Tragedy>Story Archives>June 2000
discussions flare up following announcement
Eagle Staff Writer
Calls for unity were largely drowned out by online sparring at a
popular Aggie Web site following Fridays Bonfire announcement
by Texas A&M University President Ray Bowen.
Opinions flared heatedly at TexAgs.com after Bowen said the 90-year-old,
student-run Bonfire tradition would return to campus in 2002, but
with a drastic increase in professional and university oversight.
Bonfire 1999 collapsed Nov. 18, killing 12 Aggies and injuring 27
TexAgs.coms online message board filled with those who supported
Bowens decision, opposed it or fell somewhere in between.
The site, which promotes A&M sports and activities, is not affiliated
with the university.
Site users wore their hearts on their sleeves posts to Internet
message boards can be made with aliases to keep true identities
The students never should have given away control in the first
place. Its still not too late to take it back, complained
I see only one solution. Build it once more with all the supervision
and scrutiny they want, then burn it one last time for the Aggie
12. Then end it once and for all, offered another.
Message forums allow near-real-time conversations among Web users.
Unlike Internet chat, forum users post specific topics
and replies, which can be called up and referenced indefinitely.
As TexAgs.com primarily attracts die-hard Aggie supporters, its
message forums dont represent across-the-board opinion. But
on Friday there was obviously a high level of divisiveness among
those A&M supporters some of whom pledged to give no
money to their alma mater or even return their symbolic senior rings.
Statements trashing Bowens decision outweighed those supporting
it, in intensity if not in number. Some speculated that the decision
amounted to little more than a public-relations time cushion, after
which the tradition will die.
There will not ever be a Bonfire again, stated one poster.
... What Bowen proposed is a Home Depot fire. ... I wish Bowen
had just come out and say today what we will hear in two years:
Bonfire is over.
Scattered calls for Bowens resignation, however, were largely
trounced. This is misguided scapegoating, wrote a poster
in response to one such request.
Others offered ideas for getting around Bowens decision, namely
by holding a rebel Bonfire off-campus. Among other suggestions:
Form a small company that would hire student workers for cut, the
annual gathering of logs for the structure. Bowen mandated Friday
that future cuts would be contracted out to private companies.
Peacemakers pleaded for Aggies to stick together, accept Bowens
decision and move forward from Novembers tragedy.
A renegade Bonfire is not the answer. ... If its Bowens
plan or no Bonfire at all, I say cancel it!! said one poster.
Beyond the protests and support lingered a widespread feeling: that
Bonfires relevance to the Aggie spirit
the sense of camaraderie among Aggies that many say makes the school
unique will be dashed.
What will Bonfire be for the students? Two weeks of placing
logs on their ends inside a fenced and guarded compound. That is
all, complained a poster. Just get rid of the whole
thing if that is what it will be. The purpose of the tradition has
been gutted. Instead, lets all meet at Kyle Field for a yell
practice and a candlelight vigil for the 12.
On the Web
John LeBas e-mail address is