The Battalion. (College Station, Tex.) 1893-current, June 19, 2000, Image 5

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    day, June 19,2000
Page 5
J J V- ^ZV.
itorials appearing in T/?^ Battalion reflect the majority view of the editorial board mem-
jrs. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of other Battalion staff members, the Texas
MiM student body, regents, administration, faculty or staff. Columns, guest columns, car
bons and letters express the opinions of the authors.
Editorial Board
vlotion dance team of
ing. The girls will spend
The decision
Bowen decision unfortunate consequence of too much compromise; bonfire modifications extreme
JA tesf
“The challenge re
ally, to [students]
is to protect this
tradition, to
cause this
tradition to be here
as a safe, positive
element of our
— Ray M. Bowen
Texas A&M University president
On Friday, Texas A&M President
Dr. Ray M. Bowen ended the six
months of anticipation and conjec
ture about the future of Aggie Bon
fire. Bowen tried to appeal to the
contingent that wanted bonfire to
continue if an improved, safe ver
sion could be built. In looking for
that compromise, Bowen unavoid
ably upset people on both sides of
the debate. However, to ensure the
future of a safe bonfire, a number
of dramatic changes must be im
plemented, and unpopular choices
have to be made.
The postponement of bonfire
until the fall of 2002 was a sound
decision. Bonfire certainly could not
be carried out this fall and still in
corporate the necessary changes
for a safe structure.
The final report by the Commis
sion on the 1999 Aggie Bonfire
pointed out a number of mistakes
and problems with bonfire that ac
cumulated over the structure’s 90-
year history. Future bonfires need
to be safe bonfires, and there is
simply not enough time to introduce
the necessary improvements to the
structure by this fall.
While canceling bonfire for 2001
and taking a full two years to tran
sition into the restructured bonfire
seems excessive, when addressing
safety concerns, it is best to take
more time than necessary. Putting
bonfire on hiatus until 2002 will
give University and student leaders
more than adequate time to plan
and take steps toward building a
safe bonfire.
While putting bonfire on hold
was one of those difficult, but cor
rect, decisions, ending student-in
volved cut was an error. Doing away
with student participation in cutting
the trees for bonfire eliminates the
bulk of student involvement. In a
tradition founded by, and historical
ly built by, students, their involve
ment is critical, even if it must be
accompanied by paid engineers.
This decision cuts out the heart
of student activity and involvement.
Instead of ending student-run cut,
Bowen should have made a com
promise similar to the one he made
with student participation in stack.
A combination of students and pro
fessionals would improve the safe
ty and the negative elements of the
bonfire culture without sacrificing
student involvement.
Further, Bowen’s decision to re
place bonfire’s wedding-cake de
sign with the tepee form repre
sents an overreaction and unnec
essary change in the evolution of a
safe bonfire. The introduction of
professional engineering supervi
sion at stack is a positive step, but
with the increased supervision,
planning and safety oversight, a
wedding-cake bonfire could be
safely built.
The bonfire commission out
lined various errors and weak
points of the wedding-cake design,
and the students and engineers
should work on correcting those
problems rather than ignoring them
and reverting to a bonfire style that
has not been used since the late
’50s. Structural hnodifications to
the wiring, height and number of
layers should be introduced with
out scrapping the entire design.
The majority of students wanted
bonfire to burn again if it could be
built safely, and a safe wedding-
cake bonfire can be built.
In the end, however, bonfire is
not about the size or style of the fi
nal structure, but the unity students
experience while working on it. Bon
fire participants do not simply build
a stack of logs, but bonds of friend
ship. Therefore, how bonfire is re
structured is only a secondary ele
ment of the tradition’s future —•
carrying on the legacy of cama
raderie associated with it is the
prime concern of all Aggies.
This is the challenge facing stu
dents. How they respond to this,
challenge will show the true char-’
acter of the student body and the
important role bonfire has at
Texas A&M.
h issued his first reprieveraM
s June 1 to Ricky McGinn,43,®
ending his guilt in the 1993r;:|
cur-old stepdaughter in BrJ .^ e creat j n g k on fj re was that it was a
hns been delayed to jllowD v j|jffj cu |t project, involving sweat, energy, trust and
dedication by many people. To create a project
ida Saturday, Gov. Bushtolc'that is neither difficult nor time consuming for indi-
n he would have to checker: viduals involved, does not create the lasting friend-
vith his lawyers in Austin and! sh iP s or memories that make bonfire the great tra
il other death penalty cases. ^ on ^
, , become. I would find
two questions asked, Bds- it veIy d|fflcu|t (0 see
; ther the man is guilty or not,aij the m e an ing behind
er or not he’s had full accesstotk suc h a scaled-back
bonfire. If the bonfire
cannot be created in a
safer way, it seems
painfully obvious to
me that it should be
I personally believe
there are ways to
> hope to test two hairs foundi! make it much safer.
