Verbum Ultimum: The Naked Truth
As the spring term comes to a close, there are various things on the minds of Dartmouth students. Storing their belongings and moving out of their rooms, preparing for final exams and final papers and wondering if their bodies will ever fully recover from Green Key may be just a few among them. As finals loom closer and closer, students prepare themselves not only for their tests, but for another, equally concerning possibility: that their final may get streaked. For decades, it has been a time-honored tradition for Dartmouth students to run through the biggest finals on campus completely naked, save for the occasional mask. Even though everyone who does this probably means to carry out a funny, well-intentioned prank, it can actually be a lot more harmful than people realize.
First and foremost, streaking finals is incredibly distracting. The largest classes are the ones that are most targeted, and these classes are almost always lecture classes in which the grades are based solely on exams. In classes like these, the final exams are worth up to 40 percent of the final grade. Finals are already high-stress enough, and all of our focus needs to be devoted to the most important test of the term. Perhaps many could bounce back from a distraction like this, but there are also many people who, already nearing their breaking point, would not be able to recover from someone frantically running butt naked through their classroom while everyone else cheers them on. This could really take people out of the exam mindset and hurt their performance on it going forward. Imagine preparing for weeks for this one two-hour period, only to have your focus shattered by something so absurd. We’re not saying that Dartmouth students aren’t “tough enough” to handle seeing a naked person and continuing to take their test, but we are saying that it isn’t fair that some of us have to be subjected to this massive distraction.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is that streakers do what they do without regard for the experiences of the people who they are streaking. Many people on this campus have been the victims of sexual violence, a trauma that can stick with a person for the rest of their lives. For someone for whom a naked body could represent such a terrifying and harmful experience, having a naked person appear out of nowhere without their prior knowledge or consent could be incredibly traumatic, no matter where it occurs. Now, imagine someone who has suffered through being reminded of one of the worst experiences of their life having to take a deep breath and go back to taking their final exam like nothing happened. A streaker may not have bad intentions, but they can’t control what the people who their actions effect experience. What one person intends as a hilarious joke could be incredibly harmful to someone else. As we enter adulthood, we need to understand that our intentions, no matter how good, don’t absolve our actions. There’s a reason why “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions” is a cliché.
This is not meant to be a condemnation of pranks or of humor in general. This is a plea to consider context. At a comedy show or a performance art exhibition, the audience has entered into an implicit contract with the performer that some of the things that they see may blur the lines of what they consider to be decent or may be outright offensive. When someone attends Lingerie for example, they do so with an understanding of the event and the fact that it will probably feature nudity.
However, there is no such understanding going into a final. A person shouldn’t have to implicitly agree to see someone’s genitalia in agreeing to take a psychology exam. There’s a time and place for everything, pranks and nudity included, but we as students need to recognize that this just isn’t it. This isn’t us being “soft” or “coddled,” it’s us recognizing that not only do many people at Dartmouth take their final exams very seriously, but that nudity, especially unexpected and unwanted nudity, can be particularly harmful to those among us who have gone through some of the most difficult experiences imaginable. There’s nothing wrong with having a good time, but there really is a time and place for everything.
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