Tuesday, August 20

[Online Exclusive]: Students gush over new Undie Run route


The Undie Run took some wild new twists and turns Wednesday
night.

For many, it was no longer just a student tradition. It became a
UCLA event.

What had for four years consisted of students running in their
underwear through Westwood streets during finals week was abruptly
halted when dozens of university police officers, some in full riot
gear, set up a blockade at the beginning of the traditional route
at the corner of Midvale and Landfair avenues.

And so UCLA’s campus, which hadn’t before been a
part of the young tradition, became the main event. It was
transformed into a virtual circus for more than 1,000 half-naked
students, with the Bruin Bear, Bruin Walk and ““ the
culmination of the night ““ Shapiro Fountain in front of Royce
Hall as the feature attractions.

That only partly fit the new route administrators and police had
made for the Undie Run, which they said needed to be changed
because it had become dangerous and caused noise and property
damage in the neighborhood. They thought students would run from
the starting point on Gayley Avenue through De Neve Plaza, down
Bruin Walk and stop in Bruin Plaza, then go home.

But after only a brief pause in Bruin Plaza, the mob of
students, almost all clad in their unmentionables, spontaneously
continued farther into the heart of campus, trekking up the last
leg of Bruin Walk before a final burst into Dickson Plaza beneath
the venerable Royce Hall and Powell Library.

The highlight for many participants was Shapiro Fountain, which
so many had passed daily on their way to class but probably few had
ventured into, especially in their skivvies. But many from the
swarm of students soon jumped in, splashing, playing, and reveling
in the Undie Run’s newest makeshift endpoint.

It was likely the first time in recent UCLA history that so many
half-naked students had frolicked in the shadows of UCLA’s
most famous monuments ““ and the initial reviews were
overwhelmingly positive.

“I love it. The fountain is a nice finish,” said
Carl Johnson, a third-year microbiology, immunology and molecular
genetics student.

“Best Undie Run I’ve ever seen,” said Jason
Wolfe, a fifth-year cybernetics student.

And as the runners splashed in delight on campus, another event
in the now quiet streets of the North Village added yet another
twist to the night’s fracas.

An unrelated Los Angeles Police Department car chase, after
heading westbound on Sunset Boulevard, turned into Westwood Village
and into the roadblocks set by UCPD in the now empty streets around
the apartments. With a police helicopter shining a searchlight
overhead, UCPD officers stopped the pursuit and assisted in the
arrest.

Police and administrators at the event pointed to the car chase
and its safe resolution on empty streets as evidence of the dangers
of the old run’s route.

“You’re concerned when people run arbitrarily in the
street. “¦ What if (the LAPD chase) had turned in here and
there’s thousands of people in the street?” said Nancy
Greenstein, director of police community services, who said there
were around 50 UCPD officers at the event along with LAPD officers
working under a separate initiative.

Greenstein said there were no arrests and said there were no
initial reports of property damage or other crimes, only a few
complaints about the noise of the LAPD helicopter. She said she was
mostly pleased by the conduct of the students, as were other
administrators who ““ fully clothed ““ attended the
event.

“You want to go down on campus and make a little noise,
that’s not bothering anybody,” said Bob Naples, dean of
students.

“Nobody gets broken arms or legs because of noise,”
added Berky Nelson, director of the Center for Student Programming.
“We just want to make sure people are safe, that’s the
bottom line.”

“I don’t think anybody has a problem with
this,” he said.

Its beginning was familiar enough, with a large group of
students ““ police estimated the crowd at 1,000 ““
gathered at the top of Landfair and Gayley avenues in a seething
mass, breath visible as the temperature dropped into the 50s,
chanting “Un-die Run!” in unison when midnight
struck.

A few hundred spectators also congregated around the edges of
the group, lighting up the students with camera flashes.

Then, with police having blocked off the old route and with
nowhere else to go, the students ran the new route, which had been
partially predetermined several weeks ago by a committee of student
leaders, campus administrators and police.

As they ran down Gayley, which had been blocked off to traffic
by police, and into Bruin Plaza, some students climbed on the Bruin
Bear, riding it like it was in a rodeo. A group of 10 police
officers on bikes followed behind the group, keeping a distance of
about 100 feet.

Then the runners plunged deeper into campus, running ““ or,
in the case of some of the more tired eventgoers, walking ““
up the campus’ main pathway to the fountain, where an
audience of late-night studiers from Powell Library now congregated
on the building’s steps to take in the scene.

The students ran around on the grass near the fountain, which
became the focus of the event’s second half, with some
jumping in to splash around occasionally. Others were content to
stand in the area at the top of Janss Steps, taking it all in under
the orange glow of the campus lampposts, most with big grins on
their faces.

At one point, an offshoot of Undie Runners tried to run into
Powell Library but were quickly stopped at the door by university
police, who had arrived at the library just in time.

Several times, the group spontaneously burst into chants of
“UC “¦ LA!”

Justin Borah, a third-year sociology student, expressed the
sentiment of most students ““ that they liked the change. He
said it solidified the event as a UCLA tradition rather than
“something that happened in the apartments.”

“Honestly, it adds more UCLA-ness to the whole
thing,” he said.

Dressed in white boxers with an oversized green fig leaf
attached, Twins Rohani, a first-year neuroscience student who did
the run through Westwood last quarter, said he preferred the new
version.

“This one’s a lot more extreme. It’s a
confined space so it’s like the running of the bulls, sort
of,” he said. “I like the outcome ““ school
spirit.”

The new route was much longer than the old one, which typically
took less than 15 minutes for the entire crowd to run its full
course.

Students stayed up in the plaza for about a half hour, until
some started to trickle down back to the dorms and apartments, many
smelling of chlorine from their escapades on campus. Two female
runners who returned seized the opportunity to take a photo with a
UCPD officer at the top of Gayley.

By 12:50 a.m. Thursday, the streets of Westwood were quiet once
again.

Greenstein said it would be premature to decide if police will
enact the same street-blocking procedures next quarter, but said
overall she was pleased with how the event was conducted.

“We thought the students were much safer on campus,”
she said.

Nelson from the Center for Student Programming, who wasn’t
present for the events in Dickson Plaza, declined to comment on
whether the fountain play and other new aspects of the event would
be regulated in future quarters. He said the event’s student
organizers would conduct a “debrief” with
administrators to discuss what they thought of the new route.

But the consensus ““ both from officials and students
““ seems to have already come in.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,”
Nelson said.

With reports from Derek Lipkin, Bruin senior staff.

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