Exploring Naked College Traditions

Fashion is a fickle thing but it seems mass nudity will never go out of style. Twice a year at

Fashion is a fickle thing but it seems mass nudity will never go out of style. Twice a year at the stroke of midnight, Harvardians abandon their clothes to participate in Primal Scream. A bunch of Harvard students—who at any other moment would have been clad to the teeth and too cold to give you the time of day—run, jog and saunter around the Yard in their birthdays’ finest.

But what of the world beyond the gates of fair Harvard? Are there people out there? Do they go to college? Do they like to get naked and run around too? Do they look better naked than Harvard students do?

As it turns out: yes, uh-huh, yup and not often (there’s just something about mass nudity of non-porn stars that lacks je ne sais quoi). Just up the Red Line, Tufts students participate in an event similar to Primal Scream. Every fall on the Sunday before reading period, students gather on the Tufts quad to cheer on fellow student streakers. The undergraduates are often joined by townies who bring video cameras to commemorate the event. “There are hundreds of people that do it,” says Jeffrey J. Fox, a Tufts junior. “It’s a great, drunken break from studying. I would say that it’s 80-20 male-female. It is a sausage factory but it’s exciting to see tits flopping around,”

“I did it to be naked,” remembers Tufts junior Daniel E. Kramer, president of Tufts’ Delta Tau Delta chapter. Kramer notes that you “got to be sure your pecker is as big as everyone else’s.”

“Shrinkage is definitely a concern, but the alcohol makes it [running] possible,” Fox says. But it can be a tough crowd at Tufts. “I was surprised to find that people were so critical about the levels of, you know, girls’ pube maintenance,” Fox adds.

Similarly, students at Michigan go the “extra mile” in the widely attended Naked Mile on the Sunday before reading period. (For a Michigan student’s description of the Naked Mile, see the sidebar at the right.)

At Swarthmore, the men and women’s rugby teams hold a bi-annual Dash for Cash. Students and other spectators line the halls of the main administrative building holding out money. The rugby players then streak the halls while trying to grab as much cash as they can.

In the annual Race of Disgrace, a few Amherst men gather to race around the campus library, downing a beer each time they complete a lap. The first to drop out has to strip naked and kiss the front of the library.

The Nude Olympics held at Princeton was originally started by a group of students who wanted to protest the university’s decision to admit women. Since then men and women have greeted the first snowfall without proper attire in joyful harmony. Unfortunately for Carswell Professor of Afro-American Studies and of Philosophy K. Anthony Appiah, the Nude Olympics were recently banned from campus due to the number of cases of alcohol poisoning surrounding the event.

At Bowdoin the men’s soccer team streaks through the library before fall break. To satiate the sweet tooth of onlookers, the team hands out Tootsie Rolls and other candies.

Once a month at Rice, members of Club 13 strip down and cover themselves with shaving cream. They then streak to the campus bar where they enjoy a pint on the house. The club president, quoted in Rolling Stone, says that despite the frequency of the event the thrill still remains: “People expect me to run and hang my penis in front of their face.” This past Halloween, the thrill was not enough for one Club 13 member, who was arrested for throwing water balloons at a Rice University police officer. The nudists weren’t the only ones throwing things: six athletes were arrested for throwing eggs at the streakers, testament to the fact that nudity is not always appreciated.

Just down the Pike, the once-chaste women of Mount Holyoke, one of the nation’s oldest women’s colleges, can now receive exotic dancing lessons. Susan Scotto, a Russian literature lecturer, teaches the classes on campus. “I don’t see any way how an exchange of pleasure is something to be condemned,” she told the Union-News in Springfield. Scotto supported herself through exotic dancing while attending Berkeley and still dances semi-professionally, though she has made no plans to lecture at Harvard due to the inflexibility of the Core.

Across the continent, at Stanford, seniors and freshmen gather on the quad on the first full moon of September to give and receive a welcoming kiss. “There are all these people in the center of the quad running around trying to kiss each other,” relates Stanford first-year Elizabeth M. Brooks, “and you have these peripheral groups of people who aren’t into the kissing thing but still want to be part of it, so they just walk around naked.” Not unlike the fabled Hong Kong Scorpion Bowls, Elizabeth describes the freshman welcome as “a nasty mono-spreading mess. People actually go home with people that they don’t know afterwards. It’s nuts.”

But why? Why go to school? Why write a thesis? Why run around with your classmates naked as the day you were born just to put it all back on feeling good, but not truly satisfied? Brendon T. Demay ’03, who has run in every Primal Scream since his first year, including the first annual summer school Primal Scream, says, “It’s to do something crazy and stupid just for the sake of being stupid and crazy. At 11:45 the Yard is a ghost town and then people just come out of nowhere.” Brendon hopes to complete the unprecedented nine-for-eight feat.

Asked why he runs, Joseph S. “Big Joe” Linhart ’03, who has participated in four Primal Screams, replies: “I don’t run, I walk. And in the spring I barbecue.” Last year Joe served up hot dogs and buns and always appreciated the compliments he received on both. For this coming spring Joe has planned a menu of hot dogs, chicken breasts and foot-long kielbasas. He also hopes to organize a coed volleyball game. “What motivates me and maybe other people too,” Joe muses, “is that I always feel like there’s a party going on and I don’t want to miss out. Now I want to make sure that I am the party.”

An example of true tenacity, Brian J. Hayes ’03 has run in every Primal Scream despite getting frostbite his freshman year, when he stripped completely—including doffing his footwear—and ran into the Yard. “It was 40 below that year, freezing,” he recalls. “I got caught up in it and I did multiple laps.” When he returned to his room he could no longer feel his feet and was soon limited to crutches as his feet recovered from frostbite.

But mere bodily harm will never stop Brian, nor his thousands of drunk brothers at campuses across the nation, from naked sprinting. “If anything,” he says, “it strengthened my resolve.”

The Naked Mile

University of Michigan senior Troy M. Wallace describes the Naked Mile thusly in an e-mail: “As far as I know, Naked Mile participants are all frat guys hoping to see attractive, naked women. Also, Naked Mile spectators are all geeks hoping to see attractive, naked women. What happens, of course, is that the geeks see a bunch of naked frat guys. The frat guys only see other naked frat guys, while geeks stare at them in disappointment. Both groups are embarrassed. There seem to be quite a number of people who really want to see attractive, naked women running. In past years, more people have been watching, taking pictures, and making videos. Apparently, pornography websites are really catching on to this great opportunity and have been trying to capitalize on other people’s lack of dignity/self-respect. The University has been trying to crack down on Naked Mile participation in recent years by citing certain incidents involving the grabbing of body parts and mentioning the humiliation of seeing pictures of your naked self running scared through the city streets on www.buttrun.com. This doesn’t seem to hinder a lot of people, who are willing to fight persecution for the noble cause of providing flapping genitalia for the masses. There are a few who think it’s going to be sexy. These people are disappointed to see pink, freakish bodies scurrying around with undulating skin on a (frickin’ cold) mid-April evening. Most seem to do it for the thrill. Part of the thrill being, of course, the possibility of being arrested for indecent exposure and having your name on the county list of sex offenders. And many a rookie is surprised to see the Naked Mile vets with their clothes waiting for them at the finish line while they sheepishly, quickly return to their dorms. This is what I know about the Naked Mile. I’m sorry that it exists. I apologize on behalf of the University of Michigan for this horrible event.”