Whither Goest, Naked Mile?

“… It was something Ann Arbor was known for in the 1990’s and like all other things in the city that were once thought of with nostalgia and pride, it too was corrupted by people who should have had no control over it.

The administration set up fliers all across the campus announcing the dangers of the Naked Mile. We were told that students would be abused and fondled and that their pictures would be placed on the Internet for all to see. The Ann Arbor Police Department also started cracking down on the participants, arresting students who then faced misdemeanor charges as well as thousands of dollars in fees. What was once a cry of freedom not only brought about restraints from the police, but also embarrassing repercussions on the Internet. Soon, the Naked Mile was dead and the only people who were willing to run were students in bathing suits who were brave enough to weather the cold.

Contrary to some people’s belief that I am just interested in seeing a bunch of naked people (I can do that any day on the Internet), I am moved to write about this because the administration and police’s powers annoy me. This was our event. We wanted to do something silly and refreshing and were bogged down by the powers that be. […]

Unfortunately, MSA’s thumb-twiddling and administration brown-nosing have become all too familiar. Instead of just looking back with longing, we have only one option, though technically illegal, to take back the freedoms that are rightfully ours. I invite the brave and righteous to get naked, strap on the saran wrap, run the mile and bring back our Naked Mile. … “

That from Sravya Chirumamilla’s column in today’s Daily titled “Don’t rob me of my Naked Mile”

I, myself got curious about the nature of the University’s crackdown on the Naked Mile in 2002. It turns out the propaganda that turned up on campus and in dining halls was the work of a committee with quite a few notable members. According to minutes I obtained of one meeting of this committee in March 2002, the following people were present at one meeting of this quasi-secret university committee: From the Ann Arbor Police Department Larry Jerue and Mark St. Amour, Steve Hiller from the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s office, Dan Sharphorn from the U-M General Counsel’s office, Dean of Students Frank Cianciola representing the U-M divison of student affairs, Jim Kosteva representing the University’s Community Relations department, University spokeswoman Julie Peterson, Joel Seguine from the News and Information office, and DPS spokesperson Diane Brown. Yes, MSA had one attendee: Edgar Zapata.

You might recognize a few of those names: it’s nothing less than a roster of the highest ranking university and governmental officials involved in public relations and law enforcement in the city. I was shocked by the lengths going to crush this student tradition, and wrote a story for the Daily about it: “Committee hopes to end Naked Mile” Here’s an excerpt from that 2002 story:

” … According to University officials, the committee has been in existence for several years.

“We have pulled together a committee for the past three to four years that represents campus,” DPS spokeswoman Diane Brown said. “This is also the group that addresses the event itself and how to manage it.”

“About four years ago the University decided to try to ratchet up the response to eliminate the event,” she added.

This year marked the first time students were invited to join the committee. A representative from the Michigan Student Assembly attended the March 5 meeting and will attend the next meeting in early April.

“They’re going to have a lot of police officers at the event – more than at any other event,” Edgar Zapata, LSA sophomore and co-chair of MSA’s campus safety commission, said. “They’re working really hard to make sure things go their way.” … “

> See my Naked Mile information page

Naked Mile was traditionally held on the last day of classes. This year, that day falls on Wednesday, April 21st.

Author: Rob