Putting out Guilford’s inner fire
September 12, 2011
Filed under Archives
No more dancing or stomping around warm flames and no more nightly jamborees that separate Guilford from surrounding colleges and universities. One of Guilford’s major social assets is being put out.
In a meeting last week, Campus Life and Public Safety expressed its zero tolerance policy on bonfires. Unless the student body keeps in check with Campus Life policy, the pits will decay into nothing more than distant memories of once renowned community gatherings.
“With bonfires gone, we’re losing one of the most vital parts of the community,” said former student Rick Nallenweg.
Nallenweg, also known as “The Fireman” or “Rickalous,” has been permanently banned from campus after putting together the first bonfire this semester.
As Nallenweg and others celebrated the coming year that evening, there approached Campus Life. Like sitting ducks ambushed in the dark, students were cited for the bonfire on their first evening.
“Poured the keg on the fire, but the alcohol doesn’t matter,” Nallenweg said.
Senior Bennett Christian stood in disbelief as the coals turned from red to black. Christian felt similarly to Nallenweg. A tradition specific to Guilford is being dissolved.
“Three of our four classes at Guilford are familiar with bonfires,” said Christian. “How are freshmen going to get a real introduction?”
For many students, bonfires stand out as a focal point in their Guilford career.
Former Community Senate President, Nancy Klosteridis ’10 reminisced about her first bonfire: “My first bonfire was glorious,” said Klosteridis. “I had only met a few friends at that point, but I felt so welcome there. Everyone had something to say and was genuinely interested in who I was going to be … We would have 10 or more people playing Djembes and guitars; there was always singing and happiness.”
One pit on campus has been designated for student use. Students coined it as the “Wal-Mart pit” because it lacks the organic qualities that transcend the natural energies we feel from the woods’ pits.
However, the “Wal-Mart pit” is currently inoperable. Unless one requests it via Public Safety and furthermore receives a permit from the Fire Department, no one can use it. If caught without proper credentials, the Fire Department can charge a $500 fine.
Due to a regional fire ban issued by the North Carolina Fire Service and general concerns regarding violence in the woods, our tradition will be silenced. Restricting bonfires is not new to Guilford, policy and Campus Life has set a strict precedent so far.
As the drought climate forces the lake to sulk into its own abyss and the creek to shrivel into stones, Campus Life and Public Safety are cautious for the sake of student and residential safety.
“There has been an escalation of violence in the woods,” said Jen Agor, associate dean for Campus Life. “And should a bonfire spread, our liability is huge.”
Due to several violent occurrences over the last year and a regional drought, Campus Life’s ban is set as permanent.
“The ban will be in perpetuity” said Aaron Fetrow, vice president for student affairs and dean of students.
Such inevitable forces have squashed the student body, making them feel all the more socially clamped.
Several first-years, who attempted to visit Nallenweg’s bonfire, were aggravated as they walked the white pebble trail to find Campus Life and Hall Directors scribbling names on small notepads.
“I was pissed,” said first-year Olivia Tibbs. Later that week she also sought out the guitar plucking music that emanated from the North Apartments. Past quiet hours, she left in fear of a possible citation for just being there.
These two examples indicate a need for transparency between Campus Life and the student body. We have done it before. Even a former student, Adam Pearman ’09, created a Community Senate title known as the “Sheriff.”
Amid the party atmosphere, the Sheriff would have reported to Campus Life, Public Safety, and those like Nallenweg, Tibbs, or the guitar pluckers. He helped both sides of the situation to aid in any communication gaps.
“I made an effort to resolve a disconnect that began to grow between the students and Campus Life and Public Safety,” said Pearman. “I was a grassroots liaison so to speak. Most people were responsive to a freewheeling student telling them to quiet down or disperse.”
The Sheriff also attended Judicial Affairs meetings, collaborated with Community Senate, and helped reform various sections of the handbook.