:arried Ashley's body and ini However, I see why of-
wear. A prosecutionexperttesffl c ' a ^ s would not want
Mail Call
Aggies react to Bowen’s official decision on Aggie Bonfire
■cutions stayed. A new exeat
s federal appeals run their c& \
samples authorities say belorf-
i n Blai r's car are due out late"
vood of Austin, one of BlairA
aalysis of the hairs showedfe
to take the arduous
task of finding them.
They would be putting
'There is this
among the
general Aggie
that there is a
series of
necessary, but
tasks, that
lead up to the
pinnacle of
Aggie spirit,
the burning
of logs.
worth living entails risk. Ridiculous sums were
spent determining why bonfire fell, but I’ll tell you
for free: it fell because we are human and we make
mistakes. This time, we paid dearly for them. Obvi
ously, we should protect people, but we have al
lowed our obsession with preserving life to smoth
er our aspirations. When did we become so timid?
Man does not exist to be safe, he exists to go out
and do, even at the cost of life. People will tell us
we need to accept the decision and move on. Bull!
I am angry and I have every right to stay angry.
Mark Smith
Class of VO
about getting there. Bonfire
ing, it is about the building.
is not about the burn-
Charles Berend
Class of ’96
same race as Blair.
ts would destroy the hairsampi^ their necks outon the
ing for the results of the hairsftff line, and that is rarely
aderal judge to allow testing, something politicians
or board members
[would do.
I If this idea is to
create a safe bonfire
he parents of bonfire victims at the expense of the
had varied reactions !:P rd work, long hours, and pride of so many indi-
, , . . ‘ viduals, I opt for ending it.
‘ ‘ ' J Do something else, and remember what made
neal Self, father of Jerry s bonfire so vital to the Spirit of Aggieland was the
he disagreed with Bowen riigtjonghipg f or g e d in long, hard work with friends
ouncement. and strangers.
My reaction (to Bowen's com:
ts) is disappointment. Agp Jason E. Trust
so special, and I am disaf C/ass of ’ 92
ited that they are taking on I-
lality of the rest of the work ^ g mem k er 0 f construction industry, I
egards to what people think know Bowen’s decision about bonfire is quite un
said. "Seniors have worked: reasonable. The necessary structural and safety
i on bonfire, and I don't thiussues can be addressed in time for next year’s
■ should be punished lamn bonfire - Bowen has seriously wounded my trust in
‘ .my school. Bowen seems to have disregarded the
It has always amazed
me that so many people at
A&M do not understand
bonfire. Even some of bon
fire’s strongest proponents
have only a slim grasp on
what bonfire is all about.
There is this notion
among the general Aggie population that there is a
series of necessary, but relatively unimportant
tasks, that lead up to the pinnacle of Aggie spirit,
the burning of logs.
The evidence of this can be found in the fact
"At the start of the 21st century,
the bonfire tradition needs to
evolve to recognize the
challenges of the future."
At the start of the 21st century, the bonfire tra
dition needs to evolve to recognize the challenges
of the future. The giant feats of engineering and
construction that typified past generations of Ag
gies are no longer exceptional, and are even ques
tionable. Consider the complexities of the prob
lems facing mankind. Global warming Is a good
example. Of course, the old bonfire caused many
trees to be chopped
down and burned, releas
ing a lot of carbon diox
ide into the atmosphere.
The time has come
for a new bonfire ethic.
Something “greener”
seems appropriate, like
a hay bale bonfire. The
advantages are numerous. A hay bale construction
would be safer. It would be quicker to construct, al
lowing students to return to their studies.
It would allow for more creativity, than a stack of
logs. Most important, the carbon dioxide would be
2X4s is a mockery of what bonfire stands for, what
it means to the student body and what it meant to
our 12 fallen brothers and sisters.
I do know that President Dr. Ray Bowen would
not make a decision that would harm our great in
stitution, nor do I envy him for having to make this
decision. No Aggie wants this tradition to continue
if any more students were to get hurt, but I do feel
that they administration is taking this to an ex
treme! I just
"Let us remember wish th u ere was
something we
could do.
the noble, sorrowful
moments while we
held each others'
hands and prayed for
those caught inside
the collapsed pile."
Chris Massol
Class of VI
I at the University. I amp
iking out for my son and
1 for the University, his buf
, and bonfire."
3arolyn Adams, mother f
and a Adams, said the decisk* jp two.
>ed a well-thought-out plait
:e bonfire a safe event." 1
laud his decision. He covet
Bonfire Commission report and chosen the easy
way to stop bonfire by waiting
"My heart two years — breaking the chain
1 J . and importance of passing
IS tearing down tradition among students.
