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November 22, 2005
Halloween Continues At Columbia

It sounds like the natural progression from the toga parties popularized by Animal House, with more than a hint of 21st-century libertinism. The Ivy-League fad of "naked parties" has spread to Columbia University, despite having restrictive policies regarding sexual behavior on campus. Parents sending their children to this very expensive school may not find the cost savings on clothing all that comforting:

"Compadres," the e-mail states, "join us in refusing to comply with a culture that tells us to hide our body, to be ashamed of its scents, secretions, curves, and hair, to conceal those parts that have been dealt sexual connotations. We're gonna f-- this bondage we call clothing and party like the savages we really are."

Following in the footsteps of their exhibitionist peers at Brown and Yale, Columbia undergraduates are staging parties with one basic ground rule - all guests must part with their clothes upon arrival. The invitation circulating around Morningside Heights bans three additional items: cameras, masks, and "spikey things."

"Join us for a night of champagne, martinis, witchcraft, psychedelia, syncopated rhythms, thin bass lines, and body paint," reads the invitation, which was obtained by The New York Sun.

The first reaction for many will be Why couldn't I go to college now, instead of two/three/four decades ago? However, the problems associated with the naked parties are not nearly as humorous as one would imagine. Messages sent by showing up naked at a party can get confused with sexual willingness, and especially so when "champagne, martinis, [and] psychedelia" get involved. The latter appears to be a clear reference to illegal drug use, and all of it -- including the shedding of clothes -- tears down the natural inhibitions against casual sexual contact that not only breeds bitter misunderstandings, but also STDs and unwanted pregnancies.

This does not sound like an Ivy League-level proposition. If this represents the kind of decision-making that these schools help form, then perhaps parents and employers alike should rethink the emphasis they place on diplomas from these universities.

On the other hand, some Columbia students claim they have a defense against the notion that the naked parties serve only to inflame teenage and early-twenties lust. "By and large," writes Zachary Bendliner, the editor of the campus newspaper Blue and White, "[Columbia students] aren't terribly attractive." In a potential corroboration of this theory, the guiding spirit behind Columbia's shedding of inhibitions and Ralph Lauren, fourth-year Comparative Lit major Carla Bloomberg, asked in an e-mail to the Sun, "Why is body hair only acceptable on males?"

So perhaps these parties serve only as extensions of Halloween parties, designed to scare people into celibacy. It seems to me that Catholic schools can do that better than any place else, and they don't charge $30K per semester to do so, nor do their administrations tolerate advertised orgies. One has to wonder about the level of education delivered at Columbia when the students have this much time on their hands to plan out elaborate naked parties with this much preparation. Carla and her friends, at best, seem to have too much time on their hands at midterm for even a junior college, let alone a prestigious institution like Columbia.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 22, 2005 7:14 AM

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