Across campuses, groups bare it all

'Streaking team,' naked donut run arouse interest

By
Monday, November 15, 2004

The newest sports group at Hamilton College is on a winning streak – literally. In fact, the group, which calls itself Hamilton’s varsity streaking team, has never lost a game in its five seasons of competitive streaking.

Then again, the Hamilton streakers have never actually “played” another streaking team since the team’s formation in 2002 – mostly because they can’t find one. But that hasn’t slowed the team down. During their October break, the streakers toured schools in the New England Small College Athletic Conference – the sports conference Hamilton’s more traditional teams participate in – and emerged unchallenged and undefeated.

Even if a challenging team had stepped forward, competition could have proven difficult, since there are no official, or for that matter unofficial, rules of competitive streaking. There is no scoring system, but there are scores – on its Web site, the team awards itself a point for every successful naked run.

Team member Craig Moores said he didn’t know exactly what a streaking competition would entail or how a winner would be determined, but he said he didn’t see this as a problem. “When you’re taking off your clothes and running around, everyone kind of wins,” he said.

Streaker Pete Holzaepfel said the team hasn’t really figured out all the details of competitive streaking yet, including whether the team has a philosophy. According to Holzaepfel, the team streaks more to get a rise out of people than to send a message.

“It’s all a spoof,” he said.

Even if the streakers don’t have a unified message, they do have a unified goal: victory. So like every good sports team, Hamilton’s streakers have learned to survey each campus they visit and create individualized strategies for success. Among their most notable strategies have been streaking in a Mighty Ducks-style “Flying V” at Middlebury College, strolling through a library at Tufts University and taking a naked guided tour of Connecticut College.

But Holzaepfel said Bates College was the team’s most successful streak on the tour. The team was welcomed with enthusiasm and support at the college – so much so that one Bates student shed his clothes and joined Hamilton’s naked run. Bates was the only school on the team’s tour to get on the scoreboard, even though it currently trails Hamilton 2-1.

According to Moores, the most important part of a streaking game is to draw a large crowd. “If no one sees you run naked, there’s a big question as to whether you did or didn’t streak,” Moores said.

So whenever the team arrives on an opposing campus, the streakers try to tell as many people as possible about the upcoming streak and attempt to recruit students to join them on the run.

Despite the team’s success and its self-proclaimed No. 1 national ranking, the team is not officially recognized by Hamilton’s administration.

Moores said even though members of the administration have had many positive things to say about the streakers, the college can’t officially recognize the team since its sport is “technically illegal.”

According to Moores, alums have had varied responses to the publicity the streaking team has garnered. While some alums have not been pleased, others have gone so far as to offer to buy the team uniforms.

While it’s unclear what kind of uniforms would be used by a streaking team, Moores said items like warm-up suits, headbands or sneakers would be very useful accessories, though he considered team members’ nakedness itself to be a uniform.

It’s little surprise that Hamilton’s streaking team has had some close run-ins with the law. Moores said a few members of the team were caught by campus police at Wesleyan University, where one dormitory is “clothing optional.” And the entire team was caught at Colgate University and cited with disorderly conduct. But Moores said the charge was just a misdemeanor, no worse than driving “really, really fast,” and wouldn’t stop the team from competing.

Even though Brown has yet to receive a streaking challenge from Hamilton’s team, Brown students have ample opportunities to see public nudity thanks to two time-honored campus traditions: the naked party and naked donuts.

The naked party is an annual, invitation-only party hosted by the Watermyn and Finlandia co-ops that took place Nov. 6 this year.

The Co-op event has music, dancing and in most respects is just like any other college party – except that everyone is naked.

Candace Toth ’05, who joined the Watermyn Co-op this year but considered herself more of a naked partygoer than party planner, said she had been nervous about whether the naked party would be highly sexual. But ultimately, the party didn’t feel sexual to her at all, she said.

Jackie Parente GS, who attended the naked party as a sophomore and again this year, echoed Toth’s sentiment, saying that while a lot of times at other parties people’s objectives are more or less to get someone naked, that step is conveniently bypassed at the naked party, allowing people to just enjoy the party itself.

Yet overcoming the novelty of public nudity takes longer for some than others.

While Parente had never been fully naked in public before attending the naked party, she said she had grown accustomed to feeling nearly naked in front of large crowds while playing on Brown’s water polo team as an undergrad. She therefore looked forward to both of her naked party experiences with excitement.

Toth, on the other hand, said she started off the party feeling nervous and self-conscious but grew more accustomed to the nudity as the night progressed.

Toth said the party helped her realize that while the people there were different shapes and sizes, everyone was essentially the same. “There was nothing shocking just because people had their clothes off. We’re all the same type of mammal,” she said.

While the human body is exposed inside the party, Candace said Watermyn is very careful to cover the windows with sheets and put a tarp over the front porch to keep outsiders from sneaking a peek into the naked party.

Naked donuts, on the other hand, is a campus tradition that all students have the opportunity to witness, at least if their timing is right.

During the naked donut run, a group of unclothed students hands out donuts to people studying in the Rockefeller and Sciences libraries during reading period.

The theory behind naked donuts is that anyone studying toward the end of reading period is most likely in need of “a moment of levity,” according to Zach, a Brown student who requested that his only his first name be used because of the secretive nature of naked donuts.

“It’s totally comical in its nature. It serves as a reminder that it’s not all about the studies,” Zach said.

Unlike the naked party, naked donuts is not affiliated with an organization on campus. Instead, Zach said, coordination of the event has moved and traveled and remained highly elusive over the years, with exact details for the naked appearances being shared among participants by word of mouth or e-mail the day of the event.

The clandestine nature is not meant to exclude students from participating, according to Zach. Anyone who feels comfortable enough to hand out donuts in the nude is welcome to do so. Instead, the covertness is mainly because who is participating and when the donuts will be distributed is supposed to be a surprise.

Zach said naked donuts is meant to be a tradition, not a spectacle. But over the years it has changed from a low-key event to an exhibition that draws large numbers of students to the libraries in hopes of catching a glimpse of the naked donut handout.

But Zach said this goes against the true intent of naked donuts, which is to give relief to the overworked, not to be a sexualized spectacle.

In fact, Zach said naked donuts “is one of the most asexual experiences on college campuses tied to the human body.

“It’s just a lot of fun to be with a group of people who are so comfortable that it’s almost like you’re walking through the library and forget you’re naked,” he said.

Unlike Hamilton’s streaking team, naked donuts participants have never had problems with campus security or library officials. Zach said he didn’t know if administrators were aware of naked donuts but hoped that if they did know, they would just look the other way.

Zach said that he saw no problem with the public display of nudity since it takes place on a college campus, among peers, but said events like naked donuts raise the question of “where does the domain of what’s appropriate for being naked in public end?”

Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services David Greene, a Hamilton alum, though never a member of the college’s streaking team, said Brown has no official position on naked donuts.

While Greene said he was not aware of any recent disciplinary cases involving streaking at Brown, the University “certainly encourages people to wear clothes at all appropriate moments.”