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″Nude Olympics” Banned At Purdue

January 11, 1986 GMT

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) _ The president of Purdue University, who was one of thousands of spectators at last year’s annual ″Nude Olympics,″ has turned on the cold water for this year’s event.

Besides violating nudity laws, the endurance race, in which students take in midnight romp in the buff through campus, could result in lasting injuries, said university President Steven C. Beering, who is a physician.

″When you’ve got 300 people running around stark naked at minus 50 degrees (the wind chill during the last race), you run the major risk of frostbite and losing tips of noses, fingers, genitalia, breasts, toes and so on,″ Beering told the Indianapolis Star in an interview published today.

Following recommendations of a committee he appointed to study the matter, Beering has banned the contest from campus. The committee found the event ″had gone beyond being just an innocent bit of fun and frolic.″

Committee members had another worry, too: allowing students to expose themselves in sub-zero weather could expose the university to personal injury lawsuits.

While insisting that safety was his overriding concern in his decision, Beering said he also was mindful of public relations.

The Nude Olympics, he says, suggests an immaturity on the part of the students and an uncaring attitude within the school’s administration.

″It’s certainly not a wholesome thing to have that kind of goings-on,″ he said.

What started as a prank by a few male students during the 1950s has become a full-fledged spectacle, involving both sexes.

Before Beering came to Purdue, university officials looked the other way as crowds gathered for the race on a particularly cold night (there’s no predetermined date).

The last runner to drop out of the race is declared the winner.

While the committee that urged the ban included three students, there have been protests from other quarters. Some members of Purdue’s student government have questioned the ruling, as has the campus newpaper.

″It’s the one thing a lot of students see as a Purdue tradition - one thing that sets Purdue apart,″ said Ginger L. Thompson, managing editor of the Purdue Exponent. ″I’m not sure they’re going to really be able to stop it.″

Only time will tell. Students return Monday for the second semester, when the race is traditionally held. For his part, Beering vows disciplinary action against any student who defies his order.