Andrew Taylor" />
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Saturday, September 30, 2023


Safety matters more than tradition

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the 1999 bonfire tragedy at Texas A&M University.

The tragic event claimed 12 lives and injured 27 others, along with crippling the tradition of an entire campus. Since the incident, the tradition has not been sponsored or sanctioned by the university.

Many people, including Texas A&M alumnus Gov. Rick Perry, would like to see its rebirth. Others,’ such as the parents of those who died or were injured, prefer that the lesson stay intact and the sad chapter of the university’s history remain closed.

A lot of Aggies’ want the bonfire to return, but without a sacrifice to students’ concentration on school and campus involvement. The bonfire project is notorious for lowering participants’ grade-point averages and class attendance.

Since 2002, the bonfire has spawned a rogue annual imitation. One Aggie said’ the event has already claimed too many lives, and bringing back the tradition would only endanger more students.

‘(The) bonfire already claimed the 12th Man. It should never claim anyone else,’ said Kathryn Lucchese, a geography lecturer at Texas A&M.

Lucchese brings up a valid point. The iconic event demonstrated how a few mistakes can cost people their lives

School traditions are great and are often the heart and soul of an institution, but there comes a time when lines should be drawn. The bonfire might be the tradition to define a line that says, ‘this is not worth the risk.’

Most students who have participated or hope to play a part in the tradition’s revival feel differently. The teamwork, dedication and bonding that come from the tradition can never be replaced; students who believe this mourn the absence of the tradition.

Bryan Cole, a faculty member who has led the unsanctioned bonfire, described the importance of the tradition.

‘It was the primary symbol of the spirit of Texas A&M, and when you lose a symbol like that, you go through a grieving process,’ Cole said.

According to the 1947 Texas A&M freshman handbook, ‘the bonfire symbolizes two things – a burning desire to beat the team from the University of Texas, and the undying flame of love that every loyal Aggie carries in his heart for the school.’

Whether students participate in helping construct such a work of art or contribute in other ways, there is no dispute that the tradition is unique. It will forever be a symbol of the spirit of Aggie pride and dedication as a product of hard work.

But isn’t there a safer way to promote teamwork and school spirit?

There’s no reason why Aggies can’t find safer channels for traditions and the celebration of pride, teamwork and dedication. If the Bonfire never returns, Aggies will still find pride in building many things around Texas, hopefully without anything burning.

Andrew Taylor is an economics junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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