Tag Archives: final exams

Finals Week Nude Run

Background:  DL is a man in his early twenties who attend the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. It is a small school with less than 3,000 students (mostly undergrad). DL is getting degrees in violin performance and gender studies.

Context: “Dead week” is the typically week before finals, where classes are canceled so students can study. It’s usually a time of high tension across a campus, and DL believes the nude run is a way to “destress.” He does not have a clear idea of how the tradition got started or how long it’s been going on. He mostly finds it amusing, but was slightly embarrassed to elaborate on what happens during the annual nude run when I asked him for more information.

Main Piece:

(In the following interview the informant is identified as DL and the interviewer is identified as JS.)

DL: We have a tradition during dead week in the fall semester…it’s a naked run [laughs]. And it starts, starts at the library, at the top floor of the library, where people completely nude in a big pack run from the top floor of the library all the way across campus to, like, the dining hall and go through the dining hall. And it’s probably thirty degrees outside [Fahrenheit] because it’s winter.

JS: What time of day does this take place?

DL: Maybe like 10 or 11 P.M.

JS: And the library’s still open at this point? People take their clothes off there?

DL: Yeah, you go in a robe or something—and like, not everybody goes completely nude but a lot of people do, so it’s not really that…weird?

JS: Have you done it before?

DL: I haven’t, no.

JS: Okay, okay. So you—have you watched people do it, though? Like, you sat out? Do people sit out in lawn chairs and watch it—

DL: No? No. Cuz that would be…

JS: Creepy

DL: Yeah, I feel like everyone has specific etiquette rules. People don’t like sit and watch, but like, if you happen to witness it, then that’s acceptable.

JS: And you’ve “witnessed” it before?

DS: I’ve witnessed it.

JS: Do you have friends that have done it?

DL: Yes, no one I live with has done it, but I have friends that have done it.

JS: And how does the administration feel about it?

DL: They don’t care.

JS: Does a specific person organize it or does a mass text get sent out?

DL: Like, a mass text gets sent out, so everybody knows when it is and on what day, because it’s the same every year.

Thoughts: I’ve heard of similar traditions at other campuses across the country, and I think the nude run practice falls in line with the similar traditions of skinny dipping or walking into public fountains fully clothed. I’d agree with DL’s idea that this a way for students to destress—it’s something that’s so wild and impulsive that it puts the concept of final exams into perspective. There are multiple elements of risk in it, including both the very cold weather and the willingness for people to go nude in public (a technically illegal act). I find it particularly interesting how the administration doesn’t seem to mind that it occurs on a predictable, annual basis, and that certain social codes about how not to be creepy have regulated themselves. People don’t sit around and wait for the nude runners to go by, they just witness it by coincidence—the fact that it’s a big pack of students also makes it somewhat safer to perform. It’s definitely not the kind of thing I myself would participate in, but it’s a pretty hilarious concept all the same.

Undie Run-UCLA Folk Tradition

Context: This is a folk tradition that occurs at UCLA during finals week as a means of blowing off steam, my brother learned this tradition as a freshman and gave his opinions on the tradition and its value.

K: So ya….uh. Undie Run is basically a quarterly tradition at UCLA in which the Wednesday of finals week, where….uh at…I wanna say starting at midnight….ya right at midnight. 

Basically, everybody that’s capable….comes to…um…under the bridge…across from UCLA. 

It’s a certain start point at UCLA that everybody gets to in their underwear and then we run from there up until the top of Janss Steps which is at UCLA and basically…uh.. its kind of a..its a way in which you commemorate finals. 

It’s just a tradition…uh… I don’t know how long we’ve been doing it for.

K: It’s important to us because it’s like…it’s just tradition. 

It’s the student experience. I know that like I remember like..um..some of my older friends like they would have their sashes.

Like you would see seniors with their graduation sashes doing it….you know…its..its just a college experience…a college thing…fundamentally it’s a UCLA college thing.

K: Um..why underwear…you know that’s…actually….you know  I don’t ….

Some people can wear like their pajamas….you know..but typically you wear your boxers, wear like….uh..wear like leggings…you know what I’m sayin…if you’re a dude.

You know people are wearing…you know…they..they determine their spectrum as to what constitutes as underwear. 

Thoughts: After interviewing my older brother about UCLA’s Undie Run tradition, it honestly made me laugh at first because I thought it was ridiculous for students to run while practically naked and not get in trouble. When I was in high school they banned having any kind of senior prank or event because of a previous year so I never had the chance to do anything to commemorate my high school graduation. Hearing my brother describe the Undie Run gave me the nostalgia that he must have felt coming in as a freshman and being introduced to this folk tradition. The Undie Run is a unique tradition because its meaning is subjective to each individual person and its something that continues to live on with both the students and the school. As a freshman, my brother’s experience was less sentimental because he had just arrived at UCLA and was getting used to his environment and its many traditions. However, for the senior friends that he described the meaning was different. The Undie Run for them meant that they were not only commemorating their finals being over but were also celebrating four or so years of hard work as they were about to leave UCLA and this run would be there last. I would never have imagined a large group of people collectively running in their underwear, it sounds so strange, but that seems to be the beauty of folklore in this case. A tradition like the Undie Run is something that I view as strange because, as a student at USC, I’m not apart of the culture. As a sophomore at USC, I understand how events like these can be an important feature of the college experience like my brother emphasized. Now that he is a senior, he was finally able to participate in his last Undie Run as a UCLA Bruin and was able to fully appreciate its importance and commemorate all his hard work.

For another version see: Vassar, Ethan, and Ethan Vassar. “Seriously: Undie Run Cancellation Threatens CSU Admission Rates, Sponsors.” The Rocky Mountain Collegian, 7 May 2019, collegian.com/2019/05/category-opinion-seriously-undie-run-cancelation-threatens-csu-admission-rates-sponsors/.