A campus official at the University of Notre Dame is attempting to put a stop to the “Bun Run,” when students from an all-male dorm strip down during finals week and run naked or lightly jockstrapped through campus. Rector Mamie Smith, who’s in charge of a women’s dorm, sent out an email calling the run “disrespectful,” and saying that any of her female students who showed up to cheer the runners on “will be having a serious disciplinary conversation with me.”

The “Bun Run” is a semesterly tradition for the men of the Zahm House, an all-male residence hall (Notre Dame is divided into residence halls, all of which are single-sex. There are no fraternities or sororities.) There are several YouTube videos of the proceedings from years past, if you’re not familiar with what streaking (or dong) looks like.

In her letter, which was uploaded to Pastebin and sent to us, Smith urged the women of Pasquerilla East Hall, the residence hall that she is the rector for, not to egg on the runners any longer. She wrote that the run “occurs without the support of most of the Zahm community, and in defiance of specific directives from Zahm’s rector and hall staff, our university officials, and our University’s code of conduct.” (We’ve reprinted the full letter below.)

Smith also said she thought the Bun Run had the potential to inflict unwanted nudity on survivors of sexual assault, and could constitute sexual harassment:

Quite frankly, this is a deeply painful and traumatic event for anyone among us who has experienced sexual violence, assault, or harassment, and for those who are close to them. It is particularly violent and deeply unfair for those members of our community to be forced into the position of encountering the run, or dealing with the discomfort of not feeling safe on campus and trying to avoid it. Our community should be a place where everyone feels safe and respected. This event is directly contrary to that value.

A stroll through the archives of the Observer, the campus newspaper, shows that the Bun Run has been controversial for years. But it’s reached new heights this year, with Fred Kraus also asking the Bun Runners to cut it out. He’s manager of The Huddle, a food store in the LaFortune Student Center that the runners pass through., He too is tired of all the dong. In a letter to the Observer, he asked students to boycott the run:

We have been dealing with the negative effects of this for years, and we’ve received numerous complaints from staff.

Our employees are here to help and serve the students and should not to be subjected to harassment and offensive behavior at their daily jobs. My female staff often request schedule changes or hide in the kitchen or elsewhere in the building when this event takes place. They work extremely hard and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. This creates a hostile work environment for them. How would you feel if your mother or grandmother were working here and someone did this to them?

There are, of course, nude runs at many college campuses (my alma mater, University of California-Santa Cruz, has “First Rain,” where nude hippies run around getting mud on their most intimate places the first time it rains each fall. It looks unpleasant).

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We asked a Notre Dame alumna, Jezebel managing editor Erin Gloria Ryan, if the Bun Run can be avoided.

“Everybody knew exactly when it was coming,” she says. “If you didn’t want to see it, you just didn’t go to LaFortune or the Library when it was going to happen. And even if you didn’t know it was going to happen, it doesn’t take a genius to notice the student center filling up with people waiting to gawk at some Notre Dame dong.”

She notes, though, that option wouldn’t be available for LaFortune employees. “If a student was a sexual assault victim and worked at the Huddle she would have a hard time avoiding the dongs. There are rare instances where it would be unavoidable; that’s one of them.”

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We contacted Smith, the campus women’s center, as well as Father Gary Chamberland, the rector of Zahm House, for comment and will update if we hear back.

Here’s Smith’s full letter:

Dear ladies: At Mass tonight, I spoke to those in attendance about an event that has occurred predictably on the Sunday night before finals, namely the Zahm “Bun Run.” I wanted to share those thoughts with all of you. For those of you not familiar with this event, a group of men from Zahm put bags over their heads, strip naked, and run across campus, typically through the library and Lafortune Student Center. Needless to say, this is not a university-sponsored activity. It occurs without the support of most of the Zahm community, and in defiance of specific directives from Zahm’s rector and hall staff, our university officials, and our University’s code of conduct. But it has been perpetuated through the years.

As I shared with those at Mass, there are many reasons why “The Bun Run” is contrary to what we stand for as a community. It is disrespectful on the part of the men of Zahm, toward themselves and toward each other, to expose, objectify, and display themselves in this manner. It is disrespectful to the rest of the campus, and all of us who deserve to go about our business as usual in a stressful time without having to alter our lives to avoid the run. It’s disrespectful to the faculty and staff who work here, and should be free to go to their jobs without encountering a display which would be unheard of in any other workplace setting.

And most seriously, this action is illegal and could result in charges of sexual harassment, which impacts both the victims who endure that harassment and the young men who face these serious charges and their potentially life-changing consequences. This is not a joke. It is not an innocent way to blow off steam. It is a foolhardy, immature, and irresponsible activity.

Quite frankly, this is a deeply painful and traumatic event for anyone among us who has experienced sexual violence, assault, or harassment, and for those who are close to them. It is particularly violent and deeply unfair for those members of our community to be forced into the position of encountering the run, or dealing with the discomfort of not feeling safe on campus and trying to avoid it. Our community should be a place where everyone feels safe and respected. This event is directly contrary to that value.

The Bun Run would not take place without the tacit support and tolerance of students on campus. It is time to stand up as a community and refuse to condone it and the people who take part in it. This means speaking up in class or at the dining hall when people are talking about it. It means discouraging friends from taking part. And it means refusing to go and stand and watch when the word goes around that the run is about to start. Every year, young ladies gather in LaFortune and other places along the route to cheer on their friends. This is unacceptable and inappropriate. In solidarity with the staff of Zahm, I need to be clear with you that any Pyro who attends the Bun Run this year will be having a serious disciplinary conversation with me.

Ladies, this year I have been deeply impressed by your maturity, leadership, hall spirit, and love for Notre Dame. I’ve also been impressed by your ability to recognize and embrace positive and community-building kinds of fun, instead of shallow, destructive fun. Now is your chance to leave a legacy for this University; to be the cohort who has the courage to speak out against this practice, end it once and for all, and make our community a positive and safe place for everyone to live. I’m counting on you!

Thanks for your attention to this matter. Good luck with your last classes, and know that I am here for you and happy to discuss this matter in person if you would like to do so.

Go Pyros, beat finals!

Mamie

Screengrab via YouTube

Click here to view this kinja-labs.com embed.