The organizers of the May 1 CSU Undie Run, the revival of a long-running mass gathering much despised by Colorado State University even before the COVID-19 pandemic, will likely skirt punishment from local health officials, thanks to numbers calculated by the school itself. But that doesn't mean the individuals who put on the unauthorized festivities, which featured few masks, little social distancing and oodles of skin, will get off scot-free.
According to CSU spokesperson Dell Rae Ciaravola, "Those students will receive a bill for costs incurred by the university, including damages to property that occurred during the event."
In advance of the run, CSU sent out an email blast to its distribution list that tried to dissuade potential participation on multiple fronts. The university, which the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment identifies as an active outbreak site (2,943 attendee infections through April 28), stressed that the get-together "poses a safety concern to our community" as a result of "exposing yourself and others to COVID, including new and more contagious variants." But the school also pointed out that the run "has historically been an occasion where non-consensual groping has occurred" and that images of nearly bare dashers frequently end up online, where those pictured "have no control over how those photos are used or distributed." And then there are costs that result from "damages to property and safety concerns," estimated at $10,000 to $15,000 each year.
The email also stated that "police will be present to identify any individuals who are involved in illegal activity. Students also will be held accountable through the conduct system." And that wasn't all.
"We have been notified by Larimer County that this unauthorized gathering is in violation of current public health guidance," the warning continued. "You may be held civilly and criminally responsible for violating those orders. Violation of a public health order is a misdemeanor and can be punished by a fine of $1,000 and up to one year in jail."
These efforts didn't stop the Undie Run entirely, as seen in this video.
According to Kori Wilford, spokesperson for the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment, "Current guidance in our local public-health order outlines that outdoor events in Larimer County do not have a capacity limit. However, for events over 500 people, an event plan should be submitted to our department as well as to CDPHE to ensure that there is adequate space for distancing and a means to collect contact information of participants."
Although CSU gave the health department a heads-up that the Undie Run was likely to happen on May 1, "we were not contacted by organizers of the event," Wilford says. But the turnout, which the Rocky Mountain Collegian, CSU's student newspaper, estimated at more than 800, appears to have actually been under the 500-person threshold. "Police and university estimate of attendees was about 350 to 400," says CSU's Ciaravola. "This is based on bird's-eye views of the event from security cameras."
Wilford confirms that her department "did not receive any complaints over the weekend about the Undie Run," and David Moore of the Larimer County Sheriff's Office, whose bicycle team helped provide security at the event, makes no mention of arrests or citations.
That leaves any potential discipline for organizers of the event to come from the university itself — and that's likely on the way.
"We want to thank the numerous students who individually came forward and named the same students as organizers of the undie run," Ciaravola says. "We contacted those student organizers in advance of the evening and discussed our concerns. We have now forwarded their names to the Student Resolution Center for follow-up through the Student Conduct Code."
Even if they avoid censure through that system, they'll still be on the receiving end of a bill.