Imagine, it’s the last day of classes after a long, grueling school year. The sun has set. It is time to break the building stress of final papers and exams for one glorious night. It is time to express youthful freedom and rebellion though the symbolic shedding of the restrictions of society. It is time to strip off all articles of clothing and streak across the University in the annual Naked Mile, as students have been doing since 1986.
Unfortunately, being completely blown out of proportion over the last two years, the Naked Mile has ceased to simply be a rebellious student tradition. In 2000, the Naked Mile was a media sensation. News cameras televising the event and blimps flying overhead attracted perverts from the surrounding areas to come videotape the event. As alcohol consumption excited the crowd, spectators, some of whom were in possession of loaded guns and other weapons, both groped the runners and assaulted one another.
In response to these threats to the runners’ safety, the administration, along with the Department of Public Safety and the Ann Arbor Police Department, began to strongly discourage students from participating in the Naked Mile. In both 2001 and 2002, marketing campaigns in the residence halls, advertisements in The Michigan Daily and letters sent from the University president to the student body ardently warned students of the event’s dangerous atmosphere and exaggerated the possible repercussions if caught. Their efforts nearly extinguished this long-held tradition. Only a handful of students in their underwear participated in the Naked Mile last year.
This year, however, the media and administrative hoopla has been surprising flaccid. The media seems to have forgotten the event. The University has been silent.These conditions could be greatly beneficial to this year’s Naked Mile. It is unlikely that the media will attract spectators to the University to watch and harass the runners, eliminating the dangerous conditions of 2001. The administration has stopped its campaign rhetoric, leaving students unhindered by propaganda and psychologically free to participate in the event.
Students should take advantage of this situation to reclaim the tradition and bring it back on their own terms. Runners should individually take the initiative to streak after the last day of classes. However, they should do so not to amuse the public, fulfill the expectations of the media or even to uphold a treasured tradition. Runners should participate purely for their own sense of freedom from performing this daring act of rebellion on their final day as a college student before going off into the “real world” and being tied down by responsibility and societal obligations. Only in this way can students once again make the Naked Mile a tradition by the students and for the students, an integral part of the University that helps to build its unique character and create a sense of community.