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Never Quit Running!

Opinion | April 4, 2011

Jumbos, lend me your pants—or just stash them in the bushes next to West. On Monday, March 14, 2011, the Tufts Daily reported that Tufts University President Larry Bacow had made the decision to discontinue the school’s sanctioning of NQR (what the administration calls Nighttime Quad Reception, but what everyone who’s anyone calls Naked Quad Run). The decision was a complex one, and it is not up to me to question President Bacow’s rationale for canceling the event. The Daily article cited Bacow’s concerns regarding student safety as the impetus for the event’s cancellation, and anyone who was present, either running or spectating, at the last NQR will have a hard time arguing for the run’s safeness. Bacow cited student alcohol abuse as a major concern, and the article also briefly mentioned Spring Fling as another concerning event on the minds of the administration and the Board of Trustees.

This article, while in agreement with Larry Bacow’s concern for student health and safety, is a call to arms. NQR must not die, because along with it will die students’ power to determine our own fate, to determine for ourselves what is safe; what is responsible; what is ‘fun.’ We must not be preoccupied with feelings of anger or distrust at the school’s decision to cancel what has a become a tradition of exercising freedom (as well as a good source of cardio), a somewhat rare instance of school spirit and a much-needed expulsion of a semester’s worth of stress. Rather, we must continue to fight for NQR’s recurrence—with or without the administration’s approval. I know that the (second) most memorable part of my NQRing experiences has been (after being really cold) the wave of camaraderie and relief that washes over me as I’m running ‘round the Rez quad. It is nights like NQR that we push our impending finals to the back of our minds, truly enjoy one another’s company and celebrate what has been another wonderful semester at Tufts. NQR is catharsis, it is a culmination, a finale.

While I applaud Bacow’s concern for the student body’s general health, I regret the timing and manner of his decision. Though the Daily article mentions that the issue of whether or not to cancel NQR has been discussed for years, the fact the Bacow has chosen this semester, his last at Tufts, to make such a controversial decision seems, to me, to show rare hints of cowardice. One could argue that Bacow has made this choice in order to make things easier for his successor, Anthony Monaco, so that Monaco wouldn’t have to make such an unpopular decision in his first years in office. I, however, would argue that if anything, this decision has put Monaco in a worse situation than before. The last day of classes next winter will inevitably be tension-filled and I think Monaco should have had a chance to deal with the event on his own instead of being forced to face the aftermath of a sudden prohibition by his predecessor.

I would be the first to admit that Larry Bacow is regarded as a Tuftonian hero, a legend, an exception to the typically inaccessible and authoritarian university president. My first thoughts at the announcement of his resignation were of grief and disappointment that I would not get a chance to eat a senior dinner at Gifford house with him or receive his speech at graduation. It pains me to say that the cancellation of NQR shows President Bacow in a different light. Instead of dealing with the safety concerns in a way that enables students to continue a time-honored tradition, he is merely outlawing it and, in essence, walking away.

Fortunately, my last comment is my most hopeful. The administration, the president and the Board of Trustees may have condemned our naked run, but it was never these people who made NQR the wonderful event it is. Though I always appreciate the hot chocolate and doughnuts provided, I can bring my own snacks. The fences and hay bales helped me demarcate the running path, but after two nights of running naked around the quad (and almost two years of walking next to, around, and across it), I think I can manage to properly navigate a rectangle. Finally, while TUPD managed to provide us with obstacles (multi-color ghosts to our naked Pac men and women), I somehow think NQR would go even more smoothly without the requisite police brutality. What I’m saying is this: Never Quit Running. NQR is about us. It’s about throwing our academic and personal issues—and clothing—to the wind in a maenadic ritual and running freely, if only for one night, before sinking back to the drudgery of finals. I’m saying run with me next winter. Clothing optional, responsibility mandatory: prove to the administration that NQR can be safe and incident free. Bring your friends, your friends’ friends, your professor if you want. Don’t bring townies—it’s always weird. We’ll run with or without the administration’s help or approval in a statement that says: we respect your authority but this is about us; about our expression. We can do this alone. We will Never Quit Running.