Andrew Siddons: The college tradition we lack

A few weekends ago I took a trip to the University of Virginia to visit one of my best friends from high school. We spent the time catching up, while he gave me a tour of the beautiful campus designed by Thomas Jefferson and the very decent nightlife that takes place there. We came to discuss the differences between our schools, and after some time to reflect, I’ve realized what is lacking at GW that surely keeps us from entering the ranks of UVA, and indeed, of many venerable universities – streaking.

Sometime in between leaving the bars and standing naked on the steps of the Rotunda, UVA’s shrine to Jefferson, my friend and I decided to streak in 30-degree weather. Perhaps we were inspired by Jefferson’s majestic architecture, perhaps we could no longer feel feelings, but it seemed like a really good idea at the time. Earlier in the evening, walking across the lawn we would eventually streak, my friend described the revered custom that students have creatively dubbed “streaking the lawn.”

Starting atop the steps of the Rotunda, one runs the length of the 740-foot lawn, kisses the butt of a statue of the blind poet Homer on the opposite end, and races back to the Rotunda. Once you gaze through a keyhole at the statue of Jefferson inside the Rotunda, you can put your clothes back on.

Since my friend and his roommates had never streaked the lawn, my visit provided a good excuse for them to do so. We were not alone that night – as we approached the steps, there were some streakers dressing up again as another pair started as we finished up. There were even spectators from the dorms that border the lawn cheering us on and shouting encouragement as I took a nasty spill on the pavement. After streaking, I really felt as if I was part of something bigger, not unlike the stand-clearing finale of our men’s basketabll season last year.

Like UVA, many fine institutions of higher learning have their own naked traditions. At Harvard University, students run two naked laps around the yard on the night before final exams. Dartmouth College has not one, but two streaks. Hamilton College in New York even has a varsity streaking team, which is undefeated. But according to the GW University Archives, our glorious institution never seems to have had a properly organized perennial streak. Jennifer King, a manuscripts librarian at the archives did say, however, that “during the time when streaking was vogue (which I believe was the early 1970s), there may have been some streaking that [occurred] on campus.”

The reasons a tradition like this might never have caught on at GW are pretty obvious. The layout of our campus and distribution of landmarks don’t provide for any single logical path. Another thing that might stand in our way is the fact that, unlike any of the aforementioned schools, we’re smack dab in the middle of our nation’s capitol. We have neighbors that hate us already and probably lack the sense of humor to appreciate a bunch of naked co-eds running around Foggy Bottom.

Unfortunately, the powers that be have made it much harder for folks to enjoy their freedom to run around naked, as evidenced by the demise of the University of Michigan’s famed “naked mile” in 2001. But while you can enforce public indecency laws, you can’t destroy student spirit. You know what UVA students did when police started cracking down on freedom-loving streakers? They streaked en masse and saved the practice for those who would follow naked in their footsteps.

Elliott School of International Affairs students should consider the story of the world’s first recorded streaker, George William Crump. A student at what is now Washington and Lee University in 1804, Crump was arrested for running naked through the streets of Lexington, Va. While he was suspended for the remainder of his senior year, Crump went on to become a U.S. Congressman and the U.S. ambassador to Chile. Instead of finding an internship with the State Department, Crump went streaking, and look what happened.

If GW wishes to reach the top tier of academia, it seems pretty clear that streaking is part of the answer. I’m not sure what else we’re lacking, since we’ve already added flat screens in the Marvin Center, placed comfy chairs in all the classrooms and cut all of those meaningless academic programs that were holding us back from greatness. So, who’s up for running a naked lap around University Yard at midnight on George Washington’s birthday?

-The writer, a senior majoring in international affairs and anthropology, is a Hatchet columnist.

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