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2012 Spring Issue 2 (April 13, 2012)

Let’s get naked? Understanding a longtime Carleton tradition

April 13, 2012
By Mike Alexander and Alex Walker

How big of a deal is streaking at Carleton?

Attend a major campus performance such as Ebony and inevitably, at some point during the show, a group of naked people will run across the stage.
Streaking is deeply embedded in the culture of Carleton dating back to at least the 1960s.

The Wikipedia article “Streaking at Educational Institutions” references streaking at Carleton in its introduction, and according to a 1967 Carletonian article, streaking was already a well-established campus tradition at that time.

Carleton also boasts the first recorded female streaker, Laura Barton ’77, who streaked a performance of Measure for Measure in February of 1974. The Voice reports that Barton’s achievement was mentioned in the March 1974 issue of Time Magazine.

Despite the impressive history of streaking at Carleton, the action is not universally embraced. Streakers can be subject to campus policies regarding Sexually Inappropriate Conduct. Beyond disciplinary action, streakers can face backlash for interrupting highly planned performances with naked bodies.

Joanne Mullen, the College Ombudsperson and Sexual Misconduct Advisor/Investigator, said that the nature of streaking at Carleton has changed in recent years. “When I first came to Carleton in late 2000, the reports regarding streaking consisted of naked students running through the [Baldspot] or other open spaces at odd hours of the day. Most the time, the identity of the students was unknown, and it was rare that the incidents were timed to Carleton events.”

She said that streaking has largely evolved into “public or militant nudity.” Mullen cited a time several years ago when naked students marched into a dining hall and built a human pyramid. Students, faculty, and staff were offended, she said, but no one filed an official complaint.

Mullen said that other instances of “militant nudity,” such as “a group of naked students appearing at another student’s Comps presentation and disrupting it, students streaking different presentations during New Student Week, and students appearing naked at different Carleton concerts” would be viewed as violating Carleton’s Policy against Sexually Inappropriate Conduct, assuming someone filed a complaint. The complaint would then be evaluated by the Community Board on Sexual Misconduct (CBSM).

“Since I have been here, there have been no formal complaints regarding streaking or nudity,” Mullen said.

Punishment for “militant nudity” would vary according to the level of the incident and the streakers’ previous disciplinary incidents.

“For instance, in the pyramid example, if the students involved had no prior disciplinary incidents, I could foresee a written warning, possibly an apology, as well participating in some type of Carleton Community service,” said Mullen. “I’m also confident that there would be an educational element to the sanction.”

Steve Wisener, the Director of Residential Life, said that, “For some students (peer leaders), streaking could be grounds for them being removed from their positions.”

Active Carleton streakers Adam Erickson ’12, Eric Johnson ’12, and John Smith ’12 (all fake names to protect the sources’ identities) vehemently disagree with Mullen’s claim that streaking can constitute Sexually Inappropriate Conduct.

“Carleton streaks hard, but not that kind of hard,” said Erickson. “I’ve never had what someone might call a sexually related experience while streaking.”

Johnson said, “Streaking is not sexually inappropriate conduct. We are not trying to scar people who see us – it is instead an expression of free will. We’re trying to surprise an audience. Some people may be offended, but everyone knows what a naked body looks like.”

“I understand the discomfort that many people have, but there are things everywhere that cause people discomfort,” said Smith.

The streakers nonetheless recognized that they have opponents. “For me, the biggest opponent of me streaking is probably my mother,” said Erickson. “She would be unhappy. Fortunately, I don’t streak events with my mother.”

The streakers, who were unwilling to share the details of how naked runs are planned, noted that a diverse group of students partake in the activity.
“The allegation that only people from Farm House streak is a sensational claim and a bold-faced lie,” said Smith. “Streakers at Carleton come from diverse backgrounds and hail from a wide range of groups on campus, from political science majors to varsity athletes. Streaking is an all-inclusive, no-cut activity.”

“Contrary to what I remember from my freshman year, it seems like runs are generally at least half chicks these days,” said Erickson.

“It feels weird with only one sex – we don’t want to throw a bunch of wieners in people’s faces,” said Johnson.

The streakers disagreed on whether or not adults in an audience improve a display of streaking, but agreed that event organizers should not be disappointed with streaking at their events.

“In a sense, getting streaked is the Carleton seal of approval. We streak a lot of traditional events and seeing your performance get streaked means that your show is a Carleton tradition,” said Johnson.

The streakers are passionate that streaking is a healthy activity.

“I started streaking due to positive peer pressure,” said Smith. “I’ve found it to be a really great experience that has resulted in new friends, increased self-confidence, higher feelings of self-worth, and greater body positivity.”

“It’s important to enlighten new students to the impressive realities of spontaneous, clothes-less running,” said Erickson.

“Be happy with yourself. We all need to be happy with our bodies,” said Johnson.

“Everyone should [streak once] in their Carleton career,” said Smith.

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