Nudist causes stir in Neptune

By Matt Gilbert

Like the University of California at Berkeley, NIU might have its own version of “the naked guy,” much to the chagrin of a university housing official.

Senior computer science student Tom Ryan was charged with disorderly conduct and arrested Thursday night by university police. According to the complaint, Ryan “knowingly sat on a stack of inner tubes, without clothing, in the fourth floor West Neptune lounge; in such an unreasonable manner as to alarm and disturb Christopher A. Waugh, and provoke a breach of the peace.”

Waugh is the hall adjudicator for Neptune and Gilbert Halls. Waugh also has a complaint pending against Ryan in the judicial office for harassment. According to the complaint, Ryan placed a photocopy of “an inappropriate picture” of Neptune/Gilbert Area Coordinator Margaret Phillips on his door.

The portrait of Phillips appeared last year as part of an advertisement in The Northern Star.

Several attempts to contact Waugh by the Star between Friday and Sunday were unsuccessful. Phillips refused to comment on the arrest, the picture on Ryan’s door or any matter concerning Ryan, saying that they are “a hall matter.”

According to a letter Ryan had planned to send to his student advocate and released to the Star, Ryan described the incident. “I noticed Chris walking through the floor lounge … . From my point of view (and others present), everything was smooth and calm until the cops showed up and made us miss the end of ‘Seinfeld’.”

According to students who were present at the time of the arrest, Ryan never appeared to expose any objectionable portions of his anatomy.

Neptune resident Joe Brooks said, “I never saw Tom Ryan naked. I saw Tom Ryan with a towel around his waist.” Brooks said he watched Ryan as he stood up and “I could not tell whether or not he was wearing anything under the towel.”

Brooks said, “Maybe we should start arresting everybody who walks from the shower cloaked in a towel.”

Neptune resident Eddie Lee Smith said Ryan was “sitting in his inner tube watching TV. (The police came and) asked him to get up. He had a towel. He got up and they arrested him. From the time Tom got there to the time he left, I didn’t see anything indecent. I just don’t know how anyone could know whether he was naked underneath the towel or what.”

Neptune resident Laura Pollock, who was not present at the arrest, said she has never seen Ryan naked. “I’ve seen one picture but other than that no. Tom has those three big black inner tubes and he sits in those. As far as I know everybody says he’s naked in there, but I wouldn’t know because I’ve never seen him get out of the tubes. So I wouldn’t say there was anything wrong with that.”

Ryan said he is a nudist, but unlike Berkeley’s naked guy he never attends classes naked, nor does he walk around campus or the residence halls naked. The only places on campus he said he appeared naked are in his residence hall room, as an artist’s model last semester in “life drawing” classes and next to the NIU gargoyle between Altgeld Hall and Still Hall to pose for a photograph.

In a show of support, several friends of Ryan in Neptune put copies of the picture of Phillips on their doors. According to one, Luke Grochall, “three weeks later I got this letter in the mail” from Waugh stating the picture of Phillips on the door was a violation of the Judicial Code.

Ryan himself never received the letter, but almost all of his friends who had pictures on their doors got identical letters.

A copy of the letter obtained by the Star contains several questionable assertions and misstatements of the Judicial Code. In the letter Waugh quotes the university’s definition of harassment stated in section 3-2.5 as “intentionally harassing, coercing, intimidating, threatening, or otherwise embarrassing any person.”

Actually, the code characterizes harassment as “intentionally harassing … or seriously embarrassing any person through conduct which would offend a reasonable person.”

Waugh also characterizes section 3-2.5 of the code as saying “failure to post items in accordance with established procedures of the specific building.” The actual code substitutes the word “announcements” for “items.”

Director of the University Judicial Office Larry Bolles acknowledged Waugh misquoted the code. Bolles also said Ryan’s friends’ picture of Phillips on their doors was not a violation of the code.