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Volume 106-Issue 154
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Staff and Wire
Bonfire may burn this year
Following Texas A&M Presi
dent Dr. Ray M. Bowen's decision
to suspend Aggie Bonfire until at
least 2002, many former and cur-
jent students have begun dis
cussing the possibility of an alter-
1 Marie Johnson, a senior agricul
tural development major, said she
knows students who are already
planning on building their own
■ "Bonfire will happen next year. It
won't be on campus, but there are
.students who will make it happen,"
I Don Ganther, an A&M gradu-
|a|e and owner of the Dixie Chick
en, also disagrees with the suspen
sion of bonfire and is exploring the
possibility of holding his own bon-
fijre this year.
Nancy Braus, mother of victim Do
minick Braus, being interviewed by re
porters after the press conference.
"[Bonfire] should be held this
year to honor those fallen chil
dren," Ganther said. "Texas is a big
state. There's lots of places you
could go [to have a bonfire]."
Ganther approached Dr. Larry
Gresham, an A&M marketing pro
fessor, and requested that he ask
his current and former students
how they would feel about an off-
campus sponsored event.
"There was an overwhelming
consensus that the students I sur
veyed wanted to have an event, but
there was no real consensus about
how the event would be held," Gre
sham said. "If Ganther does decide
to sponsor an off-campus bonfire,
then it would need to be closely su
pervised, because he would be tak
ing on a lot of responsibility."
Ganther said that he will decide
by September 2000 whether he will
hold a bonfire. Ganther's substi
tute bonfire will be a solemn, fam
ily-oriented event, with no
alcohol, he said.
An off-campus bonfire
would not violate any laws,
according to Bert Fuller,
deputy of Burleson County.
"As long as there is not a
county or state 'burn ban' in
place, and the bonfire is held
on private land, with the
owner's consent, then there
is no law against a [bonfire]
being held," Fuller said. "In
some counties if prior notifi
cation is given, the fire de
partment may stand by in
case of an emergency."
See Plans on Page 6.
Bonfire discontinued until 2002
Fate of bonfire
On Friday, Texas A&M President Dr. Ray M.
Bowen announced his decision to postpone Bonfire
until 2002 and to completely eliminate cut, a student-
run tree-cutting event.
"I don't think it will surprise anyone that we will
not have a bonfire this year," Bowen said. "We fully
anticipate a bonfire-related event, a memorial, a trib
ute to the young people lost and injured. This is
something our student leadership has indicated an
interest in, and we will support it. It is our decision
that we will not have a cut. Not having a cut achieves
a number of goals. Major improvement in the safety
environment, major reduction in the amount of time
it takes to build bonfire, and there are academic ben
efits to that. The basic desire to do something good
is out there. It doesn't necessarily have to be to go to
cut and put yourself at risk, expose yourself to some
really despicable behavior and put your academics
in jeopardy," he said.
Although it was difficult, Bowen said his decision
will help the University improve safety, decrease
bonfire-building time and make the construction site
more organized and secure.
Fie said a plan for the next bonfire must be creat
ed with a detailed design prepared by licensed pro
fessionals. Height limits will be set, and stack work
times must be set.
"We will have a bonfire if it is completely re
structured," Bowen said. "We will have a bonfire
which is not unlike historical bonfires — a single
stack, tepee-shaped bonfire. Bonfire will have a con
struction plan made by licensed professionals. Con-'
struction time will be limited to two weeks. We will
not have work after midnight or before sunrise."
He added that Aggies need to be flexible in re
sponse to this decision.
"The challenge to them is to protect this tradition,
to cause this tradition to be here as a safe, positive el
ement of our University," Bowen said. "I am confi
dent that they are and will be committed to the fun
damental changes necessary. Our responsibility as
administration, faculty and staff of this University is
to guide the young people, not to make their deci
sions for them. It's not to take away this tradition as
a student-led activity."
Bowen said there have always been extreme view
points concerning the continuation of bonfire, and it
"includes people who say 'stop the bonfire,' or 'don't
change it,' but the vast majority say 'make whatever
changes are necessary to save it.' I'm amazed at all the
support I've gotten from the broader Aggie commu
nity, regents, chancellor, faculty senate, and Associa
tion (of Former Students) for what 1 do," he said.
(top) President Ray M. Bowen addresses the
student body on the fate of bonfire, (left)
Rusty Thompson joins the crowd to hear
Bowen's decision, (right) Ryan Thompson,
coordinator of the Keep The Fire Burning or
ganization, was also in attendance.
