The Jefferson Literary and Debating Society is inviting all students at the University of Virginia to interview for membership at the beginning of the Spring semester. The Jefferson Society was founded in 1825 and is the oldest student organization on Grounds. Members of the Jefferson Society come from all parts of the University, including undergraduate programs, the Law School, Darden, Batten, and PhD programs. In the past, the Jefferson Society has served as an intellectual home at the University for a future U.S. President, Senators, a Nobel Laureate, and world-famous poets. As a literary and debating society, the members of the Jefferson Society meet weekly on Friday nights to deliver speeches on topics that impassion them, to debate over pressing matters facing the University or the country, to discuss the literature of today or of antiquity, and to converse with friends, old and new. If this seems like a place for you, read below to learn more about our interview process, peruse this website to learn more about the Society, or attend one of our Information Sessions to hear from members of the Society. We look forward to meeting you.
The Society will host Information Sessions on the following days, accessible by the links below:
Sign-ups are not required; however, if you would like to receive an email reminder about our Information Sessions, please fill out the following form.
Interviews will be held Saturday, February 6th through Friday, February 12th over Zoom. To interview, fill out an interview card found here, and we will contact you with further details.
Interviews generally last 30-45 minutes and involve discussions on topics of your choosing with three to four members of the Society. Interviews are designed to function as an intellectual conversation that will allow you to defend any arguments you choose to make.
The list of newly selected probationaries will be posted promptly at noon on Sunday, February 14th, outside of Jefferson Hall. Notification emails will be sent out in the afternoon to all interviewees.
There is no set of topics the Society likes to see, and we highly discourage interviewees from trying to pick topics that way. The Society looks for the ability to effectively articulate and defend positions, for wide-ranging knowledge, and for intellectual curiosity. Current members have successfully discussed politics, economics, superheroes, sports, and literature, among many other topics, in their interviews. Interviewees need not have previous experience in debate, public speaking, or any other subject in order to be successful.
Students from every school at the University are welcome, and the Hall has many graduate and professional students. The Society does not discriminate in its membership or membership policies based on age, citizenship, color, disability, gender, race, religion, national origin, political affiliation, sexual orientation or status as a disabled Veteran or Veteran of the Vietnam era. Students can interview only once per semester. Those who are not accepted as probationaries this semester are invited and encouraged to interview again in the future.
These are some of the characteristics of a passing interview:
- Passion: the conversation is lively and generally enjoyable
- Logical coherence: the arguments are internally consistent
- Respectful and friendly attitude: the interviewee is generally a pleasant person
- Responsiveness and engagement: the interviewee is willing to wrestle with different ideas
- Awareness of the argument: the interview demonstrates understanding of the sphere of and assumptions underlying the conversation
- Knowledge of subject: the interviewee demonstrates wide-ranging knowledge
- Ability to integrate new information: the interviewee is able to incorporate new facts or assumptions into his/her argument
- Effective speaking style: the interviewee is articulate and even captivating
During the week of interviews, the Society holds several social events to allow interviewees to get to know the Society better. This typically includes a couple of information sessions, a meet and greet, and our traditional sippers event on Friday night before an open house meeting that we hold for all interviewees. Please check back later for more information.
The probationary process involves attendance at Society events throughout the semester, a presentation before the Society. Probationaries are aided through the process by the Membership & Probationary Committees, and even probationaries with complicated or busy schedules (ex. varsity athletes, non-traditional students) have been successful. Most probationaries are invited to become regular members upon the completion of these requirements. For more information on the probationary process, feel free to contact the Probationary Chair, Ms. Jule Voss.
More information about the Society can be found around the website, but no prior knowledge of the Society is expected of interviewees. If you have questions about the interview process or the Jefferson Society, feel free to contact the Membership Chair, Mr. William Krag.