The "all-night naked party" is history at Conn College
My favorite student reaction at Connecticut College to news last week that the administration was canceling the spring "Fishbowl" party, a tradition in which seniors imbibe college-provided liquor and then run naked around the campus, appeared in one of the many comments posted on the student newspaper website.
"I beg the administration," implored one student on collegevoice.org, in a comment that began with an obscenity. "Just give my $60,000 back. I will go home for my education cause this place has seen its last days for student equality (the reason I came here.)"
There were many, many more comments like that. Students howled on Facebook, on Twitter and on the newspaper website about the cancellation of Fishbowl.
Indeed, the controversy seemed to absorb way more psychic energy on campus than the recent announcement by President Leo Higdon that he is retiring.
The head of campus safety, appearing before a noisy student government assembly last week dedicated to the Fishbowl controversy, called the annual event an "all-night naked party" and "an accident waiting to happen."
Indeed, it is not hard to imagine how few minutes it took Dean Carolyn Denard to decide, after arriving at her new post at the college over the summer, that an event in which the college serves students liquor, before sending them off on a naked romp, would have to go.
In fact, some of the students who protested the loudest about the cancellation kind of made the case that the event was out of control, with ambulances being called and the atmosphere for sexual assault ripe.
Kids were described throwing up and falling and hurting themselves.
It seems, according to comments posted by one student, that the college tried to cut back its sponsorship last year by issuing bracelets that limited seniors to three drinks.
This just encouraged kids to "pre-game" the event and arrive drunk, one poster claimed.
When the students showed up drunk, the college served them more booze and played dance music, the poster on the newspaper website said. "The college wrote its own deathwish with those bracelets."
The aggrieved students make a good point that they were not properly consulted before the decision to cancel was made. They are probably also right to complain that you can't just manufacture a new "tradition" to replace one you are unilaterally eliminating, as the administration suggested.
Still, they were left to lament the passing of an event that seems, to outsiders, silly at best and, at worst, dangerous.
"Everyone in my grade considers it an outrage," one student wrote. "Nothing quells the stress of finals and the pressing anxiety of real life like tearing all your clothing off, running across campus screaming and not remembering the shame of doing so the next day."
"No, I don't remember who fondled who, or who went pantless instead of topless, or who did naked pushups on the stairs , or how many male nipple tassels I saw or who was sober enough to remember things no one should remember," wrote one of last year's seniors. "But I DO remember how much I loved my class that night."
One alum posting on the college website had some more sober advice.
"Whining about how much fun it is to be blackout drunk and naked is not going to make the administration change their minds, so cut your losses and deal with it."
I might add, by way of advice, that college seniors for decades have been drinking (in celebration or by way of relief) and partying and even streaking.
But they do it spontaneously.
They don't expect the college to sanction it.
And maybe that makes it all the better.
This is the opinion of David Collins.