Go hire a hall

by Mike Royko, Chicago Tribune

It's often said that today's college students lack the spark of rebellion and aren't concerned with anything except getting through school and finding a well-paying career.

That might be a bum rap. While it's true that students aren't making much noise about social injustice, environmental dangers or war, they sometimes show interest in issues beyond their job prospects.

For example, a vigorous protest campaign is currently being waged at the University of Chicago, one of this nation's most prestigious institutes of learning.

Students are putting their names on petitions and rallying each other by telephone. At issue is whether the students will be permitted to hold their traditional Lascivious Costume Ball.

This is considered the major social event at the university, which isn't know for its frat house antics.

At the Lascivious Costume Ball, which is held in the stately Ida Noyes Hall, students wear attire that ranges from nothing at all to nighties or outfits of their own design.

During the last ball, one young man wore only a couple of well-placed Frisbees. Another male student opted for the height of simplicity in outerwear: a Styrofoam cup.

Many of the female students were inclined toward the kind of lingerie often advertised in the backs of kinky magazines.

The ball also featured male and female strip shows, skinny-dipping in a swimming pool, porno movies and other diversions.

It just shows that despite the awesome number of Nobel prizes won by the U. of C - exceeding the number of bowling trophies in most Chicago bars - the students have a playful streak.

But this year, the university administration stunned the students - at least those students who like partying naked - by forbidding them to hold the ball.

It wasn't that the administration objected to young men wearing only Styrofoam cups and other lascivious displays.

But at the last ball, a considerable number of students wound up in a hospital emergency room, suffering from being loaded to the gills. Others had to have their eyeballs realigned, as a result of having smoked, sniffed or swallowed the wrong herbs and spices.

And there were the usual problems of students throwing-up or falling down, or otherwise being untidy. This led to some damage to the building.

"In sum," a university spokesman said "it's unsafe, unpleasant and unhealthful. That's the gist of it."

Many of the students are upset. A young woman, who is majoring in the study of ancient ruins or something called me to angrily say:

"I don't think it is the university administration's role to try to repress my sexuality."

What were you planning on wearing?

"A few feathers."

Neat. And the president of the student government. said he and others weren't going to give in without a fight. They are circulating petitions, conducting a telephone campaign and otherwise trying to protest.

As an impartial observer, I have mixed feelings about this dispute.

On the one hand, it's encouraging to see students involved in a serious issue. As the president of the student government pointed out, the ball is paid for out of student activity funds. So, he said, "I consider this decision to be a dangerous precedent."

Naturally, we must be on the alert for dangerous precedents.

On the other hand, today's students, like the Yuppies who have preceded them in recent years, are said to be strong for individual enterprise, getting out in the world and making it, getting that condo, buying that BMW.

So their reaction to the university ban would appear to be in conflict with this individualistic, spirit.

I don't see why a young man needs the university's approval to dress only in a Styrofoam cup. Or a young lady in a couple of feathers.

It seems to me that if they really want to have a Lascivious Costume Ball, they could go find a suitable hall somewhere off campus, rent it and carry on as lasciviously as they choose.

After all, throughout recorded history young men have been getting drunk and falling down and making fools of themselves without the blessings of any dean of student activities.

So if these students really want to be lascivious, as is their right, they can surely be lascivious on their own.

As Rocky would have said: "Go for it "

And Styrofoam cups can be found in aisle three.