Customs
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Streaking the Lawn at UVA

Abstract:

This piece is about a tradition at UVA (University of Virginia) about streaking the lawn at the Rotunda, a very specific building on the campus.

Main Piece:

“L: So I don’t know if this is a custom or tradition or just a rite of passage, but UVA students do this thing where they streak the lawn of the Rotunda which is part of Thomas Jefferson’s setup. And so how you do it, it’s actually really long. You have to take off your clothes on the steps of the Rotunda and then run all the way down to the other building where there is a statue of Thomas Jefferson. And you have to spin around 3 times and then say something and then you run back. And you’re completely naked. So I did it this winter, and you do it at night so you don’t get caught. But I feel like so many people do it now that you can’t get in trouble for it. Like what? You’re going to arrest one kid who got caught doing it when thousands of people have been doing it.

C: Is there something that prompts it? Or do you just have to do it if you’re a student there?

L: I think it, like if you’re in clubs or something then maybe one of the activities or initiation or something might be to go streak the lawn with your club or something. Because my friend who goes to UVA did it for the first time last semester and she’s like “oh yeah I’ve been doing it every week.” It is like a really long run, I didn’t even make the full run because I got so tired.”

Context:

The informant is a 19 year old from Charlottesville, VA who has lived near the UVA campus her whole life and has many friends who attend the school. She personally learned this and participated in the tradition over winter break in 2018.

Analysis:

I think these kinds of traditions at universities are a way to bond a community or feel a deeper connection in clubs, like in initiations. This tradition of streaking reminds me of fountain hopping at USC. Fountain hopping happens on people’s birthdays or at graduation. Streaking seems more vulnerable than jumping into a fountain fully clothed, but both seem to be ways students rebel against administration and have some fun.

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