'This is a dangerous event'
Fear, not fun, now characterizes Mile
By David Enders, Caitlin Nish and Jacquelyn Nixon
Daily Staff Reporters
One of the easiest ways to tell that the Naked Mile has evolved from a senior tradition to a commercialized event involving far more people than just University students is by conducting a simple Internet search.
Type in the words "naked mile" or a similar phrase, and a variety of Websites offering videos of the event and links in at least four languages pop up, as well as a multitude of sites such as "The Hooters Historians," which offer photos of the event.
AMX Video of Colorado Springs, Co., amxvideo.com, is one of the many purveyors of Naked Mile videos. Its Website advertises "Public Nudity Videos of Real People & Real Parties & Fun," but employee Andy Scrimgeour said he isn't sure what the appeal of a Naked Mile videos is.
"It beats me," he said. "We get orders from all over the country."
One of the most popular Internet sites, NakedMile.com, offers more than 17 videos ranging in price from $49.99 to $375.00 for a complete set of videos with coverage since 1993.
The creator boasts on the site that "Personally, I think of Naked Mile Raw as a set of party videos, you know, something you got playing when the guys come over. It really captures a lot of attention."
Also capturing attention are the vendors who have created a commercial industry from the annual event, something that many students see as exploitation. LSA senior A.G. Fuentes was one of the vendors selling Naked Mile T-shirts for $15 on the sidewalk outside of the Michigan Union yesterday afternoon.
"The shirts are just memorabilia for students. We're not exploiting students because they can choose to buy it or not buy it," Fuentes said. "We hate the perverts out here and the people who come out of town. It gets way out of hand."
Ann Arbor resident John Gabriel, who set up shop outside of West Hall Engineering Arch, said that there is a difference between selling T-shirts and putting pictures on the Internet.
"It's unfortunate that the mass media and especially the Internet has dampened the spirit of the event. It was originally for students and alumni," Gabriel said.
Department of Public Safety Spokeswoman Diane Brown agrees that the problems associated with Naked Mile stem from its now chaotic atmosphere. "This is not just a student issue, if it was just a student thing perhaps it would be a whole different event," she said.
"Our students have demonstrated many times this year they are capable of making their voices heard in non-violent situations, but what about the people who are coming to our campus this weekend? Do they have the same non-violent request?"
Many of the spectators inundating Ann Arbor tonight are from areas all over the country and even the world.
Naked Mile photos have cropped up even on international Websites. Fears of being seen on these sites are keeping many students from running.
"I don't like the idea of someone taking my picture and putting it on the Web so I'd never run the Naked Mile," said LSA sophomore Emily Hebert.
While these sites show runners carousing, they don't show the students arrested for indecent exposure, minors in possession of alcohol or runners groped and assaulted.
DPS estimates that last year alone, the event garnered between 8,000 and 10,000 people. With crowds tonight expected to exceed last year's, a question arises as to the physical safety of the runners and their vulnerability in being filmed or videotaped.
Runners will be snaking their way through crowds of spectators, reporters and camera crews. Brown even referred to the event as running a "gauntlet."
"A lot of people get the impression that this is an endorsed, sponsored and planned event and that there will be barriers up," she said. "This is not what this is, this is a dangerous event."
Business owners whose shops line the path don't seem particularly worried. "In years past, except with street litter we haven't had any structural damage," Campus Rentals manager Bruce Dekracker said.
But DPS is concerned with more than just litter. The possibility of runners being physically or sexually assaulted is a great one.
"When there is that size a crowd with that much inebriation, there is very little we can do to prevent someone from being raped," Brown said.
She added that since the Naked Mile is not endorsed nor planned by the University and because the cost of keeping an ambulance on hand for medical emergencies runs thousands of dollars, medical assistance will not be supplied.
"If we find someone who needs an ambulance we'll call for it and then figure out how to get it to where the person is," Brown said.
She added that if police are dressed in added protection, such as riot gear, it is not to intimidate spectators and runners, but to protect the police force.
Ann Arbor resident John Gabriel sells Naked Mile T-shirts at the corner of South University and East University avenues yesterday. Police expect more than 10,000 people to line streets and crowd the Diag to watch the annual run tonight.
Originally on page 1 in the 4-14-2000 issue of the Daily.
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