), which include 6-7% of undergraduate students, receive no financial benefits, but are entitled to special advisors, priority course registration, residence in designated dorms and fewer curricular constraints than other students.
The University of Virginia Library System holds 5 million volumes. Its Electronic Text Center, established in 1992, has put 70,000 books online as well as 350,000 images that go with them. No university in the world can claim more electronic texts. These e-texts are open to anyone and, as of 2002, were receiving 37,000 daily visits (compared to 6,000 daily visitors to the physical libraries).
The University of Virginia is a member of a consortium engaged in the construction and operation of the Large Binocular Telescope in the Mount Graham International Observatory of the Pinaleno Mountains of southeastern Arizona. It is also a member of both the Astrophysical Research Consortium, which operates telescopes at Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico, and the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy which operates the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, the Gemini Observatory and the Space Telescope Science Institute. The University of Virginia hosts the headquarters of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, which operates the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the Very Large Array radio telescope made famous in the Carl Sagan television documentary Cosmos and film Contact. The North American Atacama Large Millimeter Array Science Center is also located at the Charlottesville NRAO site.
UVA also hosts the Rare Book School, a non-profit organization that studies the history of books and printing. The University is one of 60 elected members of the Association of American Universities, and the only member representing the Commonwealth of Virginia. It is the United States' sole member of Universitas 21, an international consortium of research-intensive universities. On May 14, 2007, University President John Casteen was named Chairman of the Board of the organization.
Faculty were originally housed in the Academical Village among the students, serving as both instructors and advisors, continuing on to include the McCormick Road Old Dorms, though this has been phased out in favor of undergraduate student resident advisors (RAs). Several of the faculty, however, continue the University tradition of living on Grounds, either on the Lawn in the various Pavilions, or as fellows at one of three residential colleges (Brown College at Monroe Hill, Hereford College, and the International Residential College).
Some of the University of Virginia's faculty have become well-known national personalities during their time in Charlottesville. Larry Sabato has, according to The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, become the most cited professor in the country by national and regional news organizations, both on the Internet and in print. Julian Bond, a lecturer at the University since 1990, has been the Chairman of the NAACP since 1998. Media Studies and Law professor Siva Vaidhyanathan, an expert in copyright law and Internet issues, moved from New York University to the University of Virginia in 2007.
Beginning in 2002, the Cavalier Daily student newspaper has posted faculty compensation online annually.
When compared to other public universities in its home state, the per-student endowment at the University of Virginia is several times larger than its nearest competitors, the College of William and Mary ($75,900 per student) and Virginia Tech ($16,000). It is also several times larger than the highest among flagship institutions of nearby states, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ($55,000) and University of Maryland at College Park ($8,600).
The University is also endowed with several affiliated centers including The Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, The Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, and The Miller Center of Public Affairs. The University of Virginia Art Museum is dedicated to creating an environment where both the University community and the general public can study and learn from the direct experience of works of art.
In 2003, The Wall Street Journal studied the undergraduate backgrounds of entering students at "elite" graduate programs (e.g., Harvard Business School and Yale Medical School). The University of Virginia with 82 placements (2.6% of class) placed 33rd overall and third among all state-supported universities in elite graduate placement. No other state university on the Atlantic Seaboard had greater than one-third the number of placements as the University of Virginia (e.g., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had 26 placements, Georgia Institute of Technology had 20, College of William and Mary had 11).
The University of Virginia's athletics program competes in Division I (and the Football Bowl Subdivision for football) and since 1953 as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The current Athletic Director at Virginia is Craig Littlepage. The Virginia Cavaliers, also called "Wahoos" or "Hoos", have won 19 recognized national championships, 14 of them since 1980. Virginia has won multiple national titles in five different sports, including three men's sports (lacrosse, 6; soccer, 5; and boxing, 2) and two women's sports (lacrosse, 3; and cross country, 2). It also holds a national championship in track and field. The men's college basketball team has won either the ACC regular season (1981, 1982, 1983, 1995, 2007) or ACC Tournament (1976) titles six times and has been to the Final Four twice, while the women's squad has been three times. The college football team is part of the South's Oldest Rivalry with UNC, and tied for a share of the ACC Championship in both 1989 and 1995. After never reaching a bowl before 1984, the team has played in 17 bowl games since. The program is also notable for its recent high draft picks in the National Football League, including the #4 overall pick of 2006, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, and the #2 overall pick of 2008, Chris Long.
