…I'd introduce Naked ThursdaysIn an episode of Friends, that cultural chronicle of the ‘90s, Joey tries to get Rachel to agree to live in the spare room in his apartment, casually dropping in a mention of Naked Thursdays, which he claims are part and parcel of living there. Rachel, unconvinced, turns him down. To many people, this might appear solely as an attempt to see Rachel in all her tanned, if somewhat skeletal glory. I beg to differ. What Joey was actually referring to was the philosophy of naturism which has formed a significant, if somewhat neglected part of the intellectual history of Western Europe, and I think it would be wholly appropriate for Oxford, venerable seat of learning that it is, to adopt this philosophy that predates its own foundation. Alexander the Great encountered wandering groups of naked holy men in India, whom he named ‘gymnosophists’, meaning ‘naked wise men’. I think it’s high time that naked scholars roamed the streets of Oxford and perpetuated this free-swinging tradition, that mingles scholarship with the ability to display one’s gonads without fear of censure. But why? I mean, this is going to involve seeing your tutors naked. Naked. Tutors, porters, scouts (although to be fair I think it’s about time the tables were turned on that one) and, lest we forget, fellow students. I think it’s fair to say that the reasoning behind this one needs to be laid out fairly comprehensively if it’s going to be worth facing your tutor’s genitals as you read out your most recent piece of prose on a Thursday morning, waiting for the mauling to come. Being naked will actually boost the average student’s satisfaction with university life: if your tutors can see your third nipple, chances are they’re not going to care if your algebra is a touch warped or your syntax resembles one of John Prescott’s impromptu speeches on heterodox economic policy. Your tutor gets a glimpse of your nubile flesh, you get off scott free with your Marxist reading of quantum mechanics, and everybody’s happy. Naked Thursdays promise a world of excitement in even the most mundane activities – checking your pidge, cycling into college, and buying your lunchtime panini. Those amusing bounces and muscle flexes involved in repeatedly standing on tiptoe to see into your pidge, the confrontation between arse and saddle as you negotiate the cobbles of Radcliffe Square, and the realisation of just how hot the cheese is in your chosen faux-Italian comestible: all now readily available for the titillation of the whole University. The complete removal of clothes means that you need no longer imagine what your latest Facebook stalking victim looks like sans vêtements. Maybe that lecturer you fancied will turn out to be more enthusiastic about his subject (mid-lecture…) than anyone would ever have guessed. Imagine the liberation as you sail down St Giles, the wind in your hair and nothing standing between you and Mother Nature, naked as the day you were born.But what of sub-fusc? Should an occasion requiring sub-fusc fall on Naked Thursday, the requirement for all but gowns, dark socks, black shoes and mortarboards would be waived. I mean this is Oxford, after all. We may be as progressive as to introduce naked Thursdays, but, as Vice-Chancellor, I’ll be humiliatingly voted out of office if I’m going to abandon centuries’ worth of tradition just so we can all make like the ‘60s. Nudity doesn’t go hand in hand with eroticism, and as an intellectual point of reference for the modern age we should endeavour to enlighten our fellow countrymen in this regard. Nudity isn’t about everybody whipping it out and buckling down to free love: it’s about letting the stress of Oxford, and letting it all hang out.
by Patrick Howard