Streaking: Mac's most enduring tradition

By Olivia Provan

A girl was standing at the Doty side entrance propping the door open, anxiously peering inside. She was fully clothed, but the three people, one male and two female, running through the door were not. The only concealed parts of them were their identities, by means of long cloths wrapped nonchalantly around their heads.”Streakers,” I said to my out-of- town friend who was visiting for the weekend. “Welcome to Macalester.” My friend and I kept walking to brunch-it was only 11 a.m. As we approached Grand we saw one of the female streakers abort mission. She turned abrubtly at the chapel and ran back toward the street.

With the cars whizzing around us, my friend and I stood looking across at the naked girl, hands on her hips – the drivers were too intent on getting to their destinations to let her pass. When a break in the stream of cars finally emerged, the girl jogged past us, extremities bouncing freely, into Doty, where her friend still waited, holding the door.

Badger Johnson ’09, one of the masked streakers that day, calls this and his other streaking experiences political and social statements against societal norms, a way to get comfortable with his body, and a simply fun and exhilarating experience. But Macalester’s recent crack down on streaking, especially after the elimination of the popular midnight breakfast, has exposed some more negative perspectives on streaking.

“I don’t understand the concept of streaking at all,” said Dean of Students Laurie Hamre. “I believe that it’s an act of selfish exhibition.” Hamre said that streaking on campus takes away witnesses’ rights – the right to choose whether or not to experience the shock that sometimes comes with unexpectedly seeing others naked.

But Johnson said he has a right to express himself without having to worry about the woes of those in the community. “Expressing your freedom does not take away the freedom of others,” he said.

In addition to moral objections to streaking, Hamre points to the legal reasons why streaking should not occur on campus. The student handbook mentions public nudity as a violation of state law under indecent exposure, and gives the right to the administration to exercise disciplinary action when indecent exposure does indeed occur.

This is what happened at the Midnight Breakfast in Spring ’02, when students sat down naked to eat, creating what Hamre said was not only a violation of the students’ rights to participate in the breakfast, but also a violation of proper sanitation. Hamre issued a warning in response to the event, but the streakers resumed again in Fall ’02. The Midnight Breakfast was subsequently cancelled.

Hamre also sees the streaking of school-wide events unfair to the general student body. “It’s selfish to streak those events…they’re not just for the streakers,” she said. But as Johnson said, “If people really don’t want to see [streakers], they can close their eyes.”

Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) president Ben Johnson ’06, also a member of the Mac cross-country team, is a little more sensitive to those who find streaking offensive. He said that he and the other team members recognize that there are students who are opposed to the idea of public nudity. “Most streaking happens late at night and on the track where only those privy to streaking are present,” he said. He added that administrative discipline doesn’t deflect him or his teammates from streaking. This view is supported by Badger Johnson who views streaking as a “statement against authority,” which is part of the reason why he streaks.

Roscoe Sopiwnik ’06, captain of the cross-country team, doesn’t see the team’s actions as a reason for the administration to take disciplinary action. “The administration sees [streaking] as something negative that’s happening in the community when it’s really meant as a bonding experience,” he said. Mac cross-country streaks around the track at the start and end of the season as a way of marking its territory and bonding as a team, he said. “Streaking is not meant to be disrespectful to the administration of security,” Sopiwnik said, “but as a liberating and fun experience.”

Still, Hamre worries about streaking’s negative consequences. “Students aren’t always the best judges of what makes their peers comfortable,” she said, mentioning that streaking could develop into peer-pressure or hazing.

But why streak if the administration is oppposed to it and students know that disciplinary action will be taken? Ben Johnson admited that the administration’s negative view is part of the reason he streaks. “If streaking was totally O.K., less people would do it,” he said, adding that the administration’s crack down on streaking doesn’t deflect him from the activity. Badger Johnson agreed, adding that he sees streaking as a statement against authority.

” [The anti-streaking policy] is a silly rule – a good thing to break,” he said.