In 2006, Virginia's latest National Championship season culminated with its fourth NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championship, and sixth including the pre-tournament era. Virginia handily won the final game 15-7 over UMass in front of a record crowd of 47,062 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, the first lacrosse crowd to surpass the Final Four of men's basketball and the largest crowd to witness any NCAA Championships during the year. The team finished the season a perfect 17–0, the best record in NCAA Lacrosse history.
The new John Paul Jones Arena opened in the fall of 2006 for men's and women's basketball. It seats 14,593 fans, making it the third largest on-campus basketball facility in the ACC and the largest arena not located in a major metropolitan area. The arena's inaugural year witnessed the Virginia men's basketball team's first place finish in the ACC, and Cavaliers coach Dave Leitao was named the ACC Coach of the Year for 2007.
Davenport Field, where the UVa baseball team plays, is also new, opening in 2002. In Brian O'Connor's first 4 seasons a the helm after being made the head baseball coach in July 2003, the team has averaged 44 wins per year and become a nationally-ranked power. The team has led the ACC in team ERA for 4 consecutive years.
The soccer teams are also national powers, with men's soccer having won 5 national championships to date. The women's team is regularly ranked in the top 5 nationally. The teams play their home matches at Klöckner Stadium, the largest soccer stadium in the ACC. The men's team has been invited to the NCAA Tournament for 26 consecutive years.
The Aquatics and Fitness Center (webcam) has been popular among University students for working out and swimming since its opening in Fall 1996, and it is also where the Swimming & Diving teams compete in home meets. The men's swimming and diving team won 8 consecutive ACC Championships between 1999 and 2006.
Also winning consecutive ACC titles has been the men's tennis team, which has won 4 consecutive regular season ACC Championships. Playing their home matches at the Sheridan Snyder Tennis Center, the men's tennis team had their best season ever in 2007, finishing with a 30-4 record and a #2 national ranking. Somdev Devvarman became the first ACC player in conference history to win the NCAA Singles Championship. A year later, Somdev repeated as the NCAA singles champion. In addition, the tennis team beat Ohio State for the National Indoor Tennis Championships 4-1. Unfortunately, the #1 ranked Cavaliers were upset in the season ending team tournament by #5 University of Georgia, the eventual team champion.
Now that Virginia Tech has joined the ACC, the Virginia-Virginia Tech rivalry has been strengthened across a number of sports. This rivalry between the University and its larger neighbor to the southwest is followed statewide. UVA's athletic teams have bested the Hokies through the years in many of the major sports. The two universities also faced off in the Commonwealth Challenge between 2005 and 2007, with the Wahoos winning 14.5 to 7.5 in 2005-2006 and 14 to 8 in 2006-2007.
In 2005, the University was named "Hottest for Fitness" by Newsweek magazine, due in part to 94% of its students using one of the four indoor athletics facilities. Particularly popular is the Aquatics and Fitness Center, situated across the street from the Alderman Dorms.
The University of Virginia sent more workers to the Peace Corps in 2006 than any other "medium-sized" university in the United States. Volunteerism at the University is centered in Madison House, which offers numerous opportunities to serve others. Among the numerous programs offered are tutoring, housing improvement, and an organization called Hoos Against Hunger, which gives leftover food made at restaurants to Charlottesville's homeless rather than allowing it to be thrown away.
A number of secret societies at the University, most notably the Seven Society, Z Society, and IMP Society, have operated for decades, leaving their painted marks on University buildings. Other significant secret societies include Eli Banana, T.I.L.K.A., the Purple Shadows (who commemorate Jefferson's birthday shortly after dawn on the Lawn each April 13), the Rotunda Burning Society (who commemorate the Great Rotunda Fire), and the 21 Society. Not all the secret societies keep their membership unknown, but even those who don't hide their identities generally keep most of their good works and activities far from the public eye.
Student Societies have existed on grounds since the early 19th Century. The Jefferson Literary and Debating Society, founded in 1825, is the oldest collegiate debating organization in the United States, and the second oldest Greek-Lettered organization in the nation. It continues to meet every Friday at 7:29 PM in The Hall. The Washington Literary Society and Debating Union also meets every week, and the two organizations often engage in a friendly rivalry. In the days before social fraternities existed and intercollegiate athletics became popular, these Societies were often the focal point of social activity on grounds. Several fraternities were later founded at the University of Virginia including Pi Kappa Alpha (March 1, 1868) and Kappa Sigma (December 10, 1869). Many of these fraternities are located on Rugby Road.
