For my cousin’s wedding a couple of
years ago, his friends made a brief video of his college years. The
slides were accompanied with some funny quotes and even the
sentimental Green Day song, “Good Riddance (Time of Your
Life).” To the horror and amusement of the 600 guests at the
wedding reception, they included a picture of his back as he
whipped by the camera during the Naked Mile.
It was just something they did back then. Seniors would shed
their clothes to celebrate their final escape from this institution
and before they were forced into the restraints of the “real
world.” The route from Washtenaw Avenue to the Cube would be
filled with supporters and drunken onlookers who also were
celebrating the arrival of spring and the completion of yet another
semester at the University.
It was something Ann Arbor was known for in the 1990’s and
like all other things in the city that were once thought of with
nostalgia and pride, it too was corrupted by people who should have
had no control over it.
The administration set up fliers all across the campus
announcing the dangers of the Naked Mile. We were told that
students would be abused and fondled and that their pictures would
be placed on the Internet for all to see. The Ann Arbor Police
Department also started cracking down on the participants,
arresting students who then faced misdemeanor charges as well as
thousands of dollars in fees. What was once a cry of freedom not
only brought about restraints from the police, but also
embarrassing repercussions on the Internet. Soon, the Naked Mile
was dead and the only people who were willing to run were students
in bathing suits who were brave enough to weather the cold.
Contrary to some people’s belief that I am just interested
in seeing a bunch of naked people (I can do that any day on the
Internet), I am moved to write about this because the
administration and police’s powers annoy me. This was our
event. We wanted to do something silly and refreshing and were
bogged down by the powers that be.
In the years prior to the administration’s smear campaign,
the administration and the Michigan Student Assembly worked
together to provide Naked Mile security. Students wore brightly
colored shirts and kept the crowd in check. Runners were not afraid
of being molested and were less bothered by the police. The stories
from last year’s Naked Mile on the other hand, are completely
disheartening. The only humorous comments were those remarking on
the speed of certain students running from the police who were
chasing them on bicycles.
That the administration can squash something in which students
willingly participated without even minimal student response shows
that the University students in 2004 are as far from the liberal
and independent students from the 1990’s as we are from the
radicals of the 1960’s. That our representatives in MSA have
failed to even mention an event that once was a prominent milestone
in students’ lives shows their disconnect.
Secret e-mails have been floating around for the past couple of
weeks talking about the resurrection of the Naked Mile. Students
want to participate and want to do it in a safe environment.
Instead of wasting their time and our money voting on insubstantial
national proposals, MSA should think about answering the
students’ concerns. Willing runners await if they can do it
without the threat of serious prosecution and with the protection
of some security. Until recently, the AAPD was a surprisingly
rational department that protected and served students fairly. It
should not be difficult to persuade it or the administration to
serve students’ needs by just letting us do our own, harmless
Unfortunately, MSA’s thumb-twiddling and administration
brown-nosing have become all too familiar. Instead of just looking
back with longing, we have only one option, though technically
illegal, to take back the freedoms that are rightfully ours. I
invite the brave and righteous to get naked, strap on the saran
wrap, run the mile and bring back our Naked Mile.