Too often over my time at A&M,
our faculty and staff chose only
to reprimand rather than repair
the problems they saw. Additionally, there is no
reason faculty should be a part of any future plan-
ything," Adams said. ning committee. The faculty has never wanted to
udiFrampton, mother of Jerer be p ar t of bonfire and should not be put in the
npton, said she thinks Bo' 1 process of defining its future now.
le the best choice possible M V father told me when I came to A&M to enjoy
I'm totally in sll pp 0r , 'tanf're because it probably wouldn't last. I did en-
„ , 7 . , „ T f .... joy it. I learned how to appreciate hard work and
ston, she said. It wD !*• ttenOMp because of bonfire. I met the woman I
ontinue and keep the train w j|| marr y on /\ u g_ yg j 2000, because of bonfire,
e, but we really need thisti you have broken my heart, Bowen, by letting this
urther examine the situati decision come from lawyers and committees, not
take a good look at " ! from the family.
*yone is doing."
mampton said the annour 6
it brought her and her fafflil'
;e of closure.
I can't speak for the other k Bonfire was an expression not merely of the Ag-
, but it has brought us ones gje spirit, but of the greater human desire to strive
er to closure," she said. "Itf for greatness. It has just been gutted in the name
er (to deal with Jeremy'sde<' °f guaranteeing safety. But such a guarantee can-
ime goes on, but it has h "?* e *, ist ' ar,d if il dld ' 11 would ™ ean 3 life dev ° id
Please do
not tell me
you’re still go
ing to put an
outhouse on
top of a 15-foot stack. It wouldn’t compare much
to the bonfire of old, if the outhouse itself repre
sents half the height. I hate to be the one to say
it, but I know that thousands of Aggies around the
world agree with me; let bonfire die a peaceful ;
death instead of reducing it to this pathetic level,
Let us remember the noble, sorrowful moments
while we held each others’ hands and prayed for
those caught inside the collapsed pile. Let us re
member our own cuts, our own stacks, our own
loads. ... Fifteen, 20 feet? I would call that a camp
fire. I can call it that because I have burned higher
piles than that of cleared trees and branches. I re
member not being particularly impressed at the
time. Why would you want to remember bonfire
that way?
Spencer Williams
graduate student
A group of students hear the proposed amendments to the building of bonfire in the Flagroom of
the Memorial Student Center on Friday.
Gavin Daniels
Class of ’99
d this summer because
of pride or accomplishment. In the name of safety,
shall we all be strapped into our beds for the rest
ays came home for the si 0 f our |j ves 9 WO uld certainly be very safe!
'• I'm just glad a decision 1 My point is that although life is fragile, any life
n made." 9 ■
that less than 2,000 people show up for most
cuts, but more than 40,000 people show up to
watch bonfire burn. Similar evidence can be found
in Dr. Bowen’s comments regarding his decision to
childproof bonfire. It is this belief that leads people to
suggest that a bonfire without the problem of con
struction is somehow a better product.
To put this to rest, let me state one of the great
truths about bonfire: Bonfire is not about the burn
ing of logs! There is little, if any, value created by
lighting bonfire for the Thanksgiving spectators.
If we take away from bonfire the challenge of
construction, we have destroyed its usefulness as
a builder of Aggie spirit and character. Going to the
moon was not about walking in low gravity. It was
recycled by the renewable growth of hay each year.
S.S. Howze
Class of ’76
My heart is tearing in two. It feels as if the
breath was just taken straight out of my lungs with
this decision. It now feels that those 12 students
who perished at our cost are being disregarded. I
imagine every one of those individuals would have
supported a normal bonfire this fall instead of a
memorial service. For two years, we are not going
to have bonfire ... and when we do have it, it will
be ‘modified.’ A one-tiered bonfire made out of
The new plan calls for no stu
dent intervention in the building of
bonfire. I understand totally that
the design and overseeing of the
construction should be by a li
censed professional. That makes
lots of sense.
What is unfortunate is that there
will be no students sweating and
working together as Aggies to build
the actual bonfire stack. That expe
rience alone teaches you so much
about the tradition and together
ness that we all have as Aggies.
The way the “new” bonfire will
be will have almost no meaning. It
will be like a nice corporate spon
sorship instead of the work of hun
dreds of tireless students who put
their hearts and souls into building
the best bonfire they could.
I would rather see bonfire go
away completely than have it in the
state that it will be in in the coming
years. So ends my bonfire visits.
My memories of Fightin’ Texas
main of the camaraderie had with
up on the stack.
was an
sion not
merely of
the Ag
gie spirit,
but of the
desire to
for great
ness. " -
Aggie Bonfire re
fellow Ags while
Robert Nederhorst
former student'
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