The Springstreakers: How taking it off took off at the College

Innes Asher

Springstreakers bared all on campus from 2004 to 2018. (Rachel Cruz/The Williams Record)

In the fall of 2004, first-years Morgan Goodwin ’08 and Andrew Whinery ’09 stripped off their clothes and ran through the common rooms of Williams and Sage Halls as entry snacks took place. It was the inaugural streak of the Springstreakers, an unregistered student organization that ran steadily through 2018. 

“I think our entry had a bent toward being a little bit critical of what we perceived as the default Williams culture,” Goodwin told the Record. “It was out of that milieu of late-night entry conversations that we were like, ‘What would stir things up a bit for everyone?’” 

This drive for spontaneity took hold of campus. If you were studying in the library during finals between 2004 and 2018, there was a good chance that, at some point, 50 to 100 fully nude Ephs would have run past you. Michael Hagerty ’08, another early member of the club, remembers finals streaks being special, in part because the old Sawyer Library — the library that predated Sawyer as it exists today — had only one relatively small entrance. 

“We’re talking hundreds of people standing naked in the lobby area before you could actually go into the library, and by the time the last person got in, the first person had been running around for like 10 minutes already,” Hagerty recalled. “Everywhere you went, there was just chaos of naked people running around.” 

“There were people who were studying in the library who, when they saw what was happening, got up from their studies, took off their clothes, and ran around with us,” Hagerty added. “Then when we ran out, they just ran back to their desk, put their clothes back on, and went back to studying.”

By the time Eliza Matt ’18 was a first-year, the Sawyer Library in which Goodwin and Hagerty had once streaked had been renovated. However, she still has fond memories of running during finals period with friends clad in nothing more than ass-chaps, and even described once walking through the library with a friend on crutches — both in the nude, of course. 

“It was really freeing to just be naked and not have it be that big of a deal,” said Matt, who led the club during her junior and senior years. 

But by 2018, a lot more had changed than Sawyer Library, and a number of concerns started to mount. For one, cell phones had become commonplace and posed challenges to the club’s traditions. 

“People were taking pictures and filming,” Matt recalled. “If you’re a freshman, you could be under 18, which really felt uncomfortable.”

In addition, Matt said that students started to post objectifying comments about streakers’ bodies to YikYak, an app that allows users to post anonymous threads to campus communities and had grown in popularity at the time. “I feel like the whole point of this is just like, this is a naked body, it’s here, and it’s not sexual… That was the part that I was really into,” Matt said. “It really sucked to see the objectification and sexualization.” 

Another mounting issue was that the Springstreakers — which had not originally been associated with any particular athletics team at the College — became primarily led by the cross country team.

“The cross country team was heavily white and thin … We talked about how to change the group’s makeup or help people understand that you don’t have to be a runner to be doing this,” Matt said. “We wanted to encourage people to participate [but] struggled with that.” 

The final straw, though, was when Campus Safety Services (CSS) began to crack down on the club. While Goodwin and Hagerty recall having a relatively friendly relationship with CSS, Matt said she tried to escape them several times. During one instance, Matt remembered, the metal shutters at the entrance to Sawyer closed for half an hour during regular hours to prevent the streakers from entering. “Some people inside the library started chanting ‘Let them streak,’ and people outside the library were chanting, ‘Let us study,’” she said.

According to Matt, CSS eventually threatened to press charges against any students attempting to streak, notifying the students that they could potentially be put on a sex offender list because of the library’s proximity to Williamstown Elementary School. 

And with that message, the Springstreakers’ time as an unabashed, spontaneous force on campus came to an end.