When it comes to warding off stress, every college has its own traditions. Some quell student woes with late-night pancakes. Some offer free movie nights. But only at Tufts University in Medford does release of academic tension involve hundreds of synchronized derrières bobbing up and down in below-freezing temperatures.
For decades, the Naked Quad Run (NQR) at Tufts has given its co-eds the chance to engage in organized, police-protected streaking on the last Friday night before finals in December. Like billowing clouds before a torrential downpour, students party in nearby dorms before the 10 pm mark, when suddenly the Student Activity's official "Nighttime Quad Reception" gives way to unstoppable stampedes of naked people.
Raul Arroyo Mendez, Class of 2008, says he heard about the NQR when he visited campus with his parents; it's even touted on the tour. When he arrived freshman year, however, "I thought it was stupid," he recalls. "I'm thinking, 'Who wants to go streaking when it's 20 degrees outside?' "
On the big night, though, Mendez, his friend, and his friend's girlfriend were hanging out in a dorm on campus overlooking the quad.
"I'm sitting there like an old curmudgeon," he remembers. "All of a sudden [my friend's] girlfriend strips off her clothing. He's like, 'What am I gonna do? My girlfriend is running naked in public.' And I'm, like, 'I'm not going to hold your clothes.' "
To hell with it, he decided, and joined in.
Of course, not everyone likes to go with the flow. In 2002 president Lawrence S. Bacow (who will step down next year) wrote an open letter to the student body, expressing his dismay at his first "close encounter" with NQR. Citing police reports of alcohol poisoning, shoulder dislocation, and other instances of wear and tear on the, well, "student body," Bacow wrote, "I have higher expectations for you as students and, candidly, hope that you have higher expectations for yourselves."
In general, however, most professors know to steer clear of the event altogether, according to Emily, also Class of 2008, who asked that her last name be withheld. "They know that it's going on and that there's nothing they can do to stop it."
Other issues come into play at the NQR. According to Tufts's admissions Web site, the majority of the Class of 2013 is white; only 23 percent are minorities. Arroyo said that many African-American and Hispanic students, therefore, don't participate in the NQR, because they're afraid they can be more readily picked out of the overwhelmingly white crowd. And more and more, the prevalence of cell-phone cameras has increased the odds of getting identified — and having your naked photo posted online.
In 2007, the Somerville Journal posted a controversial video of NQR: mostly runners' backsides circling in the darkness, many students wearing Santa hats. The manager of the Web site coccozella.com, which published far sketchier frontal photos of runners in the 2007 NQR, was quoted in the Tufts Daily: "You cannot walk naked down a city street and at the same time be upset that someone takes your picture."
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