Bowen said that deciding the fate of
bonfire was emotionally difficult. He also said,
"Some will speculate that this decision is too
tough. I do not think so. Remember the bonfire is
a manifestation of the Aggie spirit. If, in fact, this
University were ever to decide it would not have
a bonfire, the Aggie spirit would find some other
beneficial activity that would allow the students
to display their leadership."
On the subject of his resignation, Bowen said, "I
do not plan to resign.... The question was asked in a
friendly way: Are the students going to be held re
sponsible for the collapse of the bonfire? and I said,
'no, the buck stops here.' No student or anyone else
is going to be held responsible. The most important
thing was to have our students understand that
we're not going to turn our backs ort them and have
them take responsibility for what happened out
there," he said. "We're standing together, and the eas
iest way to clarify that in people's minds was to say,
'look at me, don't look at them.' The idea of having
authority and accepting responsibility is fundamen
tal to the leadership in management. The people that
run this University accept responsibility."
Bowen added that there has been no litigation
filed against A&M, although legal action may be
taken in the future.
See Decision on Page 6.
Victims, parents and students
respond to Bowen’s decision
) • 846-8731
Students gathered at television sets all over cam
pus Friday, anxiously awaiting Texas A&M President
Dr. Ray M. Bowen's official decision on the future of
At the student recreation center, students set their
weights aside to listen to Bowen's decision. Once the
decision was announced, students reacted differently.
"I think President Bowen showed real profession
alism in making his decision," said Jacquelyn Hen
derson, a senior Russian and psychology major. "Even
though it may not have been popular, he took the ini
tiative needed to preserve lives. He put safety first.
That's the most important thing," she said.
Amber Arnold, a junior psychology major, said
bonfire is a special memory that future Aggies should
have the opportunity to experience.
"Every year that I can remember has a memory of
Ibonfire in it. Once I became an actual Aggie student,
the bonfire became more meaningful than ever. I am
very upset that two more freshman classes will not
have the opportunity to participate in a wonderful tra
dition the way I remember bonfire always being."
Many students expressed displeasure at the elimi
nation of cut. Cut took place on the weekends, pro
ceeding the building of the bonfire stack, when the
trees were cut down.
"1 think Dr. Bowen
overall made a good deci
sion. Bonfire definitely
needed more regulation,
but one thing I disagree
with was taking away
cut," said Matthew Weir,
a senior industrial distrib
Ryan Thompson, a co
founder of Keep the Fire
Burning and a senior his
tory major, said Bowen's
Aggies accept change in tradition
Former students express feelings on elimination of cut
See Students on Page 4.
Kim Trihlio and April Young
President Dr. Ray M. Bowen's deci
sion to postpone Aggie Bonfire until
2002 and eliminate cut — when stu
dents themselves cut down trees —
were the main concerns for several for
"I can't say that I am totally pleased
that [bonfire] is going to wait until
2002," said Mark Gratkowski, Class of
'92. "I think the engineering could have
been done by 2001. And as for eliminat
ing cut, that just blows me away. [Cut]
is a major, major part of the tradition,"
he said. "That is very disappointing
since I did cut for several years. 1 agree
everything needs to be changed, but I
think a lot of the tradition will be lost by
waiting so long."
Judy Franklin, president of the Hous
ton A&M Club and Class of '68, said she
is glad bonfire was not discontinued.
"As a former student and head of a
club, 1 applaud Dr. Bowen's decision. I
“I am glad that it
will continue in a
safer manner. Stu
dents go to A&M for
all that it represents”
— Judy Franklin
president of the Houston A&M club
am glad that bonfire will continue,"
Franklin said. "I am glad that it will con
tinue in a safer manner. Students go to
A&M for all that it represents."
However, Franklin also expressed
displeasure about the elimination of cut.
"There is nothing more important
than the life of a student. I didn't think
things like cut site would be eliminated.
I know it does represent a source of dan
ger, but there has never been a fatality at
the cut site," Franklin said. "That was
kind of a surprise, but it does make sense.
Eliminating cut does cut out some steps
in the total collective bonding process."
Roland Hurst, Class of'72 and own
er of the Aggieland of Texas store in
Houston, said he supports only some
parts of Bowen's decision.
"I have some mixed feelings about
the decision. I am not sure about the cut
aspect. That was part of the bonding. I,
by no means, want another tragedy,
though," Hurst said. "I never wanted to
hear that we are not going to continue
bonfire because that would show that
Aggies give up, and Aggies don't give
up. I think this decision, associated with
[Vision 2020], will make [the Universi
ty] grow to the next level, but it is the
See Former students on Page 6.