The student life building on the University of Virginia is called Newcomb Hall. It is home to the Student Activities Center, where student groups can get leadership consulting and use computing and copying resources, as well as several meeting rooms for student groups. Most publications on grounds are produced here, as it is home to both the office of the independent student newspaper The Declaration, The Cavalier Daily, and the Consortium of University Publications. It is also home to the University Programs Council, which uses money from student activities fees to provide events for the student community. Newcomb Hall includes a dining hall, a theatre, a ballroom, an art gallery, and several rooms for magazine and newspaper production.
A national publication's survey recently revealed that U.Va.'s students give their library system higher marks than students at any other school in the United States. The best-known library is Alderman Library for the humanities and social sciences, which contains 10 floors of stacks with many useful study nooks hidden among them. U.Va.'s renowned Small Special Collections Library feature one of the premier collections of American Literature in the country as well as an original copy of the Declaration of Independence. It was in this library in 2006 that Robert Stilling, an English Graduate Student, discovered an unpublished Robert Frost poem from 1918. Clemons Library, next to Alderman, is a popular study spot. Hundreds of students can be found gathered on its various quiet floors on any given night. Clark Hall, home of the Science & Engineering Library, also scores high marks. Clark Hall is also notable for a large Greek-style mural on the ceiling and walls of the library entrance. As of 2006, the University and Google were working on the digitization of selected collections from the library system.
As at many universities, heavy drinking characterizes the social life of some undergraduate students at the University. Responding to the prevalence of alcohol and a recent tradition observed by a portion of the student body called the Fourth-Year Fifth (where some fourth-year students strive to drink a fifth (750 ml) of alcohol during the day of the last home football game), President Casteen announced a $2.5 million donation from Anheuser-Busch to fund a new UVA-based Social Norms Institute in September 2006. A spokesman said: "the goal is to get students to emulate the positive behavior of the vast majority of students."
One of the largest events at the University of Virginia is called Springfest. It takes place every year in the spring, and features a large free concert and various inflatables and games.
Another popular event is Foxfield, a steeplechase and social gathering that takes place nearby in Albemarle County in April, and which is annually attended by thousands of students from the University of Virginia and neighboring colleges.
The University of Virginia has an honor code, formally known as the Honor System. The Honor System is entirely student-run and was founded by Virginia students in the 1840s after John A. G. Davis, chairman of the faculty and professor of law, who was attempting to resolve a conflict between students, was shot to death. Originally, the student was expected to hold himself to a gentleman's code of conduct. In modern times however, the Honor System is composed of only three tenets: a student will not lie, cheat, or steal. It extends to all matters academic and personal, and the sole sanction for a confirmed Honor System violation is dismissal from the University. This is called the "single sanction".
The system is not without its detractors — it has been criticized because the required severe penalty may prevent more moderate violations from being reported or acted upon. As the system is entirely student run, a change to the Honor Council constitution could have the effect of ending the single sanction system of punishment. Although students have voted on numerous proposals to weaken or eliminate the single sanction over the past few decades, none has ever succeeded. Support for the honor system has waned in recent years, and in the Spring of 2007 a referendum to limit single sanction failed to pass after earning 49.5% of the votes cast.
In theory, the Honor System allows the faculty to do such things as assigning timed take-home examinations, and research or studies to be done in a particular way, with the assurance that the strictures placed on the student will be observed. However, no professor is required to extend such courtesies and in large classes professors are rare to grant students any honor privileges. The student is often required to sign all examinations or assignments with the following pledge: "On my honor as a student, I have neither given nor received aid on this assignment/examination." The Honor System allows the student to purchase books and supplies on-Grounds upon giving his or her word to pay, and some members of the Charlottesville community accept the word of the student regarding off-Grounds business transactions.
While cheating is relatively rare (24 students were dismissed during the 2003 academic year, and 21 more were dismissed in 2004), one large cheating scandal occurred in 2001. Physics professor and Hereford College Dean Louis Bloomfield, based on a student's complaint, had suspicions that some of his students had copied portions of their term papers from fraternity archives in his Introduction to Physics class. After devising a computer program to detect copied phrases of at least six sequential words, over 150 students were accused of plagiarizing or allowing others to plagiarize their work over the previous five semesters. Although over 100 of these students were eventually exonerated, 48 students either admitted guilt or were convicted, and were therefore dismissed from the University. Three of these students had already graduated, and their degrees were subsequently revoked.
Numerous political leaders have also attended the University of Virginia including 28th U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, 1968 Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, his son Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and his brother, Senator Ted Kennedy. Other alumni in leadership roles include three United States Supreme Court Justices, two Surgeons General, a Speaker of the House, a Senate Majority Leader, numerous Senators and Representatives, Secretaries of State, Defense, Treasury, Energy, Transportation, and the Navy, and the Secretary General of both NATO and the Council of the European Union.