Saturday, November 17

Undie Run tradition faces growing pains


Hundreds of students will gather in Westwood on Wednesday night
to participate in what is rapidly becoming a popular UCLA tradition
““ running through the streets in their skivvies.

The Undie Run, as it is popularly called, happens on Wednesday
night of finals week each quarter.

Students congregate at the northern intersection of Landfair and
Gayley Avenues, then run to the corner of Glenrock and Levering
Avenues, dressed in nothing but their underwear and running
shoes.

It has grown from a single student to more than 1,000 over the
past four years.

“I think people really love it,” said Justin Loeb, a
third-year English student and long-time participant in the Undie
Run. “People who wouldn’t do this sort of thing come
out of their shell for the Undie Run.”

Some students see the Undie Run as an important part of being a
Bruin, on a par with traditional streaking at other schools.

“I think even though UCLA is considered a very
tradition-based school, it hasn’t been so in the last few
years,” said Masha Grigoryeva, a fourth-year political
science student who has done the Undie Run for the last three
years. “The students are really yearning for something that
will show them as part of the Bruin crowd.”

In addition to half-naked students, university police will also
be present ““ fully clothed ““ for the event.

“Our job is to ensure that our community is safe,”
said Nancy Greenstein, the director of police community services
for UCPD.

Running in one’s underwear is not illegal, and Greenstein
emphasized that the reason for this police presence would be to
maintain safety and order, not to stop the event.

“We want students to have fun, but it just needs to happen
safely, without causing a disturbance for the neighborhood,”
she said.

Part of the concern over Undie Run safety stems from events in
fall 1999, when festivities for the Midnight Yell ““ which
started as students yelling to release stress at midnight during
finals week ““ grew to include burning furniture and throwing
things. Los Angeles Fire and Police Departments were called to
intervene.

“It became a regional media event, with the mayor of L.A.
calling (the) campus to share his concerns,” Greenstein said.
“Sometimes an event that’s sort of fun and small
becomes so popular, without people organizing and setting limits,
that it ends up becoming unmanageable.”

Last quarter, over 1,000 Undie Runners and spectators crowded
the streets of Westwood, Greenstein estimated.

But the Undie Run has not always been as popular as it is now.
It started with just one student, walking the streets and playing
his guitar.

Eric Whitehead, a 2004 UCLA alumnus, was living in Westwood in
fall 2001 and was among the students who wanted to participate in
Midnight Yell.

But police were out writing citations and giving warnings,
keeping students from even standing on their front stoops,
Whitehead said.

In frustration, he wrote a song about it and took to the
streets, singing and playing guitar in what he described as
“really short shorts.”

“Eventually, somebody was like, “˜Why don’t you
just run around in your underwear?’” Whitehead
said.

He and his friends did just that. Later, other students began to
join them.

“We kind of developed a route that we decided would be
good for the Undie Run, so we just handed out fliers, and it
started to grow,” he said. “It’s still going on,
and it’s kind of turned into its own beast.”

Dean of Students Bob Naples said he is concerned that the Undie
Run will become more problematic as it grows.

“On the surface, we don’t care about students
getting involved in an Undie Run,” Naples said, explaining
that the university does not usually get involved in events that
take place off-campus.

“The problem comes into play when it crosses over into (a
situation) where somebody could get hurt and that somebody could be
a member of our community,” he said.

Naples also said there have been problems with Undie Runners
obstructing traffic, and with Westwood non-student residents
calling both UCPD and the university to complain.

Naples offered a suggestion that he said could keep the Undie
Run from being stifled by university intervention.

“One of the things that students might want to consider is
to take the route into campus,” he said. “(On campus)
there isn’t the traffic issue, there isn’t the
neighbors issue, there’s not going to be complaint
calls.”

Loeb said he felt taking the Undie Run out of Westwood would
take away from the appeal of the event.

“I’ve heard that (Undie Run) was something that the
university wanted to absorb and make safe, and that might be fun,
but it would really take it out of the Village,” Loeb
said.

“What UCPD should understand is that students will be in
their underwear in public,” Loeb added. “The thing
about college is that everything is twice as fun when you’re
in your underwear.”

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