Office of the Dean of Student Life
To: President Harold T. Shapiro
From: Janina Montero
Date: March 29, 1999
Final Report of the Committee
on the Nude Olympics
Communication and forum
Banning the nude olympics and discipline
Members of the Committee
On behalf of the Committee on the Nude Olympics, I am pleased to send you the following report on our work of the past two months as well as our recommendations regarding steps needed to end the nude olympics. We also have recommendations on the wording of the policy banning the nude olympics, sanctions for ignoring the ban, and a separate disciplinary and appeals process for cases related to the nude olympics.
When you met with the committee on February 3, you stated that the University no longer finds it acceptable to allow any event of the nature of this year's nude olympics to continue and that the committee's charge was to identify appropriate actions to stop the event. After you left that meeting, committee members decided on the following course of action:
Committee members agreed that the freshman class (next years sophomores) should have the support of the University in developing an alternative event to be held the night of the first snow fall (or at another time of their preference), but also felt that it was not within their purview to consider or suggest the possible nature of alternative events.
Committee members felt it was essential to engage seriously the option of University sponsorship of the nude olympics both to ensure the integrity of the process and to respond in good faith to the belief, widely held among students and others, that the event can be safe if managed properly. Until now the University had meticulously avoided any suggestion of "sponsorship," while, at the same time, it had tried to provide as much of a net of human resources and a presence as it could to minimize the elements of risk and to respond quickly to problems. Our experience this January made very clear, however, that this approach is insufficient and the next step, if not a ban, would then have to be sponsorship of the event. Committee members considered the question, "If the University 'co-sponsored' the nude olympics, could the event then be 'safe'?" The committee's thinking was as follows:
Since the University would be obliged to minimize risks, at the very least it would have to do the following:
Assuming for the sake of the discussion the viability of these steps, the committee then had to face a number of unanswerable questions:
The committee in addition considered seriously the argument that alcohol is the only variable that makes the nude olympics a dangerous event as it tried to explore whether there were reasonable answers to the questions above. The committee, nevertheless, was persuaded that it is the combination of alcohol, the mob behavior, the nudity, the wet and cold, the slippery and icy conditions that constitute the problem, and that, even if alcohol could be completely removed from the event -- a very unlikely possibility -- the potential for sexual abuse, injury, the demeaning treatment of staff, and institutional liability would persist. Finally, the committee concluded that the option of sponsoring the nude olympics was not acceptable because the University simply would not be able to guarantee that students would be safe.
Communication and forum
Early on the committee agreed that an open meeting or forum would be a helpful venue to inform the community about the charge of the committee and the issues it was considering, and to share as well in a preliminary fashion some of the conclusions it was starting to reach. Members understood that the primary purpose of the forum would be educational, but recognized that it could serve a cathartic function as well. They agreed to present their thinking as work in progress and to give a detailed account of the deliberations to date, including banning the event and likely penalties for disregarding the ban. Justin Harmon, director of communications, provided guidance to the committee as it prepared for the forum, especially regarding issues related to the external press. In order to enhance the opportunity for productive dialog, committee members decided that, in advance of the forum, they would make available to students a detailed account of the ways in which the nude olympics affected members of the campus and the local community this January and over the past decade. On behalf of the committee, I sent an e-mail to all students on March 3 (attached) outlining documented facts about the nude olympics.
The forum, sponsored jointly by the USG and the freshman class, was held on March 4, at 7:30 p.m. in McCosh 10. The tone of the discussion was less rancorous than committee members had anticipated, and the forum served its purpose, although attendance was sparse -- ca. 65 people.
Banning the nude olympics and discipline
The committee, early in its deliberations, began to form consensus that a severe penalty, with increased sanctions for aggravating behaviors, might be necessary to function as a deterrent. Moreover, members felt that, while the punishment might seem overly harsh for an individual act of running naked in the snow, it would be fair in the context of the nude olympics, which pose intolerable risks. Committee members also agreed that the only excuse to avoid the penalty would be, "I was not there," and that, at least for the near term, a separate disciplinary process should be established to ensure that the discipline system does not become overwhelmed.
The committee reviewed the currently available penalties as per Rights, Rules, Responsibilities and decided to set one baseline sanction that could be increased for aggravating circumstances or behaviors. Members considered in particular a) two-year disciplinary probation with removal from University housing or b) one-year suspension, as the baseline sanction. Since removal from University housing affects different populations unequally and may have the potential to create a culture of students living comfortably off campus, that option was rejected as a minimum sanction (although it could be included as an additional sanction in the event of aggravating factors). Committee members ultimately concluded that, while suspension may appear to be an excessively severe penalty, it is nonetheless reasonable in the overall context of the nude olympics, which create intolerable risks. In addition, the committee felt that, in this case, the penalty must also be a deterrent and suspension is more likely to serve this purpose. Committee members emphasized, however, that the recommendation for suspension must be accompanied by an educational process to communicate fully and firmly the University's zero-tolerance policy for participating in -- and thus perpetuating -- the nude olympics.
The committee engaged the difficult task of defining what behaviors would be banned. Anticipating that students, in their desire to maintain the tradition of the nude olympics, might push the limits of any definition, members decided that a general delineation would be preferable, so as to take into account any activity that attempts to perpetuate the nude olympics or behavior that in the past has been associated with the nude olympics. Members sought the advice of University Counsel Peter McDonough in crafting the language of the ban.
The committee outlined options for a special disciplinary and appeals process that would be equipped to handle an unusually high number of cases in a short period of time, without paralyzing the discipline system. In this discussion, the committee reiterated that since participation in the nude olympics always entails a decision, and therefore it is not an "accident" or a "mistake," there could be no excuses for participating or coercing others to participate. It further agreed to the following process:
The committee consulted extensively with Mr. Witsil, director of Public Safety, and discussed with him a preliminary response protocol for Public Safety if students choose to run under a ban, as follows:
The committee recognized, however, that any future version of the nude olympics would be different and might not take place on the night of the first snowfall in Holder Courtyard. Mr. Witsil indicated that Public Safety understood the unpredictability of any future event and that he and Borough police had begun discussions of the possibility of versions of off-campus attempts to perpetuate the tradition.
The Committee on the Nude Olympics recommends to the President and the Board of Trustees adoption of a policy banning the nude olympics, as follows:
In addition, the Committee on the Nude Olympics recommends the following:
It should be noted that the committee does not underestimate the problems and complications in implementing each of these recommendations. While the work of the committee was difficult, it was always clear that the most troublesome moments for the University are yet to come, once the policy is adopted. Nevertheless, committee members agree with you and the Board of Trustees that the nude olympics cannot continue, that the risks are too great, that -- as you said -- this event is a "tragedy waiting to happen." Unfortunately, some students and recent alumni value the nude olympics, and the event has taken on such a meaningful character in their minds and memories that the dangers and risks have been consistently disregarded. The challenges will be great but the committee is hopeful that the community will understand and support the decisions that had to be made in the best interest of our students, the University, and the Princeton community.
Members of the Committee
Emily Hicks '00, Member of the Committee on Discipline
Justin Luciani '02, President of the Class of '02
Spencer Merriweather '00, President of the Undergraduate Student Government
Janelle Wright '00, Resident Adviser in Rockefeller College, former chair of the Third
World Center Governance Board
Professor Ted Champlin
Professor Mike Jennings
Professor Eileen Scully
Dean of the Faculty Joseph Taylor
Associate Dean of Students Kathleen Deignan
Dean of Student Life Janina Montero
Director of Athletics Gary Walters
Jan Logan *78, Assistant to the Dean, Administrative Secretary to the Committee on the Nude Olympics