The Battalion. (College Station, Tex.) 1893-current, February 05, 2002, Image 1

Below is the OCR text representation for this newspapers page. It is also available as plain text as well as XML.

    SPO s ;
^I and lifetime
the guys com;
i said. ‘‘From
into the meei
record, w
3-1 in dual
oiue against tor
re only loss
is also A&M’s
[range sport.
s|H>rts wire
hot and c
n swimming,
nate a whole
nigh to pull id
se the fact that
i immers in
ice against
rriL ra'TTAT TOM
1 ii Vj JD/Vl Xr\.J_/1 isi
Top: Senior political science major Chad Olsen and sophomore industrial distribution major Jonathon Kleckley react to Bowen's deci
sion to cancel Bonfire 2002.. Above left: Sophomore construction science major David Arabic listens as the fate of Bonfire 2002 is
announced on Monday. Arabic and hundreds of other students gathered in the MSC Flagroom to watch Bowen's announcement on
closed-circuit TV. Above right: A&M President Dr. Ray M. Bowen speaks to the media after announcing the cancellation of Bonfire 2002.
Bowen cites cost,
safety and liability
factors in decision
By Rolando Garcia
Aggie Bonfire will not burn next fall, A&M President Dr.
Ray M. Bowen announced Monday, revealing that preparations
for Bonfire 2002. 18 months in the making, came unraveled in
the past week.
Turner Construction, the New York-based firm that was
serving as the safety consultant for Bonfire, withdrew from the
project Wednesday because it was unable to obtain insurance to
cover the firm’s liability for its work on Bonfire.
"Without an acceptable safety plan, the limited role that has
been preserved for students still carries a danger above what we
can tolerate,” Bowen said.
Even with a safety consultant, revised estimates of the cost
of Bonfire make it unlikely the 90-year-old tradition could
continue, Bowen said. The projected price tag for Bonfire
2002 was $2.5 million, about $1 million more than previous
My heart does not like what my brain is
doing today. It would be irresponsible of
me to listen to my heart when we are
dealing with the safety of our students.
— Dr. Ray M. Bowen
A&M president
estimates. Also, future Bonfires, which Bonfire 2002 Steering
Committee Coordinator Dr. Bryan Cole estimated could be
built for between $500,000 and $750,000, would actually cost
$ 1.3 million.
“We simply cannot spend this much money to construct a
Bonfire,” Bowen said.
The other factor behind his decision, Bowen said, was the legal
liability the University would incur if it continues to sponsor a
high-risk activity like Bonfire. Twelve Aggies were killed and 27
were injured when the Bonfire stack collapsed in 1999, and many
of the victims’ families have sued A&M and top administrators,
including Bowen, alleging the University’s negligence caused the
accident. Liability insurance for students and staff who work on
Bonfire would cost $450,000, Bowen said.
In addition to liability insurance, other expense estimates
that accounted for the hefty price tag of Bonfire included
engineering and safety consultant services ($1.1 million),
insurance for the consulting firms ($300,000) and University
Bonfire staff ($250,000).
The Bonfire Steering Committee already has spent $260,000
on the project and selected a 45-foot-high wedding cake design,
in which all logs would touch the ground but be cut to different
lengths for a multi-level appearance. The design met the strict
safety parameters Bowen established in June 2000, including
the elimination of cut, the use of professionally cut logs, a
revamped leadership selection process and the use of design and
safety plans drafted by licensed professionals.
Despite previously upbeat assurances that the proposed
See Decision on page 7
tudent. Her
his toughest
lost popular
les "I Could
Where You
134 or buy
Students, families Aggies rally on Bowen’s lawn
react to decision
By Sommer Bunce &
Brandie Liffick
[ The halls of the Memorial Student
Center (MSC) were empty moments
alter A&M President Dr. Ray M.
Bowen told students there would not be
an Aggie Bonfire in 2002.
In the upstairs room where he spoke
to students and reporters, broadcast to
Rudder Theater and the MSC Flagroom
and KAMU on-campus channels, stu
dents gasped as Bowen named reasons
for discontinuing the 90-year tradition
he had placed on a moratorium until
this year. Then, in one collective move
ment, students in the press conference
room, the Flagroom and Rudder
Theater rose, gathered their bags and
left, refusing to hear the rest of Bowen’s
On Nov. 18, 1999, 12 Aggies died
and 27 were injured when the Bonfire
stack swayed and fell at 2:42 a.m.
Student Body President Schuyler
Houser, a senior industrial engineering
major and member of the steering com
mittee that worked for 18 months on the
Bonfire 2002 project, told students
Bowen’s decision was “the collapse of
a great tradition.”
“Bonfire is an amazing memory for
those of us who knew it,” Houser said at
the news conference. “For me, that’s
what it’s going to remain.”
The grief the campus felt in the
wake of the collapse will be renewed
this week, Houser said, as students face
the reality that Bonfire will not be held
this year and may not be seen on the
tradition-filled campus again.
“A university needs to keep its stu
dents safe,” Houser said. “I felt at first
as if after two years, all of our work
has been for nothing, but it wasn't for
nothing. It was a process we had to go
through, and we learned so much
about our University ... about the real
ly valuable things about our culture.
We also learned of the weak spots.”
John Andrew Comstock was trapped
for seven hours beneath the fallen stack
Nov. 18. Comstock returned to campus
See Reaction on page 7
By Sommer Bunce
More than 1,000 students gathered
on A&M President Dr. Ray M.
Bowen’s lawn Monday night to show
their unity in the face of his decision to
discontinue Bonfire.
A procession of students walked
arm-in-arm from the Northside dorm
areas, picking up students as they
went along.
Bowen and Vice President for
Student Affairs Dr. J. Malon
Southerland met the group as they held
a yell practice, led by Senior Yell leaders
Sam Seidel and Boo Boo Davies. By the
end of the spirit yells, Bowen and
Southerland joined in, singing “The
Spirit of Aggieland,” and “humpin’ it”
for the rest of the yell.
The students’ voices echoed from
Bowen's residence to Kyle Field.
“We’re here to show Dr. Bowen
that no matter what decision he made,
we stick together as a University,”
Seidel said.
Bowen thanked students for
affirming that the Bonfire decision
was important to them. He said that
though they may not like what he
decided Monday, he said over time
students and the administration
should come together.
Students sing the "The Spirit of Aggieland" outside A&M President Dr. Ray M.
Bowen's home Monday night.
“1 don’t want to be remembered
as a guy who ruined Bonfire,”
Bowen said. “I wear the same ring
ya’ll do...we share the character all
Aggies have.”
After the yells, shouts of “Go home,
Ags!” filled the air, and the assembled
students did just that, dispersing with
in minutes, as quickly as they had
The yell leaders said they did not
organize the rally, but joined the gath
ering students to portray the positive
spirit of the University.
Seidel said he wanted to show that
students were united in the wake of
Bowen’s decision.
“For those out there who are won
dering how this school would react,
this is how,” Seidel said.
True Brown and Brandie Liffick
contributed to this report.