The Naked Mile
Once a year on April 1st, students and older
people who should know better gather for the annual Ann Arbor
The Naked Mile
website calls it a "sacred tradition" that has been
held late at night every year since 1985. The run is a celebration
signifying the end of classes at South University. The run was
originally started by a small group of students, and as usual
it was linked to lots of alcohol and a bet. It was originally
called the "nude mile".
In it's heyday the Naked Mile attracted thousands of eager nude
runners. News stories from 1996 and 1997 reported that the event
was very popular, and attracted up to 10,000 spectators. "There's
not much we can do about this; we just don't want people hit
by cars," said a local police officer.
By 1998, however, police and university authorities had become
concerned about the Naked Mile. Women in particular were discouraged
from running when it became apparent that people were filming
the run and posting the videos on the internet. There were also
concerns about safety, both in terms of sexual assault and traffic.
Running naked in the streets is illegal in Ann Arbor and does
attract a fine.
In 1999 University President Lee Bollinger said the university
did not condone the run and issued an official letter to students
along those lines. That year only 500 students ran, but the
papers reported that 20,000 spectators watched. A man was arrested
for masturbating in public, but no-one was hauled in for being
nude. Many worked hard to put their own individuality into the
run, some wearing hula skirts, others riding unicycles.
In 2000 the police said they would arrest people for nudity,
and this resulted in a much smaller turnout.
In 2001 only 24 students did the run, with 16 arrests, and the
students held protests at their treatment by authorities. "They're
not our parents," said student Michael Simon. "I'm
disappointed the police are putting their sense of morality
on the student body." Police, however, were pleased. "Our
efforts to put an end to this were even more successful than
we had hoped," said Sgt. Mike Logghe, Ann Arbor Police
2002 saw even less runners, with some opting to wear underwear
in an effort to placate police. By then it was being declared
a "dead tradition". In 2003 there were only seven
runners and all were arrested.
The Naked Mile started out as an undergraduate prank, and turned
into a media circus. Now it's looking to become an issue of
youth versus authority, as various student bodies consider ways
to protest the crushing of a relatively harmless "tradition".
Interestingly, the Naked Mile website is now selling videos
of the event - something originally used as an excuse to stop
it. What will 2004 bring.
- Article written 9 December 2003
Blog Links - a list of relevant news articles about the
Naked Mile Media
- the official site's listing of news items
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