Last year, receiving the decision to cancel NQR was difficult for a lot of students. I remember arriving to class late, a friend plopping the Daily in front of me, and immediately hurrying away so I could read the paper cover to cover. I sat in the Lane Hall bathroom and read every article three times, returning to class only after it had ended. When my professor asked what was wrong, I simply replied, “I don’t feel well.”
I realize there are plenty of people who didn’t share my reaction, and even some who were happy about the decision, but I truly did feel awful. I anticipate that night more than any other campus event. At Fall Ball and Winter Bash, we get down, at Spring Fling, we get rowdy, but at NQR, we got naked. Boy, did we get naked: over a thousand college students, running buck in a frenzied, screaming horde in the dead of a winter’s night. We ran, we felt free, and we had fun in a nonsexual context. Those are three rare things in the hypersexual bustle of college life. If not for the sketchy onlookers snapping photos on the fringes, what could be wrong with NQR?
A lot, it turns out. But the things that were wrong with NQR, from the administration’s perspective, were not the things that I (and many others) loved about it. As President Bacow pointed out in the now infamous Op-Ed, “NQR Reconsidered,” the run grew from a “modest size” since the university sanctioned it in 2003. People drank to a point requiring hospitalization, police confrontations intensified and led to an arrest (I heard murmurs of police aggression), and legal controversies piled up. All of these issues were legitimate concerns, and after a thorough chewing out by Judge Joseph Walker and conversations between the Trustees, Bacow, and various offices, the decision was made. Bacow gave the word. NQR was cancelled. No one I spoke to really knew what was going to happen.
In fact, I doubt anyone really knew what was going to happen. Students wanted to keep the excitement of the event alive. We showed our support of NQR by creating Facebook groups, writing Op-Eds, and running in the buff. After an initial buzz of activity, conversations grew sparse, the summer came, and NQR grew far from our minds. The Committee on Student Life had the job of drafting a response to the cancellation of NQR. Ultimately, the administration felt responsible for our safety, our reputations, and by association their own reputations. I believe that their concerns were valid.
Their response, however, was terrible. In the middle of November, an email was sent to the student body, detailing an aggressive Ban on NQR promising semester-long suspensions for those who defied two fundamental rules: no public nudity and no public intoxication. Concurrently, they sent an email to our parents. I saw this as a low blow. The administration recognizes that many of us are still dependent on our parents, even though they encourage us to be independent. The letter home seemed an attempt to infantilize us, to punish unruly children. The Ban itself is written in unclear language, making it so that we don’t really know what we can do and when or where we can do it. For example, is the Ban effective in dorms? If it is, we should be concerned about how RA’s might play a role in supporting the Ban, for their sakes and ours. And, if public intoxication really justifies suspension, make sure you stop at Moe’s before you jump in the paddy wagon the next time you’re down on Pro Row. Worst of all, although touted as a new Tufts tradition “not meant to replace NQR,” WinterFest has been appended to the end of every email we’ve received about NQR’s cancellation, preceded by several paragraphs of negative prose. WinterFest is clearly meant to be a replacement for NQR, but undoubtedly it will fall short of its predecessor. and it
Of course, NQR will never find a replacement. I applaud those alumni who started the tradition because they took it upon themselves to channel their pent-up energy, exhaustion, stress, or whatever else you might call it, into an act that became Tufts legend. Sure, they didn’t face a ban, but I bet they didn’t know what the repercussions of their actions would be. We find ourselves in a similar position. What’s going to happen on the night of NQR? Once again, no one knows.
Tufts sometimes feels devoid of spirit. Some say alumni claim they don’t feel a strong connection to the university because of this. As my days as an alumnus are fast-approaching, I’m confident I will remain strongly connected to the school because if NQR instilled one thing in me, it was Jumbo Pride. For many of us, past and current students alike, running with the winter wind around our nethers has made us proud to be together. It was a funny pride, perhaps even a weird pride, but it was pride nonetheless, and it was enabled by 50 Jumbos, then hundreds, then thousands more. Come NQR night, we owe it to them and to ourselves to refresh Tufts’ spirit. I encourage you to do so, however you see fit.