Cecilia Lee

I first received the name of my residential college while walking down the graduation aisle last year in a scratchy, distasteful and non-Yale blue gown. Yale had meant to release room pairings earlier on the morning of June 16th, but at the last minute, the website crashed, and I, along with 1,557 enrolled first-years remained deprived, nervous of who we were going to live with and where we were going to live. The cosmic game of waiting finally ended as I walked up the steps of the graduation podium, when my phone, hidden under my shapeless blue tarp, dinged. My hand reached for the phone, the entirety of my being ready to assimilate into that Yale person, the one who swore and died by their college. 

I admit, despite my lack of knowledge on most Yale residential colleges, I knew then what type of college I wanted to be in. I had dreams of dorms with big courtyards, beautiful finished basements, white walls and sunlight filtering in through black rimmed glass windows (hint, hint Silliman). 

Instead, I was greeted by Saybrook’s blue and yellow coat of arms. 

I turned to my friend beside me and whispered in her ear “I got Saybrook” in the way someone who knew nothing about Saybrook would say. “Oh,” she whispered back, and her blue painted nails typed the word into Google; her eyes scanning Wikipedia. 

“You have to strip,” she said. 

And like a fool, I stared horrified. 

Months later, I learned more about the Saybrook Strip when I received an email from the head froco of Saybrook College, with the bolded words, “IMPORTANT: SY Strip Chant — study up because I do not want to be embarrassed at Harvard if y’all don’t learn the chant.”

The Saybrook Strip is infamous, questionable and almost elusive — the whole concept of attending an elite private college and stripping for tradition seems almost high-end; fun for some, but unaffordable by most. Only a Logan Huntzberger type would post the Strip on Instagram with a slightly confusing, extremely exclusive caption that only him and six others would understand. The absurdity of the event earns the disapproval of my second-wave feminist mother and even annoys me at times when Saybrook first years open conversations with, “are you going to strip at the game?” 

The history of taking one’s clothes off on college campuses is more convoluted than my concern with being naked, cold and afraid in a sea of blue and red (strange thoughts of patriotism have filled my mind as I’ve written that). Streaking in colleges is a time-tale tradition and not limited to the Saybrook Strip; friends at UChicago have talked excitedly about the Polar Bear Run, Dartmouth’s slightly concerning Ledyard Challenge is an eye-opening revelation about the college and even Saturday’s losers have the Primal Scream. 

At Yale itself, nakedness is embraced. Whispers of naked parties linger in corners and tales of the Naked Run infiltrate first-year suites. The extensive history of nakedness at Yale leaves readers with the idea that “the Saybrook Strip has been a site of generational conflict as well as a product of generational change.” It seems plausible that an anthropology class at Yale might say these traditions reveal the human desire to revert back to primal instincts: to run around naked, adrenaline-pumped and screaming. Despite being a fan of anthropology, I’m not sure where I stand on the matter. 

As to whether I will participate in the tradition — that remains to be seen. The shackles of high school embarrassment have only recently come off. Is there really a need to encapsulate myself within the nudist circles of Yale? Perhaps this makes me a fake Saybrugian, but the past week’s weather has been an indication that temperatures below 60 degrees and I are the coldest of friends. To be naked on top of that would be a level of masochism on par with taking 5.5 credits as a STEM major. 

For all those who are planning to strip at the game this weekend, know that you have my support when we (really, the Yale’s Men Football team) crush the Pilgrims. As the tradition of stripping lives on, Saybrugians, know I love you, cherish you and will forever be grateful that we remain one of the best parts of the Harvard-Yale Game.