In Franklin's Footsteps
The Junto Society was created to be a prime exemplar of some of the virtues and practices the faculty seeks to encourage among the student body: intellectual curiosity; informed, reasoned and civil discourse; and engagement with ideas outside the classroom.
The Junto Society is patterned after Benjamin Franklin's own organization of the same name. In his Autobiography, Franklin explained the operation of his Junto Society as follows:
"We met on Friday Evenings. The Rules I drew up requir'd that every Member in his Turn should produce one or more Queries on any Point of Morals, Politics or Natural Philosophy, to be discuss'd by the Company, and once in three Months produce and read an Essay of his own Writing on any Subject he pleased. Our debates were to be under the Direction of a President, and to be conducted in the sincere Spirit of Enquiry after Truth, without Fondness for Dispute, or Desire for Victory; and to prevent Warmth all Expressions of Positiveness in Opinion, or of direct Contradiction, were after some time made contraband and prohibited under small pecuniary Penalties" (Yale UP edition, pp.116-17).
The F&M Junto Society operates similarly. The Society meets on five Sunday evenings during the academic year. Two rising juniors per College House are selected each year by the dons and House deans. Membership carries over into the senior year.
Each of the senior members of the society presents one paper to the organization (which is made up of 10 seniors and 10 juniors) on a topic of public interest and current debate. Following the reading of the paper, all society members respond to and discuss the paper.