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Naked and Afraid of Finals: Students Let Out Stress by Streaking Through Harvard Yard

Students congregated in Harvard Yard for Primal Scream on Wednesday night, the last day of reading period.
Students congregated in Harvard Yard for Primal Scream on Wednesday night, the last day of reading period. By Raquel Coronell Uribe
By Jina H. Choe and Jack R. Trapanick, Crimson Staff Writers

Washing away their finals-induced stress, Harvard undergraduates stripped, screamed, and sprinted through a rainy Harvard Yard for this semester’s installment of Primal Scream.

Known as Primal Scream, the biannual tradition of running a naked lap around the Yard on the eve of final exam period continued in this week’s chilling rain. At midnight on Wednesday, students gathered in front of Hollis Hall, removed any remaining garments, and bared it all as they ran a tour of the Yard.

Primal Scream, a rite that dates back to at least 1995, is a chance for students to release any stress from the semester and decompress before their looming final exams. Typically, a few participants remain in their undergarments, while many wear nothing but shoes.

The semi-clothed Harvard University Band assembled in front of the John Harvard statue to play music for the streakers, accompanying runners’ screams with lively tunes.

Kasia A. Zarzycka ’23 first participated in the tradition in the fall of her freshman year, an experience that she described as “so much fun.” She returned to the tradition for the spring of her senior year.

“This is my last time, so I gotta do it,” she said. “I’m actually so excited.”

After completing the naked lap, Zarzycka said she felt “so much more energized.”

“I think it’s great to be able to release these emotions, and I think it’s really bonding,” she said. “People are actually, you know, letting their true selves out. I think this is fantastic. I absolutely love it.”

Jorden S. Wallican-Okyere ’26, who did not participate in the streaking but attended to support her friend, said the tradition was a “cathartic experience” and “a good way to bond with your other classmates.”

“You know, the adrenaline. You’re excited for finals,” she said.

Other students cared more about the excitement of the streaking itself than stress relief.

“I just like screaming and running,” said Meredith E. Blanchard ’26, who participated in Primal Scream with her suitemates.

Justin Ji ’26, who ran his first Primal Scream last semester, said the main appeal was “trying something new” and going out of his “comfort zone.”

“I’d never done something like this in high school,” he said.

Ji described his “first time going naked in front of the public” as “very freeing.”

Accompanying this semester’s scream was the typical crowd of tourists around the John Harvard statue, including some who observed from folding chairs. Some of the onlookers recorded Primal Scream with videos and flash photography.

But Ryan P. Adams ’26 said neither the poor weather nor the sightseers bothered him.

“When you’re in the moment, you’re not thinking about all that. Some people do it just to do it, but I do it to run — run and win,” Adams said.

“I love being athletic, and flexing on all these people with my athleticism was pretty cool,” he added.

Despite the cold and rainy weather, which may have interfered with some screamers’ experiences, Warren Zhu ’26 said he had no reservations toward the tradition.

“It was easy. I love being naked,” he said. “I think it should be a daily tradition. Every day, 10 o’clock, every single day.”

“I love the weather. The colder it is, the better it is,” he added. “This kind of tradition, you need a fucking challenge.”

—Staff writer Jina H. Choe can be reached at jina.choe@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Jack R. Trapanick can be reached at jack.trapanick@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jackrtrapanick.

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