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Throwback Thursday: The rowdy past of Bruins’ finals week traditions

(Daily Bruin Archive)

By Samantha Dorfan

Jan. 9, 2019 10:34 pm

During the demanding days following tenth week, we yell away our troubles when the clock strikes midnight, disturbing the eerie silence saturated with the anxiety of impending finals.

Or at least that’s what the tradition of more than 30 years is supposed to be about.

Nearly two decades ago, the Midnight Yell turned into what the Daily Bruin’s then-editorial board referred to as “Midnight Hell.” On that chaotic 2000 evening, students flung bottles and rocks at firefighters who arrived at the scene to extinguish a burning couch thrown from a rooftop, resulting in the arrest of 19 participants.

“The mental and physical exertion of finals can drain the intelligence out of anyone,” the then-editorial board wrote.

Though the stress of finals may have driven the students to the verge of insanity, they were not the only ones to blame. Media, policemen and university administrators all dealt with the situation inappropriately by “irresponsibly increasing the hype,” according to the board.

The combination of exaggeration from the media, aggression from the police and inaction from administration aggravated an already tense situation, the board wrote.

While the midnight disturbance of 2000 may be the pinnacle of Midnight Yells gone wrong, the tradition continues to be a topic of controversy.

In the weekend preceding finals, resident assistants remind residents of their obligation to obey finals week quiet hours between 7 p.m. and 5 p.m. every day. Failure to comply results in the resident being written up and ultimately needing to meet with the resident director of the building. However, only students with multiple offenses seem to face any real consequences.

While some students aren’t fazed by the repercussions, others go to extreme measures to participate while still ensuring anonymity. One strategy for these students is to yell out of the window in one room and then dash down the hall to seek the refuge of another room, leaving their screams untraceable and unpunishable.

The Undie Run is another finals tradition that descended from the Midnight Yell for the students who felt they couldn’t carry out the original tradition with integrity, while remaining within the context of the law. The tradition was started in 2003, and participants run through the streets of Westwood, often wearing nothing but their underwear, while feeling invigorated and safe from opposition.

It is clear that both policemen 19 years ago and RA’s today want to ensure a peaceful environment for students during an otherwise stressful time. However, The Bruin’s then-editorial board wanted to make clear that these intentions should not get in the way of a tradition that, at its heart, is innocuous.

“The police presence destroyed what is normally a harmless opportunity for student camaraderie and a release from the stress of final exams,” the then-editorial board wrote.

In 10 weeks, the yells of overly stressed students seeking collective catharsis will liven the campus once more despite objections – hopefully without the mayhem of the fall 2000 Midnight Yell. Having survived this long, it doesn’t seem like the Midnight Yell is going anywhere, so you know what they say – if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

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Samantha Dorfan
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