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Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 11/14/2009

The List: Naked runs, primal screams and other weird college traditions

By Valerie Strauss

Following is a list of some non-academic traditions at some of our finest colleges and universities. Note how many involve running naked in public, or loud screaming. Discuss and share the traditions you followed at your school.

Naked Quad Run--Tufts University in Somerville, MA.
Nude students run around the Rez Quad several times on the night of the final day of fall semester classes in December. The university provides refreshments.

4th Year Fifth--University of Virginia
A tradition that school officials have mightily tried to stop. Seniors, called fourth years at UVA, drink a 5th of alcohol --that's 17 or so shots--during the last home football game, before kickoff.
Also at UVA:
--Streaking the lawn, from the Rotunda to the other end of the lawn and back. A stop to kiss the backside of a Homer statue is often attempted. Campus police frown on this activity.

Primal Scream--Harvard University, Massachusetts
It isn’t primarily about screaming.
At midnight on the last night of reading period and before final exams in both semesters, students--either naked or wearing only items such capes and top hats--from the north end of the Old Yard, make one lap around, though some make two. Some students do wear capes or top hats and tails but nothing else. The school band entertains spectators lining the route.

Primal Scream--Vasser College, New York
This one is about screaming, by hundreds of students in the Quad at midnight the night before final exams begin.
Also at Vasser:
If only it were only about singing.
Freshmen and seniors take part in this annual tradition in which they sing songs to each and then engage in a food fight. This year, though, food was replaced by water, shot through water guns and other things.

Healy Howl and Exorcist Stairs--Georgetown University, Washington D.C.
Remember the movie “The Exorcist” with Linda Blair? Well, in Georgetown, there is a long, narrow, spooky staircase that was important in the climax of the film. Other spots on the campus were used in the film too. (The author was a Georgetown alum.) Every year since then, the film is shown after dark on Halloween on campus, ending around midnight. That’s when Georgetown students gather in a cemetery on campus, near Healy Hall, and howl at the moon.

Pumpkin Drop--University of California at San Diego
Just what the named implies. A pumpkin weighing hundreds of pounds is dropped by students just before the annual Halloween carnival from the top of the Tioga Residence Hall in Muir College. Then candy is thrown down. Havoc ensues as students rush to collect the goodies.

Polar Bear Swims--Dartmouth College, New Hampshire
Every February during Winter Carnival, students in bathing suits jump into the frigid waters of Occom Pond, through an opening drilled in the ice by school facilities folks. A rope is tied around the waist of every jumper--and paramedics are on hand in case anybody needs help.

Lots More Naked and Semi-Naked Runs
Here is a link to a long list of runs at various schools with students in different stages of undress. Naked runs and underwear runs included.

By Valerie Strauss  | November 14, 2009; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  College Life  | Tags:  college traditions  
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I'm a Georgetown senior with an appropriate appreciation for "The Exorcist" and I've never heard or heard of the 'Healy Howl.'

Posted by: WisforTungsten | November 16, 2009 12:52 AM | Report abuse

Gatherings on the night before exams begin almost seems ubiquitous. I've seen it at every school where I've spent time as a student or admission officer.

In the last year or so, flash-mob style dance parties seem to have become very popular. Youtube is full of videos of these little events.

Posted by: DeanJ | November 19, 2009 5:01 AM | Report abuse

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