By Brian Brennan
In 1974, an unusual fad was taken up throughout the United States — “streaking,” the act of running around naked in a public venue as a prank, dare or act of protest.
Streaking always made the news. A streaker disrupted the Oscars on live television. Country music singer Ray Stevens released a popular song about the craze. Streaking even made a brief appearance on the YSU campus.
Some members of the university community were amused; others were not, especially Campus Security Chief Paul Cress.
On the evening of March 7, 1974, at about 6 p.m., four male students emerged from the Kilcawley dormitory wearing nothing but ski masks and tennis shoes. They made their way past the amphitheater, where the fountain is now located, and headed to the engineering science building, Moser Hall. From there, the quartet walked back to the dorm.
That was that — the prank was pulled.
About forty people caught sight of the streakers as they strolled through the campus core. The general reaction was one of wry amusement.
The Jambar quoted a typist in the English Department who saw streaking as “one of the healthiest things … a nice prelude to spring.”
On the other hand, a philosophy professor thought that streaking’s “authenticity” and “meaning” would decline as more people disrobed. One elderly gentleman believed that streakers were voicing suppressed sexual urges. However, most of the men interviewed decried the absence of female streakers.
On March 11, another student attempted to streak through Kilcawley Center, but was prevented by Campus Security. Another exposed his backside through an open window in the Kilcawley dorm overlooking the amphitheater.
Additional would-be streakers were apprehended on the Kilcawley roof. Even so, one member of Campus Security simply shrugged it all off, believing that streaking was “better than riots and throwing rocks.” However, his boss was not as understanding.
Cress immediately and correctly issued a cease and desist order in accordance with Ohio’s Public Indecency Act. Streakers on campus would now be subject to detention under state law.
Research for this article failed to come across any reports of arrests, perhaps because the streaking fad quickly passed from the local scene. However, Cress’ creepy comments to the Jambar promotes speculation as to the fate in store for any streakers falling under his tender mercies.
“If people persist in this foolishness, we’ll let the hospital decide whether they should be running around,” Cress said. “Whether we’ll prosecute them is dependent on the hospital’s diagnosis.”
Perhaps Cress viewed streakers as mentally ill or on drugs. Who knows? Of course, this was the same man who maintained a secret campus “enemies list” in his office. In the language of the time, Cress was really “uptight.”
Today, streaking is inadvisable; under current Ohio law, one could be convicted of indecent exposure and labelled as a registered sex offender depending on circumstances.