During the 1960s, a students started a tradition to shout a primal scream out their windows at midnight for ten minutes on the eve of final exams as a stress release. By the 1990s, this exercise in youthful exhuberance devolved into an event in which everyone comes out to gawk, as many as five score of streakers (who are often inebriated) gather to run around Harvard Yard counterclockwise.
The hedonistic happening has a quasi-official imprimatur, as the Harvard Band (dressed only in their parade tops). About 25 Harvard administrators also attended this year and attempted to choreograph the organized chaos.
This year, about 30 activists tried to co-opt the Harvard Primal Scream by imposing a "Black Lives Matter" protest prior to the run. Originally, protesters wanted to have a die-in but were convinced for student safety to revise their rabble rousing plans.
As conveyed by senior Aubrey Walker, the co-director of "Cultural Rhythms" at the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, the protesters wanted to have four and a half minutes of silence before the run. In fact, protesters convinced the band not to play during their silence. Alas, there were unexpected kinks with this protest plan.
The streaking participants could not keep quiet during the conscience raising silence, so protesters chanted "Silence, silence". When that had no effect, the Dean of College Rakesh Khurana was hoisted by a half naked student to bring order, but that had no avail. In fact, some runners followed their tradition and chanted "U-S-A, U-S-A", which protesters interpreted as a slap in the face supporting institutional power and that these fortunate sons refused to check their "White Privilege".
Shortly after this stand-off, the Primal Scream streakers ran clockwise around the Yard, conveniently avoiding the protesters.
|Harvard Primal Scream, spring 2014|
Some later said that had they known about the protest beforehand, they would have joined in. Others said there was too much of a crowd to know that they were being organized to protest.
It is interesting that at a time when accusations about sexual misconduct has roiled college campuses that Harvard hosts the Primal Scream and has university officials organizing it. But regardless of what one thinks of the propriety of streaking through campus at midnight at one of the nation's elite institutes of higher education, this was not the time to raise consciousness. It is asking too much for drunken, naked students who want to have fun and frivolity to silently shiver in at the witching hour in the New England wintery cold for a protest was not going to go well.
Despite the chaos and hurt feelings, this sort of smiling jog might have convinced the late Joan Rivers to consider running.
h/t: The Crimson